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What Happened to NewJeans? Comeback, Controversy, and Conflict

Pop Culture

Wed, May 08

NewJeans, perhaps the most popular fourth-generation Korean girl group, as their latest comeback on May 24th approaches quickly, with their debut single ‘Bubble Gum’ dropping on April 28th, finds itself amid the rockiest passage on their journey toward success. With calls by HYBE Entertainment for the removal of Min Hee Jin, the current CEO of ADOR and the creator of NewJeans, as well as conflict between HYBE's newest girl group, ILLIT, who released their debut album recently, NewJeans is forging ahead with the support of their fanbase, “Bunnies”, strongly behind them.

What is happening with Min Hee Jin and HYBE and what does this mean for NewJeans?

Image Credit: SBS Radio from Wikimedia Commons

Who is NewJeans?

NewJeans debuted in July 2022, consisting of five group members: Minji, Hanni, Haerin, Danielle, and Hye-in. Their debut singles, “Attention”, “Hype Boy”, and “Cookie”, closely followed each other and quickly made their way to the top of Korea's song charts. “Hype Boy” became the longest-running song by a K-pop girl group to stay on Billboard's Global 200 chart. In early 2023, NewJeans released “Ditto”, “OMG”, as well as “Super Shy” in their second EP, “Get Up”.

Each song broke multiple records and peaked at Number 2 on the Billboard Global 100 chart. Their latest single, “Bubble Gum”, has reached over 16 million YouTube views three days after its release. NewJeans is one of the most popular Korean girl groups, second to only BLACKPINK, and unarguably the most popular girl group in the fourth generation.

Image Credit: 티비텐 from Wikimedia Commons

Accusations of Plagiarism of the NewJeans Aesthetic

ILLIT, the newest K-pop girl group formed by HYBE, debuted on March 25, 2024, with their top single “Magnetic” topping global charts. However, many netizens and Min Hee Jin, the creator of NewJeans, herself, pointed out the unmistakable characteristics that NewJeans and ILLIT shared. Fans echoed statements of “NewJeans 2.0” and “exact copies.” In particular, the choreographies of the songs released by the two groups displayed similarities that numerous viewers called attention to. Others have focused on aspects of ILLIT including their event appearances and costumes, stating that the act is unarguably plagiarism.

Image Credit: TV10 from Wikimedia Commons

Breakaway Attempt

According to recent reports, HYBE has launched an audit of ADOR (a sublabel), and Min Hee Jin, the CEO of ADOR, for reportedly releasing confidential information to attract investors so that HYBE would sell off its shares, or, that is to say, to go independent. HYBE has confirmed this report, has begun collecting evidence, and has visited the management and work area while securing in-person statements. In an email to Variety, HYBE called a shareholder meeting and sent an official letter asking Min Hee Jin to step down from her position as CEO.

Image Credit: 티비텐 from Wikimedia Commons

Press Conference

Min Hee Jin held a press conference in Seoul on April 25, 2024. The statements were emotional and full of expletives, with Min Hee Jin not hesitating to back away from allegations but wholeheartedly refuting them. She shared conversations she had with NewJeans members as the group prepares to launch their next album in May. For two hours, Min Hee Jin addressed rumors, answered questions, and proclaimed her innocence while sobbing. “I have no idea where the ‘usurper’ frame came from” stated Min Hee Jin, in response to those accusing her of trying to go independent from HYBE. “It's not me that turned my back on HYBE, it's HYBE that betrayed me. It used me to the fullest and now wants to take me down because I don't listen to them.”

Image Credit: 티비텐 from Wikimedia Commons

“No one has done what I've done in thirty years of K-pop. But HYBE is trying to bring down someone who's done what I have as head of a subsidiary.” Min Hee Jin continued to discuss tensions between her and HYBE's CEO, as well as defending against accusations of her talking about how BTS copied NewJeans and how HYBE pushed aside NewJeans for LE SSERAFIM, one of the most popular girl groups in the K-pop world. As Min Hee Jin progressed, it was obvious that what most concerned her was the protection of NewJeans, their comeback, and their success in the K-pop industry.

Image Credit: theMEGASTUDY from Wikimedia Commons

Comeback

On March 26, 2024, NewJeans confirmed and announced their comeback in May, with their title song “How Sweet” and a B-side “Bubble Gum”, as well as the instrumental versions of both songs. They will also make their official Japanese debut album with two extra songs, “Supernatural”, and a B-side, “Right Now.” NewJeans will also be holding their first fan meeting in Japan during this time, at the Tokyo Dome. They released their B-side ahead of their comeback on April 28th, 2024, racking up over 20 million views in just a week. Their music video holds a similar vibe to that of “Ditto” and the bouncing, nostalgic beat of “Bubble Gum” will stick in listeners around the world. We grow in anticipation for “How Sweet”.

Image Credit: OLensglobal from Wikimedia Commons

Despite the controversy, with accusations of ILLIT plagiarising NewJeans, as well as Min Hee Jin's allegations of breaking away from HYBE, we know that NewJeans will be protected throughout and a smooth comeback in May will be upheld at all costs. With consistent posts by NewJeans on vlogs and song covers by various members, as well as photoshoots and modeling, NewJeans fans can be assured that their content will never fall short and Minji, Haerin, Hyein, Hanni, and Danielle will continue to bring fresh and timeless music to the K-pop industry.

Samuel Teoh
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Samuel Teoh is a homeschooled high school sophomore in Taiwan. He is an editor for The Teen Magazine, a video editor and Senior Editor for Polyphony Lit, and a published author. His favorite pastimes are drinking bubble tea, listening to K-pop (especially NewJeans!), and reading/writing novels.

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