HYBE’s History With Girl Groups – From GLAM To LE SSERAFIM

It has certainly been a rocky road…

Source Music‘s recently debuted girl group LE SSERAFIM is currently promoting as five members due to Kim Garam‘s school bullying accusations. Many K-Pop fans are shocked that HYBE Labels‘ first attempt at debuting a girl group since GLAM disbanded in 2015 has once again been met with controversy.

Here is a brief look at HYBE Labels’ history of managing girl groups from 2012 to 2022.

GLAM

GLAM (sometimes stylized as Glam) was Big Hit Entertainment‘s first girl group, co-managed by Source Music. Initially made up of five members, Jiyeon, Zinni, Trinity, Dahee, and Miso, the hip-hop-inspired group debuted in 2012 with “Party(XXO).”

After their debut, member Trinity abruptly left the group in 2012. At the time, Source Music explained that the reason for her abruptly leaving the group was personal. However, fans were aware that Trinity was rumored to have been a sasaeng (obsessive fan) of Super Junior‘s Leeteuk. Allegedly Trinity continued to harass Leeteuk up until GLAM’s debut.

The rumors were never confirmed, and the reason for Trinity’s leaving the group is still unknown.

Former GLAM member Trinity

GLAM continued as a four-member group, having a comeback in 2013 with “I Like That,” produced by Bang Shi Hyuk, Pdogg, and BTS‘s RM.

In February 2014, GLAM released “Special Gift [Give it 2 U],” which unexpectedly became the group’s last track.

In 2014 actor Lee Byung Hun went to the police with the accusation of having been blackmailed and extorted by two women, one of whom was GLAM’s Dahee.

GLAM’s Dahee

In September of 2014, Dahee, who was referred to by her real name Kim Si Won throughout the investigation, was arrested for having threatened actor Lee Byung Hun.

She and her friend, model Lee Ji Yeon, were accused of requesting actor Lee Byung Hun to pay them 4.5 million US dollars for a video recorded at a private gathering. The video allegedly showed actor Lee Byung Hun making lewd comments and being inappropriate.

By January 2015, Dahee was convicted of the attempted threat. She was initially sentenced to a year of imprisonment, but Dahee appealed the decision, and the court re-sentenced her to a year in prison and two years of probation. Dahee got out on a $20,000 USD bail, made possible because actor Lee Byung Hun didn’t want harsh punishment.

Lee Ji Yeon on left, Kim Si Won (Dahee) on right

After Dahee was sentenced to jail time, Big Hit Entertainment and Source Music officially disbanded the group, stating that their contracts had ended.

Understandably after disbanding GLAM, Big Hit Entertainment decided to exclusively focus on boy groups, especially given the success BTS was already achieving. Big Hit Entertainment even transferred their female trainees to Source Music, including GFRIEND‘s SinB and Eunha.

However, from 2019 on, Big Hit Entertainment has been focused on growth, acquiring entertainment agencies like Source Music in 2019 and Pledis Entertainment and KOZ Entertainment in 2020 under Big Hit Labels. In 2021 Big Hit Entertainment rebranded as Big Hit Music under HYBE Labels.

GFRIEND

HYBE Labels’ acquisition of Source Music in 2019 gave the company management over their second-ever girl group, GFRIEND.

GFRIEND debuted in 2015 with the chart-topping song “Glass Bead.” Fans have always loved GFRIEND’s honey vocals and incredibly synchronized choreography. Their discography included fan favorites like “Me Gustas Tu,” “Rough,” and “Time for the Moon Night.”

In November 2020, GFRIEND released “MAGO,” a retro-style song that captivated K-Pop fans. Since GFRIEND was achieving new levels of popularity, fans were in disbelief when GFRIEND’s disbandment was suddenly announced in May 2021, two years after being acquired by HYBE Labels.

There were even scheduled events that were canceled after Source Music announced GFRIEND’s disbandment. Although now all of the former members of GFRIEND are signed under new labels and Eunha, SinB, and Umji re-debuted as VIVIZ

SinB, Umji, Eunha | @VIVIZ_official/Twitter

Fans only recently learned from SinB and Sowon how difficult the disbandment was on the members.

SinB shared that the members knew about the disbandment a month before it was announced to fans and that the members cried while watching videos made by fans.

How were we supposed to tell the fans? That we aren’t doing it anymore. That GFRIEND will not be renewing the contract. We couldn’t be the first to tell them. So to be honest, from a month before the article came out, you can see the members crying on VLIVE while watching videos made by fans in support of us. You can find such videos of us. So we thought that since we cried so much, we wouldn’t cry on the day of the announcement. We live in threes in the dorms. I lived with Sowon unnie and Eunha unnie. So in the morning, when we read the article, we all came out of our rooms at the same time crying. We thought we wouldn’t cry, but we all did. So I think that maybe, during the last year, it was really hard for everyone even though we tried not to make it obvious on broadcast and to the fans. I had never imagined that I would have cried as much as I did last year. I think I did enough crying for my life just in that year alone.

-SinB

SinB | @bscenez/Instagram

Former GFRIEND leader Sowon also shared how difficult the disbandment was for her, adding that “the news came out of the blue.”

Well, my groupmates and I don’t see this as complete disbandment. It’s true that I had trouble processing what happened. The news came out of the blue. I’ve always thought I’d like to pursue a career in acting, but I never thought I’d be able to do it right away. After the disbandment, I felt heartbroken for a while. But I have to move on, I have to keep going down my own path. So I couldn’t stay heartbroken for too long. It did take me some time to logically understand what happened, though. Now that it has been over a year, my groupmates and I have all accepted it and gotten used to [not being together].  To be honest, I think I had the most difficulty adjusting to the whole thing.

-Sowon

Sowon | @onedayxne/Instagram

Although Source Music still managed GFRIEND, some netizens couldn’t help but wonder if the acquisition by HYBE Labels played a part in GFRIEND’s unexpected disbandment.

GFRIEND | @GFRDofficial/Twitter

Fromis_9

After HYBE Labels acquired Pledis Entertainment in 2020, Fromis_9 became the third girl group HYBE Labels managed. After GFRIEND’s abrupt disbandment, Fromis_9 became the only active girl group under HYBE Labels.

Fromis_9 debuted in 2018, after being created through the survival program Idol School, with “To Heart.”

Unlike many other post-survival show groups, Fromis_9 is a permanent group. Initially, they were managed by Off the Record, but they were transferred to Pledis Entertainment, which HYBE Labels then acquired.

Thus far, Fromis_9 has seen an increase in popularity since HYBE Labels acquired Pledis Entertainment, as they recently made their comeback in January of 2022 with their fourth mini-album, Midnight Guest. The members continue to show off their incredible vocals and performances.

The members of Fromis_9 also opened up about being the only girl group in such a large agency.

It may seem like a burden to be under such a big name company, but it was also a driving force that allowed us to work hard and show our own colors.

Saerom

Fromis_9 | @realfromis_9/Twitter

And Hayoung even suggested that the group felt more supported beyond simply their music production since being acquired by HYBE.

They have been producing for us since our debut until now, but now they are supporting us in other broad aspects, and it has changed how we feel about being together with our hearts. We also had a big desire to start fresh.

—Hayoung

| @realfromis_9/Twitter

LE SSERAFIM

Although HYBE Labels had acquired two girl groups managed by other entertainment agencies, Big Hit Entertainment still had kept all of their auditions “male-only.”

So when HYBE Labels announced on June 17th, 2020, that they were opening auditions for females for the first time since GLAM disbanded, fans were shocked and hopeful about the possible girl group that HYBE Labels could debut.

LE SSERAFIM | HYBE

Needless to say that the debut announcement of LE SSERAFIM, under Source Music, was met with a lot of excitement from fans. Especially since the lineup included former IZ*ONE members Chaewon and Sakura, Produce 48 contestant Yunjin, and even professional ballerina Kazuha.

LE SSERAFIM is hoping to change the K-Pop industry for the better.

Yunjin | @IM_LESSERAFIM/Twitter

And, like Fromis_9, LE SSERAFIM also feel the pressure of being a girl group under HYBE Labels. Sakura spoke specifically about how the pressure of being the first HYBE Labels girl group was motivating for her.

I felt that I should showcase the better version of myself. But I believe this kind of pressure is helping me to grow, too. Just like the message of our debut track, “Fearless”, our members focus on what we can do right now instead of being caught up in the judgments of others.

—Sakura

Sakura | @IM_LESSERAFIM/Twitter

And Chaewon spoke about how the group is determined to walk on their own path together, as represented by their title track, “FEARLESS.”

Through this track, we also say we will not cling to our past and move forward. We have been receiving a lot of attention for being HYBE’s first girl group, but we will try not to be swayed by others and walk our own path.

—Chaewon

Chaewon | @IM_LESSERAFIM/Twitter

But even before debut, LE SSERAFIM was already struggling with controversy.

For one of LE SSERAFIM’s teaser videos, the HYBE Labels YouTube channel released a video titled “Casting Call.” Which raised immense concern from fans, who likened the video to Korean escort bars. Considering several of the members of LE SSERAFIM are minors, fans were also concerned with some of the styling choices.

| HYBE

 

Fans were also immensely perplexed by the poorly photoshopped group photos that HYBE Labels ended up re-uploading better versions of.

| HYBE

And, notably, before LE SSERAFIM’s debut, member Kim Garam was accused of being a school bully. Although HYBE Labels stated that the accusations were false, fans were worried that Kim Garam was being treated poorly by Korean netizens.

Kim Garam | HYBE

Still, despite this all, LE SSERAFIM had an immensely successful debut, having already secured their first win on a music show.

But, despite their immense success, HYBE Labels and Source Music were once again under fire for sexualizing the group through suggestive choreography in the “FEARLESS” music video, choreography that was changed for the stage performances.

Media outlet Dispatch is also currently investigating KBS‘s Music Bank for having allegedly rigged scores so that LE SSERAFIM would win over artist Lim Young Woong.

LE SSERAFIM also had to briefly cancel promotions on May 20th due to further accusations against Kim Garam.

An alleged victim, going by Yoo Eunseo, released a statement that it was true that Kim Garam had bullied her and that she was being attacked online for “maliciously slandering Kim Garam.” Yoo Eunseo shared that she had asked HYBE Labels to recant their statement that Kim Garam was the one being bullied, but HYBE Labels dismissed her requests. Netizens were largely supporting the alleged victim, voicing their frustration against HYBE Labels and Source Music.

Alleged Victim Of Kim Garam’s Bullying Steps Forward, Sharing The Trauma She Experienced

Source Music has since responded, maintaining that Kim Garam was the one being bullied and that Yoo Eunseo was actually a bully herself. Source Music also asked for the public’s forgiveness and shared that Kim Garam will be taking a hiatus from the group’s promotions.

Source Music And HYBE Release Official Statement Regarding LE SSERAFIM Kim Garam’s Bullying Accusations — Kim Garam To Go On Hiatus

Although HYBE Labels has certainly had difficulty managing girl groups, hopefully, their current endeavors with Fromis_9 and LE SSERAFIM will be successful, and they will be able to continue debuting successful girl groups in the future.