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Hybe and Min Hee-jin, CEO of Hybe sublabel Ador, lock horns

By Hong Yoo

Published : April 23, 2024 - 15:55

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Ador CEO Min Hee-jin (Ador) Ador CEO Min Hee-jin (Ador)

K-pop giant Hybe has initiated an audit of its subsidiary Ador, home to NewJeans, claiming that Ador CEO Min Hee-jin attempted a takeover of the sublabel.

This is the first time that Hybe, the parent company for multiple smaller K-pop labels, has taken such a move against a subsidiary.

Min, who is also the producer of popular K-pop girl group NewJeans, has denied the allegation, arguing that Hybe took action against her after she pointed out that the entertainment monolith's new K-pop girl group Illit, which debuted last month under another Hybe subsidiary, Belift Lab, was an imitation of Ador's NewJeans.

Illit (Belift Lab) Illit (Belift Lab)

The similarities in Illit and NewJean's concepts and portions of their music videos have not gone unnoticed by the public, who have posted their observations online.

Hybe founder and Chairman Bang Si-hyuk took part in putting together Illit as well as composing the lead track of the group’s debut album, “Super Real Me.”

“Illit’s imitation of NewJeans is not something that the label called Belift Lab did alone. Rather, Hybe took part in it,” Min said in a press statement released Monday.

Min claims that Hybe informed her that she would be suspended and dismissed from the CEO position when she asked for an explanation from Hybe and Belift Lab concerning the alleged imitation as well as actions to correct it.

“We sent an official letter to Hybe and Belift Lab asking them to explain their position on plagiarism that has infringed on the brand value of NewJeans. Hybe, instead of explaining their position, decided to suddenly notify me of the suspension and dismissal process,” Min said.

NewJeans (Ador) NewJeans (Ador)

According to industry sources, Hybe initiated an audit of Ador’s CEO and executives on Monday by seizing the firm's computers and securing in-person statements from Ador employees.

“We’ve initiated an audit as we suspect Ador executives of trying to take control of Ador,” an official from Hybe said.

Hybe suspects Min and another Ador executive of having leaked confidential Hybe documents in an attempt to attract investment and having discussed ways to lure Hybe into selling its share in Ador.

Currently, Hybe holds an 80 percent stake in Ador, while Ador’s CEO Min and other executives the remaining 20 percent.

Min was a renowned K-pop idol producer at SM Entertainment before joining Hybe as chief brand officer in 2019. She had been in charge of creating the concepts for successful groups including Girls’ Generation, Shinee and Exo at SM.

After establishing Ador in November 2021, Min was put in charge of branding and designing the interior of Hybe’s headquarters in Seoul.

“We will do whatever we can to protect NewJeans’ achievement and to prevent further infringement of NewJeans IP (intellectual property) caused by plagiarism,” said Min.

Meanwhile, NewJeans fans have expressed concerns that the conflict between Hybe and Ador executives could influence the girl group's release schedule. NewJeans is due to release a new single album next month as well as the music video for “Bubble Gum” from the upcoming album.