In the first half of 2014 alone, the K-pop industry has rained bombshells and sizzling gossip, from idols leaving their groups to A-listers coming clean about their love lives and more.
Every little misstep by Hallyu stars, who are perpetually being watched by the media and keenly followed by fans, could prove detrimental to their hard-earned fame.
Nevertheless, entertainment companies are quick to respond with official statements whenever news break these days, while the celebrities take to social media to tell their side of the story.
Scroll on for a roundup of all the drama in K-pop land thus far this year.
Kris’ departure from EXO
Drama meter: 5/5
Unless you are an ardent follower of EXO, who claims to have spotted the group’s “problems” even before the news broke, Kris' (Wu Yifan) abrupt and unforeseen exit in May would have come as a big shock.
After Kris filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment to dissolve his contract, opinions were divided – some blamed the rest of the members for “neglecting Kris’ difficulties”, while others pointed fingers at Kris for abandoning his team mates, just one week before their first world tour kicked off.
More drama ensued when Kris was revealed to be working a new Chinese film titled Somewhere Only We Know, his first solo project after leaving EXO, which suggested that his departure could be pre-planned. On top of that, the aspiring actor was recently reported to be dating the movie director Xu Jinglei, who is 16 years his senior and had allegedly assisted him in breaking away from SM Entertainment.
Now, we are curious what the 11 boys of EXO have to say about the changes in their group, when they land in Singapore for EXO FROM. EXOPLANET #1 - THE LOST PLANET concert on Aug 23.
Girls’ Generation members’ love lives exposed
Pictured (clockwise): Taeyeon and Baekhyun, Tiffany and Nichkhun, Lee Seung Gi and YoonA, Jung Kyung-ho and Sooyoung.
Drama meter: 5/5
At the beginning of the year, Girls’ Generation member YoonA and singer-actor Lee Seung Gi’s budding romance came to light after they were spotted together on several occasions by the paparazzi. Just two days later, fellow SNSD member Sooyoung admitted to her relationship with actor Jung Kyung-ho, breaking more fanboys’ hearts all over the world.
In April, Tiffany and her beau, 2PM heartthrob Nichkhun, jumped onto the bandwagon when SM Entertainment and JYP Entertainment confirmed that they are dating.
But the most unexpected news of all has to be SNSD leader Taeyeon’s May-December romance with EXO’s Baekhyun, which also suffered the worst backlash from fans who felt “cheated” by their beloved idols. Although the couple kept a low profile after the news broke, it did not stop overly obsessive (and delusional) fans from brandishing their unhappiness – fans reportedly called Baekhyun a “traitor” during a programme recording of Inkigayo.
Taeyeon even made an apology statement on Twitter: “SONE (SNSD’s fans), I’m sorry that you guys were shocked, hurt and experienced unnecessary emotions because of me. I really want to say sorry because my negligence has caused hurt to you, [I’m] really sorry!”
Judging from the revelations in 2014 so far, we wouldn’t be surprised if more idols’ relationships get exposed in the second half of the year.
Park Bom’s alleged drug case
Drama meter: 5/5
Earlier this month, Park Bom was reported to be involved in a drug smuggling case four years ago. According to KBS News, the 2NE1 member was caught for attempting to transport approximately 80 amphetamine pills into Korea from the United States in Oct 2010, an act which is illegal in the Land of the Morning Calm.
Bom’s case in 2010 was later dropped as her medical records from a university hospital in the US proved that she was prescribed the drug during her time there.
While the news was shocking, the unveiling of Bom’s traumatic past (witnessing the death of a teammate on the soccer field) – which caused her to fall into depression (this was why she needed the medication) and which she had hoped would be buried in the abyss of time – also distressed many fans.
“This has become a situation where I have no choice but to reveal it,” said YG Entertainment’s CEO Yang Hyun Suk, who was the only person besides Bom’s family that knew about her incident.
EXO Luhan’s brush with sasaengs
Drama meter: 4/5
Two years into the business, EXO has, unfortunately, become infamous for their notorious sasaeng fans (people who follow the artistes 24/7, otherwise known as stalkers). The situation is so severe that the boys feel intimidated by even their “normal” fans these days.
EXO previously made headlines with incidents such as a leaked recording of Tao singing in the shower and fans who terrorised the members with calls and text messages after getting hold of their numbers. The group’s Chinese member, Luhan, recently showed that he has had enough of sasaengs with an agitated post on Weibo.
He wrote: “Can you please stop following me? Aren’t you being too courageous? I won’t say the things you said to me here.”
The 24-year-old, who is currently filming a movie called Twenties Once Again (Chinese version of Korean movie Miss Granny) in China, also posted a photo of the car that had been following him, but the picture was removed shortly after.
Although EXO had shared about their unpleasant encounters with sasaengs in various interviews, this was the first time that a member had directly expressed his frustration on social media.
One day after Luhan’s post, a photo of the singer-actor having his makeup done by a stylist inside his hotel room was published on Weibo. The post may have been taken down quickly, but the picture was already widely circulated online. The sasaeng’s bold (and creepy) invasion of her idol’s privacy – by installing a hidden camera in his room – left many in shock and disapproval.
Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun in hot water
Drama meter: 4/5
The well-loved You Who Came From The Stars pair got into hot water for endorsing a Chinese mineral water brand that sparked a huge political debate in Korea last month.
The Koreans were infuriated that the brand, Hongda Bingchuan, explicitly points out that its water originates from Mount Changbai, the Chinese name for Mount Baekdu. As the volcanic mountain straddles the border of North Korea and China, Pyongyang and Beijing divided the mountain between them in 1962.
As a result, many Korean fans believe that the company is trying to propagate that the mountain is solely owned by China.
Both Kim Soo Hyun and Jun Ji Hyun temporarily backed out of the commercial following the onslaught of criticism, but they eventually carried on with the deal after releasing a statement. “We hope there will not be any misunderstanding because there is no political motif for the endorsement,” said a representative from Kim Soo Hyun’s agency.
As Hallyu stars are deemed as national representatives and influential cultural ambassadors who are responsible for promoting Korean culture, some fans found the decision unacceptable and threatened to boycott the actors’ future productions.
Park Yoo Chun extorted by woman who claimed to have his ex-girlfriend’s phone
Drama meter: 3/5
Earlier this year, Park Yoo Chun was blackmailed by a 30-year-old woman known as Kim, who claimed to be in possession of a phone that belonged to the singer’s former girlfriend. Kim allegedly picked up the phone in February and threatened to expose the singer-actor’s personal number, as well as the text messages and “intimate photos” of the ex-couple.
According to media reports, Kim demanded KRW 100 million (approximately S$120,000) from Yoo Chun’s agency in exchange for the phone. However, the company insisted that the JYJ member has “nothing to hide” and worked with the police to arrest the blackmailer.
The episode concluded in June when Kim was sentenced to 10 months in prison for causing damage to Yoo Chun and his company’s reputation.
Sunny and Simon D’s “inappropriate” exchange on air
Drama meter: 3/5
Last month, Girls’ Generation’s Sunny and rapper Simon D set tongues wagging, after the broadcast of the former’s radio show Sunny's FM Date. On June 11, Simon D appeared on the programme and repeatedly engaged in sexually suggestive conversation with the SNSD member.
“Using your heart [to love] is a kind of technique. Likewise, using your body could be another kind of technique,” he said, causing some listeners to question if he was intoxicated on set. Fans also criticised Simon D for putting Sunny in a tough spot, with his flirtatious remarks.
The next day, Simon D took to Twitter to apologise for his “inappropriate” mannerism. He wrote: “I sincerely apologise for my poor behaviour on Sunny's FM Date yesterday. I definitely did not drink. I blame my inadequacy on being overly comfortable on air. From now on, I will correct my manners and engage in broadcast earnestly. I apologise.”
At the same time, Sunny also commented on the controversy at the press conference of her musical Singin' In the Rain. “It has only been a month since I've been on radio, so I think my incompetence is to blame. I will work harder so that no matter which guest comes in or which corner is going on, I will make it so that people can listen without discomfort,” she asserted.
Crayon Pop berated for wearing white to wedding
Drama meter: 3/5
In this day and age where boundaries are constantly overlapping in fashion, we would have thought that wearing white to a wedding should not be as big an issue as it used to be. This does not seem to be the case in Korea, however.
Dressed in all-white outfits, Crayon Pop was seen standing at the front row during a group photo-taking session at singer Bumkey’s wedding last month. After the picture was published, Korean netizens harshly criticised the group for having “no respect or manners for the bride”.
In response, Bumkey spoke up for the girls on Twitter, explaining that Crayon Pop had attended the wedding right after their schedule. “I saw the article. I specifically asked them to stand in front for the shoot. I feel that the controversy arose needlessly because of me, so I hope you can understand,” he pleaded.
Hyoyeon reported for assault by friend
Drama meter: 3/5
SNSD’s Hyoyeon was caught in some April Fools’ drama when her male friend, known as “B”, reported her to the police for assault. According to Korean reports, the two were playing around at a mutual friend’s home and the Girls’ Generation member accidentally hit “B” in the eye.
After the media caught wind of the incident, SM Entertainment released an official statement, saying that it was a “misunderstanding between Hyoyeon and her friend” and that the case was dropped following a peaceful resolution between the two.
“The man suffered no particular injury and Hyoyeon has been warned [by the police] not to do anything that will cause such misunderstanding in future,” a representative said.
HyunA’s fake nude photos
Drama meter: 3/5
4Minute’s HyunA became the poor victim of a malicious prank last month, when her “nude photo” surfaced on social media and began circulating online. The picture, which showed the singer posing topless, was allegedly found in a male idol’s lost mobile phone.
To address the issue, Cube Entertainment vowed to seek prosecution of the perpetrator. The official statement read: “We are letting you know that we will take strong legal action against those responsible for fabricating and spreading composite photos as well as false rumours of HyunA.”
Sharp-eyed fans have also pointed out that the “nude photo” was photoshopped from a picture that HyunA had previously uploaded on her Instagram.
NU’EST Aron’s “sexist” comments draw flak
Drama meter: 3/5
In January, NU’EST member Aron suffered major backlash for his “sexist” comments on Arirang's radio programMusic Access. While chatting with Chocolat's Tia and Lori, Aron declared that “guys make better friends than girls” as women tend to gossip a lot.
Even though Aron emphasised that no offense was intended, the singer was heavily criticised for his tactless remarks after the programme aired. To salvage his image and appease the fans, the 21-year-old posted an apology statement on his Instagram.
“First off, I apologise to anyone who was offended by my comment. I am in no way, shape or form a sexist, and never will be. I love women, all the power to you. But there are quite a few people who misinterpreted what I meant and took my words out of context,” he wrote.
“Take the time to listen to the recordings. If you did, you'd probably know I was joking and that I was talking about FRIENDSHIP, not sexism. Like I said, those words weren't meant to hurt anyone or target a specific gender, and I'm sincerely sorry if they did.”
Jo Kwon’s drag queen role receives negative response
Drama meter: 2.5/5
2AM’s Jo Kwon has been attracting quite a lot of attention for his role in Priscilla, where he plays a gay drag queen named Felicia. The musical tells the story of two drag queens and a transsexual who perform at a resort in a remote Australian desert.
Clearly excited about his new project, the talented singer frequently updated his Instagram with eye-catching promotional images and photos of himself dressed in his stage costumes. These posts, however, stirred mixed responses among the netizens and some even left rude comments about his choice of role.
In return, Jo Kwon made sure to get his point across by addressing the negative feedback in English. He wrote: “It saddens me to see the ignorance in some of the comments that close minded people left on my personal page. But I’m very much committed and in love with this role, and [I am] proud to be a part of this amazing project! See you guys at the show!”
miss A Jia’s innocent fun gone awry
Drama meter: 1/5
What was intended to be a harmless Instagram video got miss A’s Jia into trouble with netizens in January. The 15-second clip, which showed her riding an airport cart, incited a flurry of comments that chided the singer for “doing something dangerous”.
On the other hand, many people responded in Jia’s defence. “Though her action was not exactly safe, it was something that almost everyone has tried doing. She was going slow anyway,” a fan reiterated.
In a bid to end the exchanges, Jia apologised for the video on Twitter. “I didn't know the video of me riding a cart at the airport two days ago would be problematic! I'm sorry! I won't do something like that again. I'll be more careful!” she promised.
Actor Kim Min Joon gives reporters the finger
Korean actor Kim Min Joon, cast member of variety-reality programme I Live Alone, became the talk of town after he was pictured pointing his middle finger at reporters three weeks ago.
On Jun 28, the Incheon International Airport was flooded with journos and fans, who were there to catch idol groups such as Super Junior, 2PM and VIXX that were leaving to China for a concert. When Kim Min Joon arrived at the airport, the reporters started taking photos of him relentlessly, despite his protests.
In the heat of the moment, the Top Star actor raised his middle finger at the cameras. Shocked by his reaction, Kim Min Joon’s manager apologised to reporters on the spot. His company also followed up with a public apology afterwards. Some people, however, claimed that the actor’s “uncharacteristic behaviour” was triggered by the profanities which the photographers threw at him that day.