A high-stakes conflict between HYBE, South Korea’s largest K-pop agency, and Min Hee-jin, the representative of ADOR, is heating up. This showdown between a major K-pop planning agency leader and the mastermind behind successful girl groups has divided public opinion and raises questions about the future landscape of K-pop.

A Long-standing Feud

The visible conflict between Bang Si-hyuk, Chairman of HYBE’s board, and Min Hee-jin centres on accusations of power usurpation, but the tension between the two has been simmering for years. Min, who joined SM Entertainment in 2002, was instrumental in shaping the concepts for iconic girl groups like Girls’ Generation and Red Velvet. The globally successful “Gee” from Girls’ Generation, which popularized their ‘jeans and white t-shirt’ look, was also a brainchild of Min.

ADOR  Min Hee-jin / Youtube

The Move to HYBE

Min left SM in 2018 and joined Big Hit Entertainment, now known as HYBE, as the Chief Brand Officer (CBO) in 2019. At the time, Big Hit was home to the world-renowned boy band BTS, but lacked popular girl groups in the ranks of JYP’s Twice, YG’s Blackpink, or SM’s Red Velvet.

Failed Collaboration and New Beginnings

At HYBE, Min planned to debut a new girl group in 2021 through the subsidiary Source Music, in collaboration with Chairman Bang. However, their relationship reportedly soured over disagreements about the group’s concept. Min ended up taking over as head of ADOR, a HYBE subsidiary, in 2021 and created the new girl group Newkins, distancing himself from Chairman Bang.

The Debut and Aftermath

Despite Newkins’ phenomenal success following their debut in July 2022, the conflict between Min and Bang remains unresolved. During a press conference, Min accused HYBE of going back on its promise to give Newkins the title of “the company’s first girl group”, debuted another group, Leseraphim, first, and forbade him from promoting Newkins. HYBE countered these claims, stating that Leseraphim debuted first due to a delay in Newkins’ debut schedule caused by the dispute with Min, and that separate promotion periods were set for each team’s debut.