MBK Entertainment Founder Kim Kwang Soo Talks About T-ara’s Past Controversy
Recently music producer and MBK Entertainment founder Kim Kwang Soo sat down for a long interview about his involvement in T-ara’s controversy in 2012.
The interviewer mentioned that last year, conversations between the rest of T-ara and Ryu Hwayoung and Ryu Hyoyoung had come to light and asked why those conversations had not been revealed to the public in 2012.
Kim Kwang Soo answered, “At that time, members of the ‘We Demand Truth from T-ara’ movement had launched a protest and even legal action against us. Of those protesters, we contacted 10 of the most important members and privately sent them the contents of those conversations. Since Hwayoung and Hyoyoung were going to continue working in the entertainment industry, we told them that revealing those conversations publicly would harm them. Those protesters agreed with us and canceled their lawsuit. I felt that was fair so I didn’t want to have to publicly explain.”
When asked what he regretted most during the controversy, he said, “T-ara had to board an 8 a.m. plane for their Japanese concert [in July of 2012]. At about 7 a.m., their manager called me to say that Hwayoung had sprained her ankle on stage the day before. They’d gone to several hospitals, but the X-rays showed that nothing was wrong. However, Hwayoung arrived at the airport in crutches. The hospital had said, ‘She’s okay and she can stand on stage without any problems’ but Hwayoung said she couldn’t walk. So I said let’s not put Hwayoung on stage and have the other members put on the concert without her.”
He continued, “But watching the concert in Japan the next day, Hwayoung was on stage with her crutches. When I saw that, I admired her. After the concert ended, I told her she did well and took the members and their parents to a restaurant. But at the restaurant, the members contacted me and said that all they wanted was for Hwayoung to publicly apologize.
“During rehearsals for the Japanese concert, the members were working to sync their choreography without Hwayoung, and Hwayoung had been sent to the hospital with the Japanese staff. But instead of returning to the concert arena, Hwayoung had gone back to the hotel. The Japanese staff who were with Hwayoung told the other T-ara members that Hwayoung had said she wanted to get her nails done at the hotel and that she had gone to the bathroom without the crutches. The members got mad and used social media to condemn Hwayoung’s behavior.
“I told the other members at the restaurant to not talk about this now because their parents were there, and that we should meet in South Korea to resolve the issue. Afterwards, T-ara went to Korea first while I stayed behind to take care of work in Japan. But on July 27, backstage at “Music Bank,” Hwayoung said she wouldn’t perform and threw her crutches, while her sister Hyoyoung sent threatening messages to T-ara’s Areum. Areum was scared and showed the other members the messages, and the other members decided they couldn’t stay still. I got a call in Japan and told my staff not to put Hwayoung on stage.
“I called the agency staff in Korea and told them to put out a press release that we would be having a press conference with an announcement about T-ara on July 30. The day before, on July 29, I met with Hwayoung and Hyoyoung and told Hwayoung that her contract was void and she was free to go where she wanted.
“I didn’t realize that voiding her contract would make the bullying rumors even worse. [Note: At the press conference, Kim had announced Hwayoung would be leaving the group and had stated that there was no bullying between her and the other members.] I think my greatest mistake at the time was not revealing the truth clearly. When rumors of bullying spread, I thought there was nothing for us to apologize for because we had done nothing wrong. I thought that things would quiet down if we just stayed still.
“As the issue grew bigger, the T-ara members’ parents suggested that we make public the messages that Hyoyoung had sent to Areum. However, I disagreed and persuaded the parents that we shouldn’t fight each other in public. When the issue got further out of control, the agency staff and managers told me that the T-ara members needed a break, but again I didn’t listen. I thought that since T-ara hadn’t done anything wrong, it would look like admitting guilt if we put them on hiatus. We promoted more heavily with the thought that we had to endure the hardships now. However, as a result the public turned even more against T-ara. Thinking about it now, T-ara didn’t do anything wrong. I made a serious mistake.”
The interviewer asked him what he had to say to those who believe that Ryu Hwayoung and Ryu Hyoyoung were victimized by Kim Kwang Soo. He answered, “Hwayoung’s stance was that I had kicked her out of the agency rather than let her go free. At the time, I wasn’t young in terms of age, but I was still acting as a music producer rather than a management company head. I had a tendency to do things according to instinct or feeling, like I would in in music. I think that’s why I didn’t handle important issues correctly. It was a heavy price to pay for the life experience I gained.”
He added, “Last February, when Hwayoung and Hyoyoung went on the show ‘Taxi’ and spoke as if they were the victims, I felt so sorry to T-ara. If I’d been more patient in July 2012, T-ara wouldn’t have suffered for so many years… Much of the truth came to light when Hyoyoung’s messages to Areum were revealed, but the past has left a deep impression on the public and there are many that still don’t believe the T-ara members.”
Although the remaining four members of T-ara have left MBK, Kim Kwang Soo said that he still maintains a good relationship with them and keeps in touch. When asked about why MBK maintains control of the name “T-ara” instead of giving it to these members, Kim Kwang Soo said, “It’s a problem that the agency has considered for a few years now. Many fans state that the name ‘T-ara’ belongs to the members, but then it could be used by Areum, Soyeon, or Boram [who left the agency and the group before the current four members] or even Hwayoung. The agency’s position had to be considered. The members are suing the agency for the name, but they understand that it has nothing to do with me personally. [Note: Kim Kwang Soo is in charge of the music production of the agency, with a separate division in charge of management.] We continue to have a friendly relationship regardless of the lawsuit against the agency.”