HYBE Responds To Skepticism About Why Kim Garam Received Degree 5 Disciplinary Action If No Physical Assault Took Place

HYBE has made an additional statement explaining some of their claims regarding LE SSERAFIM’s Kim Garam’s school violence allegations.

Warning: mention of attempted suicide.

Last month, Kim Garam was swept up in multiple allegations of school violence after her first debut teaser for LE SSERAFIM was released. At the time, HYBE released an official statement denying all of the the allegations and claiming that Kim Garam had been a victim of school bullying herself. They also announced their plans to take legal action against those who had made the allegations against Kim Garam.

Earlier this week, the controversy over the allegations grew when a photo of a document that appeared to be an official record from a school violence committee meeting began circulating online. The document listed Kim Garam as the perpetrator in the incident.

On May 19, the legal representative of the alleged victim in the incident (hereafter referred to as “Y”) released a detailed statement confirming that the circulating document was real and that Kim Garam had been found guilty of school violence by the committee in 2018.

The law firm also stated that even though “Y” was not one of the individuals who originally posted the photos of Kim Garam online back in April, she has been bullied by Kim Garam’s friends and people she doesn’t know online ever since HYBE made their statement claiming that Kim Garam had actually been the victim of bullying. According to the firm, the ensuing online attacks led “Y” to attempt suicide and drop out of school, with her mother now remaining by her side 24 hours a day in order to ensure she doesn’t harm herself again.

The law firm accused HYBE of putting the alleged victim through a second round of harm and claimed that while they had tried to contact the agency about the matter and had sent them the evidence in question last month, they had not received a response. They went on to ask HYBE to apologize and amend their previous statement about Kim Garam being the victim, stating that “Y” was not interested in money, but wanted the truth to be properly revealed and her name to be cleared.

The following day, HYBE responded with a detailed statement of their own in which they claimed that while it was true that Kim Garam had been found guilty of school violence in 2018, she had not committed any sort of physical assault. According to HYBE, “Y” had taken a photo of one of their classmates while they were changing and wearing only underwear, then posted it online without their permission, and Kim Garam had simply been angrily confronting “Y” about her actions. HYBE also alleged that “Y” had not received any disciplinary action for her wrongdoings, while Kim Garam and one of her friends had been punished merely for arguing with her. (A full translation of the statement can be found here.)

However, some expressed skepticism about HYBE’s statement due to the fact that Kim Garam received Degree 5 disciplinary action from the school violence committee, meaning that both she and her parents were required to undergo a special educational course on violence.

In South Korea, school violence committees are typically only called for serious cases of bullying and violence (as opposed to verbal arguments between students), and when disciplinary action is taken, there are nine degrees of punishment with varying levels of severity: Degree 1 (the lightest) is ordering the perpetrator to make an apology, while Degree 9 (the harshest) is expulsion. Starting from Degree 5, the perpetrator’s parents are also required to complete an educational course on violence.

According to the Ministry of Education, Degree 5 is “a measure taken when it seems unlikely that measures such as community service will be enough to make the student perpetrator feel remorse for their actions on their own, in order to reform their mindset on violence and make them reflect on their actions through the help of a professional.”

As most of the disciplinary action taken in school violence cases—even ones that involve physical assault—usually falls somewhere between Degrees 1 and 3, it is uncommon for Degree 5 disciplinary action to be taken in a case where there was no physical assault. Therefore, many expressed confusion over how Kim Garam’s case could have warranted Degree 5 punishment without any physical violence.

On May 21, HYBE officially responded to the questions about their previous statement by reiterating, “Degree 5 disciplinary action was taken even though there was absolutely no physical violence.”

HYBE went on, “As far as we are aware, school violence committees are held differently depending on the matter, the school, the district, and the members, as they are not courts of law.”

“At the time, Kim Garam’s mother believed that the school [violence committee] had made the decision that would help her daughter the most, so she did not appeal the decision,” they continued. “Now, Kim Garam’s mother is deeply regretting that she did not contest the degree of the school violence committee’s disciplinary action and simply accepted it. But at the time, she thought that was the best way to educate her daughter.”

Meanwhile, HYBE also announced yesterday that Kim Garam will temporarily be going on hiatus in order to focus on “healing her wounded heart,” with LE SSERAFIM promoting as a five-member group for the time being.

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