Online K-pop fandoms have exploded once again after former idol Garam Kim spoke out in response to accusations of violence and intimidation that forced her to quit her girl group.
Kim, 16, was announced in April as part of the lineup for Hybe Entertainment’s (the company responsible for BTS, Seventeen, Tomorrow x Together) new girl group Le Sserafim. This was monumental, as Hype hadn’t announced an all-female group in five years. But the same day, anonymous Korean bloggers began accusing him of bullying, underage drinking and smoking, and school violence. Its management issued a statement in response, denying the allegations.
It’s not uncommon for K-pop idols to be embroiled in scandals surrounding allegations of school bullying – however, the seriousness of the allegations varies wildly. Many accusations have resulted in idols being asked to leave their groups, even if they were at fault, to save the group’s overall reputation; other claims have been true and the members remain. The claims against Kim were serious by historical K-pop standards, and strong anti-Kim sentiment began to spread online. The buzz around the band turned overwhelmingly against Kim’s debut.
When an accuser submitted a statement through a legal representative and photos of documents claiming to show the school’s disciplinary actions, mounting criticism against Kim peaked. Hybe released another statement contesting the charges in detail.
“It’s not too late to fire her,” one comment read. “I just don’t understand why Hybe y Kno is so supportive of Kim Garam…I’m not trying to be rude but she has no presence for the group,” another fan said.
However, public opinion was entrenched by this point, and when news broke of Kim’s contract termination in July, fans responded online with jokes about Kim packing her things.
“The resulting memes are too much for me,” one wrote.
But then #JusticeForGaram trended on Twitter this week after Kim spoke out via a friend’s Instagram (K-pop idols aren’t usually allowed to have their own personal social media platforms without permission). In a four-screenshot statement, Kim described arguing with another student after taking a lewd photo of Kim’s friend. She said she was facing disciplinary action for confronting the accuser, which led to their bullying allegations.