Why Is Everyone Mad at Irene, Singer in K-Pop Group Red Velvet?

L to R: Yeri, Irene, Wendy and Seulgi (2018)
L to R: Yeri, Irene, Wendy and Seulgi (2018)
Image: Chung Sung-Jun (Getty Images)

K-pop girl group Red Velvet is the source of major Instagram drama in the K-pop world this week, which I will now explain in full detail because it’s the freakin’ weekend, why not?

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According to the gossip site allkpop, an editor named Kang Kook Hwa posted a lengthy caption on her Instagram on Tuesday, in which she wrote that working with an unnamed K-pop idol was similar to the abuse of power in an infamous five-year-old “nut rage” story. (The “nut rage” story involved a 27-year-old Korean Air flight attendant who filed a lawsuit that claimed Heather Cho, a former vice president at Korean Air, had verbally assaulted her and forced the plane to turn around because she was unhappy with how her nuts were served to her.) Kang Kook Hwa’s post has since been deleted, but allkpop has the translation:

Looking at articles about Heather Cho, who is the epitome of a ‘sociopath’ when she created the infamous peanut incident in which she made an airplane with 250 passengers return to the airport over some peanuts, also the article about the psychopathic elementary school daughter of Bang Jung Ho, the former president of TV Chosun, who abused her power and cursed at her 50-year-old chauffeur. I came to wonder how an individual is raised to become like that. I’ve been deeply thinking about it, but today, I’ve been thoroughly trampled by this one person, and I became the position of the abused. Proven to be disqualified from being human + a puppet living behind a smiling mask + known to be a warm person by friends + an ‘adult child’ who lacks character + has a sense of entitlement + has the stupidity that reveals all the deficiencies transparently to the person they meet for the first time.

I should have prepared myself from the stories I’ve heard before I met her. But today, I became speechless as this person stung me with her words that are like electric needles. I had no choice but to stand still with my hands, feet, and even my brain tied together. I had to stand still in front of that repulsive face that was hysterically throwing a fit at me. I had to stand there like a fool without anything I could do. This person did not give me time to understand the situation or even seek understanding from this person. This person didn’t even give me a chance to explain because she can’t hear anything. I’ve experienced all sorts of people in this field for 15 years. I thought I had experienced everything in life and thought I had let everything go, but I was wrong.

I experienced hell for 20 minutes in an unfamiliar room. This person skipped the greeting and sat right down as this person began spewing insults at my face with her cellphone pointed at me. This person was so emotional that you couldn’t know if she’s talking to everyone in the room or just me. But either way, the target today was me. I wondered, ‘I guess other people experienced this too? They are experiencing it, right?’ The knife from her mouth did not stop as I have been stabbed multiple times by her words, and only tears rolled down my face. I wasn’t even in the right mind to feel embarrassed that I was crying; tears just came out. What am I doing this for? Who am I doing this for? What do I want to show? Is it to earn money? Who chose me? Did someone ask for a favor? Why am I going through such an insult?!

I thought deeply about this but could not understand her actions. I calmed down, and I wanted to talk to her person to person like a normal human being. And I wanted an apology. But she just disappeared. I recorded everything, just in case something else would happen. I should take action against this lady. I will state the exact facts through my words.

I was an editor paid to work and was a writer. I’m going to use all my energy and use my brain smartly and cleverly from now on. It’s been a long time since I felt revenge be a catalyst #psycho #monster

Korean fans guessed that Kang Kook Hwa was referring to Red Velvet’s Irene or Seulgi because of the hashtags “#psycho” and “#monster,” two of the group’s song titles. According to fan site Koreaboo, other K-pop industry professionals began sharing their own stories of Irene’s “bad attitude,” all but confirming that the allegations were directed at her, including Chinese stylist Belle Shao, who wrote of the #IreneApologize trend on Weibo, “Irene is indeed beautiful, but she’s very rude. (If I spoke on it, it would go over 1000 characters) Whoever has worked with her, will know. I think that locally, only I’ve worked with her. Her face is wasted on her.”

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In retaliation, Red Velvet staff and stylists came to Irene’s defense, including choreographer Choi Sun Hee, who wrote, “The Joohyun [Irene’s Korean name] that I know, is someone that is really smart and overflowing with energy and pays strong attention to detail with regards to her work. As it is a working environment that gathers many people, there will be times where there are differences in opinions. But on such days, she always sends a message first in order to regulate opinions. She is a pretty friend that induces gratefulness and a fighting spirit in me. Whenever that happens, I get the strength to work harder. I hope there are no large misunderstandings with regards to Joohyun.”

On Thursday, according to an English translation provided by Newsweek, Irene apologized in an Instagram caption next to a big black square, writing, “This is Irene. I sincerely apologize for hurting the stylist with my foolish attitude and careless words and actions. There was a lot of help from many people who worked hard together until I was here, but I am regretting and reflecting on the fact that I hurt a lot with my immature behavior. Looking back through this time, I was ashamed of my insufficient words and actions, and I felt the importance of the staff once again. We will think and act more carefully to prevent this from happening in the future. I sincerely apologize to all the fans who support me who are lacking and to all those who have caused concern by this incident.” Of course, it’s impossible to know if she is really guilty of bad behavior or if she is apologizing to end this “attitude controversy,” as it has been dubbed by the press.

All drama aside, I personally love Red Velvet, and respect Irene’s refusal to participate in her industry’s antiquated ideas surrounding gender, even in small ways: who could forget the backlash she faced in 2018, when fans burned pictures of her and announced they would no longer support the group simply because she read Cho Nam-joo’s bestelling novel Kim Ji Young Born 1982, which Billboard described as a fictionalized reflection on casual sexism in South Korean society”? However, treating anyone like shit is extremely uncool, and I sincerely hope everyone has learned a lesson here.

It's facetious. Senior Writer, Jezebel. My debut book, LARGER THAN LIFE: A History of Boy Bands, is out now.

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DISCUSSION

i don’t see how red velvet will recover from this because they’re a girl group. wendy with her 10 broken bones from a stage accident last christmas and now this mess with irene?

it brings me back to t-ara who were a super popular group but because of a bullying controversy, they were immediately sent to z-list and shunned. surprise! it turned out that they weren’t bullies at all and the one who said was bullied was lying and the actual bully all along.

also, this year aoa’s jimin was exposed as a monster bully leading to one the members attempting suicide a multiple of times. the group hasn’t disbanded yet but they’re pretty much done.

it’d be great if red velvet could get through this but will korean society let them?