Reactions to the HyunA-E'Dawn-Cube Entertainment scandal from K-pop communities worldwide have ranged from surprise to shock to downright outrage over everyone involved. What's all the fuss about?
It began on Aug 2 after news outlet TV Report broke the news that K-pop idols HyunA and fellow Triple H member E'Dawn had been dating for several months. On the same day, their agency Cube Entertainment denied the relationship and said that the news had no basis.
The story took another turn the next day when HyunA and E'Dawn publicly acknowledged their relationship, saying in a report, "While we knew that [dating publicly] would cause us to be linked in some way, both of us felt that it would be hard to meet our fans' eyes [while performing] on stage. We wanted to honestly tell our fans and show ourselves confidently having fun performing."
Some fans already commenting on the seemingly "excessive" skinship that the two were displaying in Triple H rehearsals didn't take the admission lightly, alleging that the couple has been dishonest with their fans for past two years.
The furore was such that some petitioned the removal of E'Dawn from Pentagon, at the same time several of his fansites were taken down. Other fans, mostly non-Koreans, celebrated the announcement and wished the couple further success.
While the Korean government has taken steps to address issues on slave contracts, this issue revived discussions on talent contracts and the extent of control that agencies can have over their artists.
Last Sept. 13, Cube Entertainment released a statement removing HyunA and E'Dawn from the company. "After much discussion, the judgment was made that it is not possible to recover the faith with the two artists HyunA and E'Dawn, so their removal has been decided," the statement said.
It was reported that the pop stars learned of their removal from the agency through the media. Social media erupted with passionate reactions, and the debates continued. Cube's stocks fluctuated within the day.
Hours after their initial statement (and maybe due to the fluctuating stocks), Cube took back their decision and said that the matter is still being discussed further. Their last statement prior to this writing is that the agency will release another statement within the week.
For now, E'Dawn has yet to release a statement of his own regarding the matter. Pentagon is currently promoting their latest single "Naughty Boy" without E'Dawn, who co-wrote the song.
HyunA is one of Cube's biggest stars since joining the agency in 2009 after leaving the girl group Wonder Girls. She has had several big hits including "Bubble Pop," "Ice Cream" and "Red." She joined E'Dawn and Pentagon singer Hui on the side project group Triple H. Promotions for the coed band's "Retro Futurism" EP have been cancelled.
What can be observed from this scandal is that Korean fans and international fans have different takes on the matter. Maybe it is also cultural in the sense that it is inherent for Koreans to pay deep respect to their superiors. Agencies spend time and resources to scout, develop, train and promote their talents for years, and a breach of trust does seem unforgivable.
It's not like the issue is new - a number of idols have been known to stay with their agencies during and even after revealing their relationships to the public. EXO's Baekyun and Girls' Generation's Taeyeon dated for more than a year before splitting in 2015-while being SM Entertainment talents. Cube has had a similar issue years ago when (then) B2ST member Yong Jun-hyung and KARA's Goo Hara became an item.
International fans, however, find it almost absurd that the couple is dismissed for romantic reasons-they did nothing criminal. Here in the Philippines where artists are often paired in "love teams" to promote careers and relationship songs rule the local pop airwaves, the idea that a couple is disciplined for openly declaring a relationship seems unthinkable. Rather, the coupling would be celebrated here. The results of Super K!'s quick survey reflect this.
But the issue goes deep into the dark side of the K-pop industrial machine and the manner by which fans express their complete devotion to their idols. It feels like idols are caught between the devil and the deep blue sea, whether they honour the "no-dating clause" and stay focused on their careers for their devout fans, or simply stay true as humans with real emotions, regardless what their agencies or protective fans would say.
As the matter is yet to be resolved soon, it would seem that Triple H would be disbanded and Pentagon would have to survive without one of its main rappers and composer. Meanwhile, fans of HyunA have recently observed that her personal manager has removed "Cube" from the manager's Instagram bio and that her stylist posted an AOMG logo (the independent record label of Jay Park) on his IG story.
If there's anything that other agencies can take from the now-famous Ted-talk by JYPE founder Park Jin-young last July is that the international market for K-pop is huge. Markets outside Korea are hungry for all things Korean-related, including acts from smaller agencies. Perhaps this is something Korean agencies and Korean fans can appreciate, because like it or not, as a consequence of "Hallyu," idols are no longer exclusively their own.