Embattled K-pop star Woo-jin has broken his silence on the sexual harassment allegations recently levelled against him.
The K-pop performer, who first rose to fame as a member of boy band Stray Kids, was accused of sexual misconduct by several anonymous women on social media in September.
One user alleged that the idol had groped her and a friend at a bar in South Korea, while a second user made similar accusations of unwanted advances.
However, in an exclusive interview with the South China Morning Post , the singer said there was no truth to the allegations.
“I didn’t take it seriously when the issue first came up because it’s not true at all. I knew that Twitter users often make up stories, but I was shocked that my case was spreading way faster than any of the other rumours,” the 23-year-old, born Kim Woo-jin, told the Post .
Woojin’s initial denial was heavily criticised for being “dishonest” and “insensitive” by some internet users. The singer admitted that he hadn’t expected the backlash to his initial statement, saying he merely wanted to “explain the situation myself and provide updates to reassure my fans”.
He added that he didn’t think “too deeply” about the wording of his statement because the claims were “just nonsense”.
Woo-jin added that it was “impossible” to address the allegations of the first user who came forward, as there was no mention of the exact date, time and place that the incident allegedly occurred.
In a series of tweets on Sept 8, the user claimed to have met Woo-jin at a bar in Seoul during the coronavirus outbreak, where he allegedly tried to touch women inappropriately without their consent and despite repeated protests.
“I really want all his fans to know what type of person he is, but I am not famous so I cannot say anything. People will blame it on us because we were in a bar recently and we knew it was wrong because of the virus, but he was also there.”
Although the user didn’t reveal the star’s identity at first, they hinted that the man harassing them was named “Woo” and came from one of the “big three” entertainment companies in South Korea.
Meanwhile, Woo-jin said the allegations made by the second user were obviously false as well. The accuser shared a photo of a bottle of whiskey with Woojin supposedly in the picture, but it turned out the image was originally posted on Instagram by another user who denied any connection to the idol.
Both anonymous accounts were eventually deactivated.
Woojin’s new label, 10x Entertainment, released a statement announcing its intention to take legal action related to the accusations, along with screenshots and even CCTV footage to support its claims. Investigations are continuing.
After several netizens questioned the legitimacy of the agency, 10x Entertainment replied that it was a new company established on July 27 and has since been registered with South Korea’s National Tax Service. Woojin came on board soon after, making him the first artist on the label’s roster.
“I met the founders after being introduced by an acquaintance,” Woojin explained. “We talked a lot. After having meetings for months, I realised that they understood my vision for my future career and that they had a deep understanding of the K-pop industry. Since we are pursuing the same goals in music, I decided to sign the contract in August 2020.
“The company was founded by people who have worked in the industry for more than 10 years. The rumours [that 10x Entertainment is not a legitimate company] are not true.”
In October last year, Woo-jin left Stray Kids after his contract with JYP Entertainment was terminated due to unspecified personal circumstances.
Although he declined to elaborate on the reasons behind his exit during his interview with the Post , he urged people not to listen to various rumours that have been spreading about his departure.
Since leaving Stray Kids, Woo-jin has been focusing on his solo activities and even held his own fan meeting in May.
When asked how he hopes to see his career develop, Woo-jin said he would soon be embarking on a solo career under his new company. “I’m having vocal and dance training, and I’ve been working hard on self-improvement.”
While fans wait for new music, a dance cover of Justin Bieber’s Take It Out On Me by Woo-jin has been uploaded on 10x Entertainment’s official YouTube channel.
Apart from practising, Woo-jin said he had also been trying to update fans about his daily life via social media. Unfortunately, his Instagram account has been temporarily suspended due to a barrage of cyberattacks and hacking attempts.
“Many people think that I deactivated the account, but it’s been blocked due to false reports from haters. I’ve even been receiving death threats and blackmail attempts,” he said.
The singer apologised to fans who have supported him this year. “I’m sorry for my fans who must have been confused by this issue, and I will try to be more cautious when I confront this kind of situation again.
“It’s very disappointing that this situation came up when I was working hard to meet my fans again. I’ve been having a really hard time during the past few weeks, but I will stand up again and meet you guys with a better version of myself.”
This article was first published in South China Morning Post.