The K-pop industry is one cut-throat industry. Behind every successful K-pop group that you see on stage are idols who spend countless hours inside training rooms to reach the zenith of success. The roaring fan chants, endorsement deals, sold-out concert tours, fame — all these things and more come at a cost, such as grueling schedules and the burden of living up to the public’s high expectations.
Because they’re put on such high pedestals, K-pop idols are especially vulnerable to backlash or issues. Recently, rookie girl group Le Sserafim found itself in hot water after member Kim Garam got entangled in a bullying controversy. There’s quite a lot to unpack, so here’s everything that went down.
Meet LE SSERAFIM
Le Sserafim is the newest addition to HYBE’s artist roster, managed by Source Music (a label under HYBE). All eyes are on the girls since they’re the first girl group from HYBE, which is home to some of K-pop’s biggest superstars like TXT, Seventeen, and BTS.
The group has six members, namely Sakura, Kim Chae-won, Huh Yun-jin, Kazuha, Kim Ga-ram, and Hong Eun-Chae. Right now, over 300,000 copies of their debut EP FEARLESS have already been sold, which are great numbers for a rookie girl group.
So, who’s Kim Garam?
16-year-old Kim Garam was first seen in Enhypen ‘Drunk-Dazed‘ music video. She was the second Le Sserafim member to be unveiled, and while little is known about her, fans were immediately drawn to Garam’s confidence, charm, and stunning beauty. However, the rookie idol’s road to stardom was immediately met with controversy.
A certain Yoo Eunseo (not her real name) alleges she was a victim of bullying by Kim Garam and her friends from late April to early May 2018. As a result, Eunseo transferred to another school, unable to endure what she experienced. A photo of an official document issued by the Autonomous Committee for Countermeasures against School Violence also gained buzz online, highlighting the disciplinary actions against a student named Kim Garam.
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After rumors of Kim Garam’s past as a bully started circulating on the Korean forum site Nate Pann, netizens connected the dots and alleged that Yoo Eunseo made the posts, as she was the victim. Yoo Eunseo’s legal team confirmed in a statement that she was bullied by Kim Garam. Yoo Eunsoo then began receiving anonymous messages threatening her and calling her a liar. This caused her to suffer panic attacks, and she even attempted to ended her life.
In a recent lengthy statement, HYBE weighs in regarding the situation and debunked accusations of bullying and school violence against their artist. They also apologized for Kim Garam’s “wrongful speech and behavior in the past,” adding she was also a victim of school violence. HYBE ended the statement by asking for the public’s understanding and offering an apology to the fans of Le Sserafim for causing concern.
Another (alleged) victim comes forward
Since this broke out, other alleged victims have come forward. One recounted an incident wher Kim Garam verbally abused them after they accidentally bumped into her:
“I was Kim Garam’s classmate when she was in the first year of middle school. I once accidentally dropped her pencil case so I said I was sorry and picked it up. But then Kim Garam blasted me if I was blind too because my mother is handicapped and went about saying how I shouldn’t walk around if I couldn’t see. Her squad also started to pick on me starting the next day at school and on Facebook.”
However, the source has chosen to remain anonymous and thus, this particular incident has not yet been verified.
Kim Garam goes on hiatus
Though HYBE maintains that Garam is a victim of false allegations, she is going on hiatus just 18 days after the release of the group’s debut EP. According to a statement from HYBE, Garam will be “focusing on healing her wounded heart,” while also “looking back on her immature actions and is deeply reflecting on them”.
Fans of LE SSERAFIM and other fandoms were quick to chime in about the situation, with one user wishing Garam to be out of the group for good.
how can you tell the public “not to believe one-sided statements” and then proceed defend her saying “according to kim garam” without any solid evidence whatsoever. so hypocritical like you’re only digging a deeper hole. https://t.co/MczcXSVkLt
— akaashi (@pimplups) May 20, 2022
omfg why wont hybe kick kim garam from this group, literally it was confirmed that she was a bully. She had 5 level punishment and hybe still wont kick her out? anyways le sserafim is better without her, they slayed on inkigayo while garam is on hiatus🤞 #garamOUT #KimGaram_Out
— Kai/Timothee💙💛 (@toothlessgh0st) May 22, 2022
this whole kim garam situation kinda reminds me of tomorrow episode 2, wherein the bully is living a very happy & successful life meanwhile the victim still suffers from the trauma that the bully gave and lives a very miserable life
— paeka (@sf9Iuvr) May 19, 2022
However, some felt bad for the rookie idol and her groupmates.
Even though she can be at fault I’m feeling bad for her
She’s young and many people are talking about her
Hybe really should have protect her better
— Beatrice (@bijoux1995) May 20, 2022
hybe and soumu better speak up. because sakura left her big career in japan and risked garnering hate for it, chaewon left woollim to see bigger things, yunjin waited for years and years, kazuha left her 15 year professional ballet career, and eunchae is a young girl with dreams
— ssamudan patient #0 (@ssamudone) May 19, 2022
K-pop idols and bullying
This isn’t the first time an idol’s name was involved in a bullying controversy. Former SISTAR member Hyolyn rose to countless news headlines in 2019 following accusations of being a school bully. Eventually, a Bridʒ Entertainment representative (Hyolyn’s own agency) announced that Hyolyn and her unnamed accuser settled the matter privately.
Hyunjin of boy group Stray Kids has also released a handwritten apology on Instagram and met his unnamed former schoolmate, who called him out for being verbally abusive during their early teens, to apologize in person.
The future of Le Sserafim
Le Sserafim is off to a rocky start. Source Music released a statement last May 20, announcing some of the group’s public appearances had been canceled.
With Kim Garam on hiatus, the group will continue its promotional activities with five members for the time being. People are watching HYBE and Source Music closely to see how these companies will respond if another bullying controversy linked to their artist resurfaces.
What are your thoughts about this issue?