The OMEGA X members have spoken out about the abuse they allegedly suffered under the SPIRE Entertainment agency and its adverse effects on their mental health.
The K-pop boy band held a press conference yesterday (November 16) alongside its legal counsel, during which its 11 members personally aired allegations of abuse and sexual harassment against the ex-CEO of the agency, Kang Seong-hee, accused of having “threatened, assaulted and exploited” the members of the group in the past year since their debut.
OMEGA X’s lawyers have shared their intention to file a lawsuit against Kang and revealed that they have requested the cancellation of the group’s existing exclusive contract with SPIRE.
Claims about Kang first surfaced last month following the conclusion of OMEGA X’s “Connect: Don’t Give Up” US tour. SBS News released music videos that depict Kang verbally abusing and manhandling members outside of the concert venue and in the lobby of their hotel in Los Angeles. The group launched a new, independent Instagram account shortly after the clips went viral, where they claimed they had been subjected to “undue treatment” by SPIRE.
Kang previously denied allegations that SBS. SPIRE later issued a formal apology and simultaneously announced the resignation of the “CEO responsible for this matter”. The company has yet to respond to the latest allegations aired by OMEGA X and their attorneys at the press conference. NME has contacted SPIRE Entertainment for comment.
During the press conference, the members of OMEGA X explained how their mental health had deteriorated due to the alleged abuse, according to a report by Korea JoongAng Daily, and said they believe other K-pop hopefuls and idols face similar treatment backstage.
“I really tried to put up with it,” member Hangyeom told reporters of the alleged abuse and mistreatment. “Since it was my second debut, I didn’t want the fans to hear the word ‘disband’. So I just picked up the phone whenever drunken Kang called me all the time; during our schedules and even late at night after work. (All of the OMEGA X members were in different, now-disbanded boy bands prior to their new debut together.)
“Every time I came home, I was afraid that Kang would call any minute,” Hangyeom continued. “I couldn’t take it anymore and started going to a psychiatric clinic. In fact, even now, when I hear a phone ring or vibrate, or anything like an alarm, I panic. Even before I started psychiatric treatment, I had many occasions when I couldn’t breathe due to her incessant calls and verbal abuse.
“Once when another panic attack happened, I told Kang that I couldn’t breathe. She laughed at me saying, ‘Oh, are we going to see articles that say ‘OMEGA X becomes a 10-member group because Hangyeom has panic disorder?’ I was shocked by that.
Other band members have also alleged that the abuse they faced under SPIRE’s leadership did not end with Kang. “Not only Kang, but also the employees and managers shouted insults at us and set us on fire,” said Jaehan, who is the leader of OMEGA X. “And during the recent world tour, we were also physically assaulted by them.” Yechan also recalled that “another[er]-up to our agency told us [to] ‘die’ in the group chat while we were touring South America.
OMEGA X also said they believe the verbal and physical abuse they faced was not an isolated incident unique to the band or SPIRE. “I know not all agencies are like this, but I think a lot of K-pop apprentices and even current idols are treated unfairly,” Taedong said.
“I was training 15 to 17 hours a day without a single day off. They confiscated my phone and forced me to share my passwords,” he alleged of the agency he worked with before SPIRE. “There was also abuse in my old agency,” Hangyeom added. “I was not beaten but other members were, in the office or even during the tours.”
Following the press conference, Japanese media company SKIYAKI, which holds the license for OMEGA X’s activities in Japan, announced yesterday that it will no longer be working with SPIRE in the future. SKIYAKI said it “determined that SPIRE…committed a serious compliance violation. We have decided to terminate our exclusive contract with SPIRE,” the company wrote on the group’s Japanese website. NME has contacted SPIRE Entertainment for comment.
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