Welcome to Fan Chant, a weekly column for K-pop fans, stans, and newbies alike. Each week, I’ll be rolling out interviews, lists, and all kinds of content to keep you in the loop on the latest and greatest from our friends in Seoul and beyond. Also, make sure to subscribe to my companion newsletter!
This week’s column contains mentions of abuse.
On Wednesday, December 7th, K-pop group Omega X attended their first hearing in the battle to terminate their exclusive contracts with agency Spire Entertainment. All eleven members, whose ages range from 21 to 27 years old, were present at the Seoul Eastern District Court.
For those who might not be familiar with Omega X, a group stemming from a smaller label, the conversation around the case to terminate their exclusive contract as a team has rightfully generated plenty of conversation. A New York Times, article published on December 4th, dug into the story, pinpointing an altercation caught on a heavily circulated video in Los Angeles during the band’s international tour as the starting point for the legal battle.
The details brought forth in the case are upsetting and grim — the members describe verbal and physical abuse, and some allege being forced to perform after positive Covid-19 diagnoses. There are reports of members collapsing from exhaustion, and the video that sparked a wider public conversation shows an executive pushing one of the members to the ground. After the altercation, Omega X were left in America, and claim that they were required to use personal funds and money from their parents to make their way back to South Korea. Spire Entertainment’s then-CEO, Kang Seong-hee, has since resigned and denies the allegations.
The case has renewed conversations around abuse in the entertainment industry, particularly in K-pop. Of course, these types of issues are far from exclusive to the K-pop world — look at the details brought forth in former Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy’s 2022 memoir, for example — but in an industry so physically demanding, particularly one predicated on sharing personal details of everyday life with fans, protection for these young performers is absolutely essential.
The members of Omega X launched an unverified Instagram account as a means to communicate with fans, offering a united front in the long road ahead. It’s particularly sad to consider that the members of this group were an amalgam of individuals from groups that have disbanded, or people who didn’t make the cut for other K-pop lineups. The members of Omega X have historically been vocal about this group being their “second chance” at making it in the competitive world of K-pop.
While the legal proceedings have only just begun, we can hope that multiple positives stem from the case: First, that Omega X extricate themselves from their contracts safely and have the freedom to decide where to go next. Second, that this conversation acts as a starting point for more permanent and substantial protections for these artists, and that all young performers in the space have the chances to succeed that they truly deserve.
End of Year Lists
In much lighter news, we’ve started rolling out our 2022 Annual Report, our yearly roundup of the artists, albums, films, and television that defined the last twelve months. Which K-pop albums and tracks made the cut?
Plus, stay tuned for more K-pop specific reflections in our Annual Report next week!
ICYMI: Indigo Review
It might not come as a surprise that I absolutely adored Indigo, the debut solo album from BTS group leader RM. Having sat with the album for a few days now, I think “Life is better than death, I’ll prove it” might just be my favorite lyric of 2022 — “Still Life (with Anderson .Paak)” was in fact our Song of the Week. Find my whole review of the lovely record here.
Song Rec of the Week:
Quick, act surprised. I keep flip-flopping on my favorite track of the record — “All Day (with Tablo)” is certainly up there — but today, it’s gotta be “Closer (with Paul Blanco, Mahalia).”