Moon Joon-young, the leader of K-pop boy band ZE:A, on Monday took back his fiery criticisms of his agency's alleged exploitation of its singers, but fans remained sceptical of the "reconciliation."
The 25-year-old singer wrote on his Twitter Monday morning that he had an all-night talk the day before with Shin Ju-hak, the chief executive of Star Empire Entertainment Co., "as the final ultimatum." He posted an official apology "for causing controversy, which was straightened out after a candid face-to-face talk with the CEO."
The entertainment label also released an official statement, claiming Moon and Shin had "unraveled all the misunderstandings and conflicts in a cordial manner."
But the news did not convince online critics, with sceptical comments heating up news sites and online community bulletin boards.
"Talk of reconciliation. A bucket of lies (fnal****)."
"Don't you think it's strange? (snai****)."
"If it was such an easy problem, why have they waited so long to reconcile? This has been a longtime issue (vijd****)."
Some blamed Moon for quickly revoking his claims.
In recent years, the abuse controversy involving K-pop stars and their agencies has gained public attention, with a series of legal actions by globally popular singers. The three former members of TVXQ, now JYJ, Hankyung of Super Junior and Kris of EXO have taken legal action against S.M. Entertainment over common issues of maltreatment, hectic work schedules and scarce income.
Moon's Twitter manifesto also addressed these three key issues in detail.
1. Sunday morning: "I want to live like a human being, like a man."
The scandal surfaced on Sunday morning, when the distressed ZE:A leader voiced allegations of an inhumanly tight schedule and unfair distribution of income.
Moon wrote on his Twitter, "I am determined to speak out my heart, the world as I see it, and the life I live in tears. I mean to share them all with the public. I ask for support from the journalists.
"I will not bypass the injustice. I regret having been silent -- All I got in return was insults and depression that have imprisoned me."
He directly targeted the CEO of his agency, a daring move for an idol star in Korea.
"I believe a true leader, owner and ruler must heed to the cry of (his people) … I will show how tears can turn into fury. This is no joke. If my Twitter account disappears or I become silent, that will be the evidence of the pressure from those with power to do so.
"For the first time, I ask the world: CEO Shin Ju-hak of Star Empire Entertainment, do you think you are immune to this? … In tears I asked you not to cross the line, but you did. Now it is yours to handle this. I blew my top. I have been through everything, from circular hair loss to melancholia."
Later when these statements disappeared from the singer's Twitter, Moon's agency said the singer voluntarily deleted them.
2. Sunday evening: "CEO gets 70 per cent of the profit, members get 3.33 per cent each."
After voicing, then erasing, his words on Twitter, he posted criticism of the agency's unfair distribution of profit.
"A couple hours till the promised 24-hour. We should not have more victims, including ZE:A… Why should we be oppressed for loving to sing? Here, people without money become the sinners and those with money becomes the winners… I want to show young aspiring singers that this world is about being fabulous on the surface but financially poor in reality… They remain silent, not because they do not wish to, but because they cannot speak. Money mutes us."
The singer claimed that ZE:A's exclusive contract with Star Empire, approved by the Fair Trade Commission, has "the company and the nine-member band split the profit by a 7:3 ratio." For every 1 million won earned, Shin takes 700,000 won and ZE:A members divide the remaining 300,000 won by nine -- roughly 33,333 won for each member.
ZE:A's exclusive contract is effective for nine years, which includes the two-year military service term.
"I have given Star Empire my youth, teens and 20s. The housing is in such bad condition that I bumped into (a hard object) and hurt my face while going to the restroom at night. Once they sent me to KBS' sports entertainment show 'Dream Team' only a week before the comeback stage for 'Aftermath.' I broke my leg (in the show,) and had to tell people that I hurt my leg in dance practice instead.
"The world is all about money. The entertainment scene that I have experienced is even more so, and the mass communication outlets distort the news to the point that we think of committing suicide," he added.
"I am going to have a final word with president Shin Ju-hak. Please wait for me. Please do not delete (my case) from the portal's most frequently searched words."
3. Monday morning: "I saw President Shin apologise with tears in his eyes... but I know things may be much worse in some entertainment agencies."
Moon ended the dispute with his agency by posting an apology and a briefing of the talks between himself and Shin. He said the CEO offered a tearful apology in front of eight ZE:A members. Siwan is currently away for an outside schedule.
With a complete about-face in opinion, he wrote, "First of all, I apologise for triggering the controversy. We finished the talk just now and I am grateful that he accepted my feelings, which are all straightened for good.
"This is what I wanted to show. A CEO being chastised by the fans and the public. But now that the dispute has ended, it all comes down to a petty family fight… But I know things may be much worse at other entertainment agencies. I do not want Mr. Shin to stick out as a scapegoat. Guilty agencies need no accuser."
While Moon and Star Empire have seemingly reconciled, online critics argued that the agency has a history of mistreating its singers.
Another round of fresh criticisms were directed toward Shin later on Monday, after a critic posted a video clip of the Star Empire Entertainment chief slapping a female singer's face with a roll of documents. The singer turned out to be Sera, a former member of Star Empire's girl group Nine Muses. The movie clip later turned out to be a part of a documentary on K-pop artists, aired on British broadcaster BBC.