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Seunghan: RIIZE Member Controversy Explained

Seunghan: RIIZE Member Controversy Explained
Seunghan: RIIZE Member Controversy Explained

 


RIIZE has rightly been recognized as a potential next-generation leader in K-pop's ongoing international crossover, thanks in large part to its refreshing approach to accessibility. But the way his label, K-pop giant SM Entertainment, handled a controversy involving one of the group's original members has opened a window into ongoing tensions between South Korean artists balancing the demands of international careers with the more traditional ones of the country. , accepted social norms.

When SM introduced the RIIZE line in July 2023 via 27 informal Instagram photos that wouldn't be out of place on an influencer's page, it set the bar high for how its seven members: Shōtarō, Eunseok, Sung Chan, Wonbin, Seunghan, Sohee And Anton – intended to connect with fans online in a relevant way; as Eunseok explained during RIIZE's interview in Los Angeles for BillboardIn the group's recent digital cover, the group wanted to share “lots of photos from our daily and intimate lives [moments] on social networks. »

But only six RIIZE members participated in the coverage. The interviews for the article took place almost exactly six months after SM announced that Seunghan would “cease activities” with RIIZE following an August 2023 leak of private pre-RIIZE photos and videos showing him dating. of kissing an unidentified woman in a bed and smoking a cigarette. Although modest by Western standards, the content went viral in South Korea, a country that has undergone rapid modernization but remains socially conservative – values ​​that extend to the parasocial relationships fans have with TV stars. South Korean music. Some fans condemned Seunghan's actions – which they deemed inappropriate for a K-pop idol – and protested his removal even before the boy band's highly anticipated debut.

Before releasing RIIZE's critically acclaimed single “Get a Guitar” in early September, Seunghan, then 19, took the group's Instagram on August 30 to “sincerely apologize to the fans who support RIIZE,” saying he “caused damage to our team because of personal matters… all through recklessness.” Adding that he did not address the situation sooner out of fear and nervousness, Seunghan said he had “thought a lot” and vowed to “put the team first” by being more careful about and off stage.

But on influential Korean sites and forums devoted to discussing — and, more often than not, tearing down — K-pop celebrities, criticism of Seunghan continued even after “Get a Guitar” and its follow-up. October “Talk Saxy” began to gain traction. them distinctions.

November 22, 2023, SM Entertainment uploaded a review that Seunghan “feels seriously sorry and reflects on himself for causing disappointment and trouble not only to the team and members, but also to the fans due to issues regarding his personal life that were leaked and broadcast “.

Although SM noted that the leaked content had been maliciously edited – calling it “serious defamation” and promising legal action – the label nevertheless opted for “indefinite suspension of the content”. [Seunghan’s] activities.” According to its press release at the time, Seunghan also “expressed his intention to stop his activities”; the label “judged that it was too difficult for him to continue his activities in this situation”. same day, via RIIZE's Weverse account, Seunghan shared in a handwritten letter that he was “deeply reflecting” on his “reckless actions of the past” and apologized to fans of the group (known as BRIIZE) , members of RIIZE and label staff.

RIIZE members did not mention Seunghan when speaking with Billboard or during their concert in Los Angeles, and a non-SM representative made several requests that Billboard I don't mention Seunghan in the interview for the digital cover. SM Entertainment did not respond to questions about Seunghan's status within the group, nor did the company provide an update on the legal actions it is taking on Seunghan's behalf. SM company website still lists Seunghan as an artist and member of RIIZE. Upon publication of BillboardRIIZE's digital coverage, popular English-language websites covering Korean entertainment reported on Seunghan's mention in the story. Koreaboo note that it “accurately mentioned Seunghan as a current member, something some media sources have not done since his indefinite hiatus began”, which UBJ.com ” echoed, saying that Seunghan is “often omitted by other media.” The sites allude to how, in South Korea, media coverage of K-pop tends to be heavily scrutinized by management teams, requiring questions before interviews and approval of texts before publication. (Billboard's editorial policy does not allow subjects to review questions or make editorial contributions.)

Now, as they attempt to reach RIIZE's burgeoning international fan base, the various parties involved in the group – SM Entertainment, SM's new majority shareholder Kakao and RIIZE's US label partner, RCA Records – are facing a different group of fans: those demanding an explanation for Seunghan's behavior. situation and an update on his future with RIIZE.

At the time of going to press, nearly 19,000 people signed a petition titled “Respect the Dignity of Artists: A Call to SM Entertainment” calling for legal action regarding the “violation of privacy” as well as “an immediate end to Seunghan’s “indefinite hiatus.” » At RIIZE's May 20 fan concert at the Peacock Theater in Los Angeles, a small but mighty group began singing “RIIZE is Seven” and “Seunghan” before the group returned for their encore; Similar chants erupted at RIIZE's fan concert a few days earlier in Mexico City. In late May, a behind-the-scenes video of an interview with RIIZE at the Tecate Emblema festival went viral, showing a member of the group's team asking a host to edit a question mentioning “six people in the group.” Some fans are even calling for a boycott of RIIZE's music until they get clarification.

During its three decades as a K-pop leader, SM Entertainment has gained plenty of experience in negotiating such situations. At two different times in his career, the Super Junior Kangin was charged with driving while intoxicated. He initially took a two and a half year break from the boy band and had another break before finally retiring from Super Junior after his second offense; he remains signed to SM today as a solo act and actor.

More recently, in 2018, SM introduced Lucas as a member of NCT through the boy band's China-based splinter unit, WayV; Lucas was also part of the supergroup SM SuperM. In August 2021, several women claim to have had relationships with the star alleged he had deceived them and/or subjected them to so-called “gaslighting”. Lucas quickly moved out of the public eye before officially leaving NCT and WayV in 2023 – although he remained signed to SM and made his solo debut with the EP Renegade in April.

On the other side of the spectrum, SM also stayed tuned Chen of EXO when “dozens of demonstrators” took to the streets to demand he leave the group after the singer announced in January 2020 his plans to marry his girlfriend as well as his fiancée's pregnancy.

Like Lucas, artists who leave groups and their labels after behavior deemed unsavory by K-pop standards often return successfully as soloists, even if they rarely achieve the same commercial success as their previous groups. Although no official news has yet been shared regarding Seunghan's future, rumors Reports of 20-year-olds attending Korean “high school,” perhaps to prepare for college exams, have surfaced. While some K-pop stars pursue both music and education (all seven members of BTS have college degrees), some wonder if this hints at his withdrawal from entertainment altogether.

For now – even though Seunghan's future with RIIZE hangs in the balance and fans protest his little-explained absence – RIIZE still appears to be living up to his name. The group's latest single, “Boom Boom Bass”, released on June 17, has already accumulated more than 12 million views for its official music video, and RIIZING – The 1st mini-album (released June 18) has already sold more than 1 million physical copies worldwide, according to real-time album sales in South Korea. Hanteo Graphic Website. Make of it what you will: on the album track “Talk to Saxy” Seunghan's voice is still there.

Sources

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2/ https://www.billboard.com/music/pop/riize-seunghan-explained-1235714722/

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