Unveiling Kpop's Shocking Bullying Scandal: The Astonishing Tale of S#ARP
Table of Contents:
- The Rise of Sharp: A Co-ed Group from the Late 90s
- The Feud Between Jiong and Jihae
- The Bullying Scandal Unveiled: The Lyft Incident
- Sharp's Downfall and Disbandment
- The Chrysanthemum Scandal: A Controversial Hospital Visit
- Reconciliation and Moving Forward
- Lessons Learned: The Importance of Addressing Intra-group Conflict
- The Impact of Bullying Scandals in the K-pop Industry
Bullying within K-pop groups has remained a contentious issue, garnering widespread infamy and shocking fans with scandalous revelations. While the controversies involving groups like April, AOA, and T-ARA have been widely discussed, there is a forgotten bullying scandal from the late 90s that surpasses them all. This is the story of Sharp, a co-ed group that experienced a severe feud between two of its female members, ultimately resulting in K-pop's first and most severe bullying scandal. In this article, we will delve into the details of this scandal, shed light on the complexities of intra-group conflicts, and explore the consequences it had on the group's career and the K-pop industry as a whole.
The Rise of Sharp: A Co-ed Group from the Late 90s
The story begins with Soji Yong, a girl who aspired to become a famous K-pop celebrity. Hailing from an affluent background, with influential family members, she managed to secure a contract with World Music Entertainment through her connections. Soji Yong, also known as Jiong, embarked on her journey as a model for Storm Magazine, a common pathway to enter the Korean entertainment industry in the late 90s. Joining her on this path were two other Storm models, Zhang Seok Kyon and Ohijong, along with a rapper named John Kim. Together, they formed Sharp, a co-ed group with aspirations of success.
While Jiong financed the group's debut, she also positioned herself as the visual and main vocalist, with the other three members taking on rap duties. However, their journey hit a roadblock during the recording of their debut album. The renowned producer Yi Sang Min, known for high-pitched songs, found that Jiong struggled to reach those notes. As a solution, he suggested adding a better vocalist to the group, leading them to discover Yiji Hai, a talented singer who had previously been signed to World Music Entertainment. She became the fifth member of Sharp, and thus began the spark that fueled the subsequent feud.
The Feud Between Jiong and Jihae
Initially, Jihai and Jiong seemed to have a somewhat amicable relationship, despite their underlying rivalry. However, as the group progressed, tensions heightened due to Jihai's increasing prominence as the main vocalist. Songs recorded before Jihai's arrival were even revised, reallocating more lines to her and replacing Jiong as the center of attention. Consequently, Jiong developed resentment towards Jihai, laying the foundation for a toxic dynamic between the two members.
As Sharp debuted in November 1998 with their album "The Sharp," featuring the title tracks "Lying" and "Yes I Watch," the group struggled to gain mainstream popularity. Line-up changes followed, with members John Kim and Ohijong leaving just a few months after the debut. Despite this turbulent period, Jihai stated later that she had not witnessed any signs of bullying during her time in the group. However, the departure of members and the addition of new ones further fueled the brewing conflict within Sharp.
With the recruitment of dancer Sorry and rapper Chris Kim, the group began preparations for their next album, "Sharp +2." The songs on this album were more vocal-focused, allowing Jihai to take an even more prominent role. Jiong strongly disagreed with the line allocations and resorted to gossiping about Jihai with other members. The tension escalated to a fight between Jiong and Jihai in the recording studio, causing Jiong to storm out.
Despite the tumultuous dynamics, Sharp released their album in October 1999, featuring the hit song "Taomi Taomi." The song's success propelled the group forward, outselling their previous releases and solidifying their position among the top K-pop groups. However, the strained relationship between Jiong and Jihai deteriorated further, impacting the group's performances and preparations for future projects.
The Bullying Scandal Unveiled: The Lyft Incident
Sharp's popularity continued to soar, and by 2001, they had become one of the leading K-pop groups. Yet, behind the scenes, Jiong and Jihai's relationship grew increasingly hostile. World Music Entertainment exacerbated the situation, pitting the girls against each other, causing further resentment and jealousy.
Bullying and harassment began to escalate within the group, with Jiong leading the charge. Incidents included Jiong throwing a cake in Jihai's face and ostracizing her with the help of fellow member Chris. The male member, Kyon, initially tried to remain neutral but succumbed to peer pressure, further isolating Jihai.
By 2002, the relationship between Jiong and Jihai had deteriorated to the point where they were unable to perform on the same stage. Sharp had to make special arrangements, separating Jihai from the rest of the group during promotions to avoid conflicts. This turbulent period profoundly affected Sharp's preparations for their next album, "Style," with Jihai's isolation leading to challenges in album cover production, music video filming, and choreography.
However, their strife exploded into public view in the infamous KBS Lyft incident on October 8, 2002. In a shocking turn of events, Jihai physically assaulted Jiong in an elevator. The details vary, with accounts differing on the number of blows exchanged, but the incident prompted the cancellation of the scheduled broadcast. The following day, Jihai called Jiong's home to apologize, but her apology was met with resistance and singing on the other end, thwarting any chance for reconciliation.
Sharp's Downfall and Disbandment
The Lyft incident thrust Sharp into the headlines, with both Jiong and Jihai's faces plastered across newspapers. World Music Entertainment convened a press conference in an attempt to clarify the events. However, the manager, Ku Kwang Tae, unexpectedly exposed Jiong's bullying during the conference, leading her to walk out prematurely. With this revelation, public opinion shifted, and Jiong, along with the male members, faced intense backlash. World Music Entertainment decided to put Sharp on hiatus.
In the aftermath, Sharp could not recover from the scandal, and on October 15, 2002, the group disbanded. Their once-promising career met a sad and embarrassing end due to the damaging effects of the bullying scandal.
The Chrysanthemum Scandal: A Controversial Hospital Visit
In 2005, Jiong made her return to the entertainment industry after a two-year hiatus, while Jihai had a successful solo career. Their paths crossed once again during a planned hospital visit by Jiong to Jihai, who had been hospitalized due to exhaustion. This meeting, dubbed the Chrysanthemum Scandal, ignited controversy when Jiong was photographed carrying a bouquet of white chrysanthemums. Netizens associated the choice of flowers with funerals, leading to widespread criticism. However, there are conflicting opinions as to whether the flowers were actually chrysanthemums or another type of flower.
Reconciliation and Moving Forward
In 2008, Jiong and Jihai appeared on the TV show "Intimate Note," where they openly discussed their relationship. Jiong offered her first apology to Jihai since the feud, marking a significant step towards reconciliation. Over the years, the two women seem to have improved their relationship, engaging in individual hangouts and participating in Sharp reunions. While they may not be close friends, communication and understanding have seemingly been reestablished.
Lessons Learned: The Importance of Addressing Intra-group Conflict
The Sharp bullying scandal serves as a crucial reminder of the importance of addressing conflicts within idol groups. World Music Entertainment's negligence and focus on profit contributed to the escalating bullying and subsequent fallout. It highlights the need for management to prioritize the well-being and harmony of group members to ensure long-term success and unity.
The Impact of Bullying Scandals in the K-pop Industry
Bullying scandals have become prevalent in the K-pop industry, and the Sharp scandal paved the way for acknowledging and addressing these issues. The shockwaves of such scandals continue to reverberate throughout the industry, putting pressure on companies to be proactive in preventing and addressing bullying within their groups.
The Sharp bullying scandal remains an unfortunate chapter in K-pop history. It serves as a cautionary tale about the damaging effects of intra-group conflicts and the necessity of management intervention. It also highlights the importance of empathy, understanding, and open communication within idol groups. The industry must learn from such incidents to foster healthier environments and protect the well-being of its artists.
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