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The Pressure is High on HYBE’s New K-Pop Group Le Sserafim

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The new girl group, Le Sserafim, – an anagram of the phrase “I’m fearless” – rocked the K-pop industry with their electrifying debut song “FEARLESS” on May 2, garnering close to 40 million views in just four days. Their label company, HYBE Co., is known for having musical powerhouses including BTS and TXT. Bang Shi-Hyuk, commonly known as “Hitman” Bang, was the founder of Big Hit Music and produced the biggest K-pop group to date: BTS. Bang Shi-Hyuk personally produced Le Sserafim’s debut mini-album, “FEARLESS.” The pressure on Le Sserafim to deliver a memorable debut album was high, since they were the first new girl group produced under the company. 

The music video for the “FEARLESS” had all the common ingredients found in any K-pop video, but it strayed away from the common cute theme that many K-pop girl groups employ for their debut recordings. The song’s lyrics are in alignment with the bold nature of the title. Kazuha confidently raps, “Number 1 on my chest ay / World groveling under my feet ay.” Dressed in all black and contrasted against a bright purple background, the girls delivered a powerful debut stage performance filled with charisma. Along with this song, four other tracks were included in their mini-album. Among them was the two-minute song titled, “The World is my Oyster,” that served as a prelude for the rest of the album.

The group is made of six girls: Kim Chaewon, Miyawaki Sakura, Huh Yunjin, Nakamura Kazuha, Kim Garam and Hong Eunchae. Members Chaewon and Sakura were a part of the group IZ*ONE that disbanded in 2021, so fans were excited to see the two return to music. Yunjin was also a familiar face to many fans since she appeared on the show “Produce 48” with Chaewon and Sakura. The other girls remain largely unknown, especially Eunchae who debuted at just 15 years old.

Photo provided by @le_sserafim/Twitter

On April 5, member Garam was unveiled to the public as one of the new members. However, the bubbling excitement of her debut in the group quickly died down when bullying rumors and accusations centered around her began to surface on the internet. A few netizens claimed to know her and accused her of bullying her middle school dance team. These claims included Garam harassing her classmates on social media and extorting money from them. Her reputation was so infamous that people from other middle schools had caught wind of her attitude. Other netizens quickly came to her defense by stating that, in actuality, she was the victim, not the perpetrator. 

HYBE raised a statement on the rumor stating the accusations made were false and that they would take legal action on the spread of these misleading comments targeting Garam.

At the group’s album release showcase, a K-media reporter asked about the scandal, and Chaewon was quick to defend Garam by saying, “We are currently discussing and responding to the rumors of school bullying surrounding Garam with our company, so I don’t think it’s appropriate to talk about the issue. There will be an opportunity where we’ll be able to talk about this.” 

Garam followed up by saying “As she — Chaewon — said, I ask for your understanding that it is difficult for me to say anything about this part.”

Fans applauded leader Chaewon for being quick to defend her fellow group mate. Other questions in the showcase centered around Sakura, since this is her third debut. She admitted that she feels a lot of pressure, but will use it as a way to evolve.

Other fans expressed their concern with the group’s mature concept and the large age gap between members, specifically Eunchae and Sakura. Sakura is eight years older than Eunchae, and most fans claim they wouldn’t mind as long as the concept was age-mature. People compared the age gap to two members of another well known K-pop group, Red Velvet, who also share an eight year gap. However, others pointed out that Red Velvet kept their cute concepts and transitioned into darker and sexier concepts when all members were of age. 

With two of the members in Le Sserafim still being minors, it’s understandable that many were concerned with the dance. At around the halfway mark, the choreography called for the girls to lay on the floor and start pounding the floor with their hips. Fans were disappointed in HYBE’s allowance of such choreography and expressed that the company values profit over the well-being of the girls.

With scandal and controversy surrounding their debut of the song “FEARLESS,” Le Sserafim was still able to deliver a charismatic album that highlighted each of the girl’s potential. With their future releases, people hope that HYBE will take in the concerns expressed by fans.

Kamilla Jafarova is an Entertainment Intern for the spring 2022 quarter. She can be reached at kjafarov@uci.edu.