Former Girl's Generation member Jessica takes swipe at group, agency in new book
“An artist who did not prioritize the requirements and demands of the agency was not allowed to exist. Tradition took over innovation, strict perfection over sincerity. […] We were constantly weighed, had to practice interviews and work out.”
Singer Jessica, a former member of Girls’ Generation, wrote this in her novel “Shine” set to be published on Oct. 31. The book follows the story of Korean-American Rachel Kim, whose journey as a hopeful star starts at the biggest entertainment agency in Korea, named DB Entertainment, and follows her fight through training.
It's already interesting that a former member of one of K-pop’s biggest girl groups turned to writing, but what has intrigued readers more is that her debut novel is filled with allegories that lead back to her group Girls’ Generation and its agency, SM Entertainment. The main character — a Korean-American who trains for seven years — mirrors Jessica's own life, leading readers to believe that DB Entertainment was based on SM Entertainment. Jessica even told Time Magazine, that “Rachel is a reflection of me, of course, because this novel is inspired by my own life.”
Jessica’s book has caused heated debate among Girls’ Generation fans. The English version, which has already been released in the United States, describes Rachel as an innocent, hopeful girl who’s full of dreams and passion, while the other members of her group are portrayed as envious of her. Since the book also contains negative stories about DB Entertainment, some fans of the group claim that Jessica “dissed” Girls’ Generation and SM Entertainment — all the more credible since she was virtually kicked out of the group in 2014 and ended her time in the group on a bad note.
Numerous online posts criticize the book for being “an irresponsible action that didn’t take the members of the group into account” or “using the past to promote herself.”
On the flipside are Jessica’s fans who argue that “it’s just an interesting novel” and ask, “should the past only stay hidden?”
After the debate between the two sides escalated, the PR agency that had called the book “an autobiographical novel” removed the word autobiographical from its promotional content. SM Entertainment refused to comment on the matter, as “it’s about someone who’s irrelevant to the company."
Jessica isn’t the first celebrity who’s taken an apparent swipe at her former agency or group.
Gayoung, a former member of now-disbanded girl group Stella, said during a talk show titled “Miss Back” on cable channel MBN that she had been traumatized by having to expose her body because she was forced to wear “sexy” costumes. Stella became the talk of the town in 2014 when its music video for “Marionette” (2014) went viral due to its risque nature. Gayoung also revealed that the costumes to the music video of "Vibrato" (2016) were abruptly changed on the day of the shooting.
“I strongly stated no to the costumes, but [the agency] said that they’ll just shoot once [with the new costume] and then change it back. But then the photo was revealed [to the public],” she said. The then-head of the agency said after the program ran that nothing was forced on the member and “even their parents agreed,” further escalating the issue.
In July, Kwon Min-ah, a former member of AOA, accused certain members of the girl group of bullying her and claimed that it had even led her to attempt to commit suicide. Jimin, the leader of the group who was alleged to be the bully, quit the group, and AOA has been on a break since.
On the contrary, it is rare to see a member of a boy band speak out against former members or their agencies.
According to industry insiders, there are many reasons for this, the first being how difficult it is for members of girl groups to go solo and forge successful careers on their own.
“The life span of a girl group or its fandom is much shorter than those of boy bands, so it’s often the case that they struggle to find their foothold in the industry as just one person,” an industry insider said. “It’s as if they use their past as a sales means to earn the attention from the public.”
A former member of a girl group also said, “Agencies find it hard to boss the members of a boy band around because their fandoms are so strong. But it’s often the case that girl groups go ignored. It’s almost inevitable that such ‘revelations’ are the only means we can resort to.”
Culture critic Kim Jung-hyun emphasized the importance of the media remaining objective in its reporting of such matters and for people to read the news.
“When someone goes online to their social media to ‘reveal’ something, then that person immediately becomes the victim, while the agency is blamed as the aggressor and the fellow members who kept their silence as cowardly culprits,” he said. “This can also lead to other victims being wrongly framed, so it’s important for the media to get to the bottom of the matter and provide precise information, rather than just expose everything as it is being said.
BY YOU SEONG-UN [firstname.lastname@example.org]