It was not just a one-time event that the former CEO of Spire Entertainment assaulted members of Omega X during the act's recent global tour. It was a yearlong nightmare of assault -- both physical and verbal -- and sexual harassment, the bandmates say, and they are now taking legal action against the ex-CEO and the agency.
Omega X on Wednesday afternoon held a press conference where the group announced the termination of its exclusive contract with Spire Entertainment. The 11 bandmates were represented by attorneys Noh Jong-eon and Seo Joo-yeon at the event that took place at the Seoul Bar Association building in Seocho-gu, Seoul.
All 11 -- Jaehan, Hwichan, Sebin, Hangyeom, Taedong, Xen, Jehyun, Kevin, Jung-hoon, Hyuk and Yechan -- were dressed head to toe in black. It had been around a month since the first allegation of violence broke out in October on the last day of Omega X's initial US tour.
The bandmates on Wednesday spoke up in detail with claims of how they were assaulted by the former label chief and why they had put up with the abuse for so long.
"The only reason why we had put up (with the alleged violence) is because of the fear that we would lose our last chance. It was a second chance for all of us, and we didn't want to waste our time. We also believed we had to endure for our fans," the act's leader Jaehan said.
"But it has come to a stage where we cannot tolerate it, and we're taking the courage for everyone who is also suffering from unfair treatment and for everyone who is striving for their dreams," the 27-year-old continued.
The bandmates said they were verbally and physically assaulted by the ex-CEO, referred to only by her surname Kang, and that the violence dated back to November last year. They also said there were multiple instances of sexual harassment by her.
"She not only forced us to drink after our practices, but she made sexually harassing comments and touched our thighs and faces, persistently abusing us sexually. Even when such meetings were over, she would continuously call and text us and verbally assault us," Jaehan said.
Hangyeom said Kang's inappropriate actions usually happened at company dinner meetings. Kang would force the band to drink, and if they didn't, she would act cold and glare at them.
"We had no choice but to stay with her and do as she wished. She'd also tell us there will be no next album if we reject drinking," said Hangyeom, who added that he was receiving psychiatric care due to Kang's actions.
Jehyun, who said he was also receiving psychiatric help, added the bandmates' trauma was very severe, "All the members are very unstable that we flinch even when we hear a high-toned female voice."
Seo, one of the attorneys representing Omega X, said, "It wasn't just harassment, but she would touch the thigh and stick her face so close to the member's that he could feel her breath. This is a case of abuse of power, and if the victims had been female, (the assaulter) would have been heavily punished."
According to Seo, Kang was seemingly nice to the band after its debut under Spire Entertainment in June 2021, and her abuse began around November last year.
Kang's alleged violence first caught public attention when a fan of the band claimed to have witnessed Kang using physical and verbal violence in a parking lot in Los Angeles on the final day of the global tour. The agency released a statement denying the allegations, but it was revealed that the bandmates had their plane tickets to South Korea canceled by Kang and they had to get their parents' help to buy their own tickets home.
On Nov. 7, Spire Entertainment released an official statement apologizing to the band and announcing the resignation of Kang from her CEO post.
However, what came from Kang was not an apology, but threats following the controversy, the band said.
"We have not heard a single word of genuine apology since we flew back following the incident. Instead, she brought up the issue of mandatory military duties and reimbursements (of financial debt). We felt we could not continue the conversation," Junghoon said.
According to the lawyers, Kang asked the band to reimburse for some 300 million won ($227,000) of debt per person if they were to end the exclusive contract.
The attorneys said the members are filing lawsuits against the company and Kang.
"Omega X members have notified the agency they are ending their contract with it and we filed an injunction to suspend the exclusive contract as of this date," Noh said. The attorney explained they are planning to take stronger legal actions against Kang and the agency, including suits for alimony and damages. He added they have gathered evidence including "all the pictures and videos" regarding the alleged abuse.
With tears falling throughout the conference, the bandmates called out for fundamental changes inside the entertainment industry and a proper system to aid people suffering from abuse of power at the hands of the companies.
"I'd like to share a short word as I believe this is not a problem limited to just myself or this group but that it could be happening somewhere else," Xen said. "I hope that no one is hurt by someone else, and that we acknowledge that everyone is born to be loved and that every person is a precious being in itself."
"We have suffered until now to protect Omega X's dream, but we're taking the courage to now protect our fans, our families and us, the members," said Jaehan, momentarily pausing to fight back tears before he added, "We hope that everyone who is being mistreated somewhere in the world can pluck up the courage with our voice today. The 11 members of Omega X will not give up and continue to fight."