Four members of April - Naeun, Chaewon, Yena, and Jinsol - sat down for an interview revealing their feelings in regards to 'former member Hyunjoo's bullying controversy.'
Sports Kyunghyang News met with the four members involved in the controversy, and they all revealed that they are all receiving therapy after suffering from extreme psychological pain.
The April members also stated, "We're still stuck at February 28 and our time has stopped." The four members all stated that they were not the perpetrator but were all victims. They stated, "We didn't do anything wrong and we're being cornered as wicked people and we want to set things straight." Naeun, who has been pointed out as the instigator of the bullying, stated, "I feel like I'm being pushed to death."
In the past February, when there were numerous outbreaks of various controversies over celebrities being school bullies, former April member Hyunjoo's younger brother wrote in an online community that Hyunjoo had been bullied severely to the point of trying to take her own life and had to leave the group.
Naeun, who had been showing her presence in various entertainment programs, advertisements, and cast as one of the lead actors in the SBS drama 'Model Taxi,' had to step down from all projects following this controversy.
The agency explained that the bullying rumors are not true. However, there were additional testimonies claiming that Hyunjoo was bullied by the other members. With these additional claims, there were numerous videos showing "evidence of bullying" of the April members that spread like wildfire. Therefore, Naeun's image had declined severely, causing her to be removed from many of the advertisements and shows.
Then on June 11, after four months since the controversy, Naeun wrote on the fan cafe a lengthy letter explaining, "I never did that" and denied the allegations of her bullying Hyunjoo. The other members, such as Jinsol and Chaewon, also wrote on their social media accounts stating that they have never bullied Hyunjoo. However, criticisms against the members did not subside.
Naeun appeared in front of the reporter with a diary containing the situation at the time of Hyunjoo's withdrawal from the group in 2016 and a record sheet of counseling she had received for five months starting November 2015 to April 2016. Chaewon also brought the record of the psychological counseling she received at that time. The recording had a detailed explanation that the two members felt so distressed enough to want to die due to Hyunjoo's insincerity and lies.
The following are the questions and answers from the interview with the four April members, excluding Chaekyung and Rachel, who were added to the group after Hyunjoo had left.
-Why did you all stay silent for so long?
"Because the agency told us to 'stay still.' We didn't do anything wrong so we thought that the truth will be revealed if we stayed still. But we realized for the past four months that the occupation of being an 'idol' is a job that's difficult to receive understanding...There are some things we were not able to share because we wanted to protect April and Hyunjoo."
-What is the reason you decided to partake in the interview?
"Because we felt that the misunderstanding was growing bigger with just the official statement from the agency and the explanation we personally wrote individually. We also got so mad when Hyunjoo wrote, 'I will forgive everything if you admit your wrongdoings and put forth the effort to set things right.' We didn't do anything wrong to Hyunjoo. The group April grew big for seven years with the 'clean' image. There were things we didn't want to reveal but there were so many people just posting anything as evidence. Now we want to show everything."
-Let's take a look at the things that became controversial.
"The things that Hyunjoo mentioned about being a bullying victim is the shoe and tumbler incident. At the time, there were 200 to 300 pairs of shoes at our dorms. The shoe that's is of the issue is the shoes that each member received two of that the agency gave to us to wear for practice. They were just ordinary shoes that any rookie girl group would receive. They weren't expensive and there was no reason for me to steal them."
"It's not like we wrote our names on the shoes and we didn't know whose shoes belonged to who. So it doesn't make sense that I would steal it just to bully her. Also, all four members have the same shoe size so there were times we would get mixed up. Then we would just think 'Oh I wore the wrong shoes,' and no one thought, 'Someone stole my shoes with ill-intent."
-There were claims that you took 'the precious tumbler that Hyunjoo's grandmother gave as a gift,' and put in stinky fermented soybean stew in it.
"The situation is similar to the shoes. There were almost 100 tumblers lying around the dorms and the kitchen cabinets were filled with them. There was a time when our mothers came to our dorms to clean and said there are more tumblers here than at Starbucks.
"People were saying it was the stinky fermented soybean stew or just the soybean stew but it was just a fermented soybean stew. At the time, we were on a diet so the agency didn't let us eat any store-bought foods so we ate salads or fruits. Then my mom cooked me the fermented soybean stew and froze them so that we can just reheat it to eat."
"Also, the tumbler I used was not the red one like Hyunjoo claimed but it was a light pink one. Her name wasn't even written on it. Also, she wasn't even at the dorms when I used that tumbler. Hyunjoo was always sick and she barely lived at the dorms except during the trainee period and at the beginning of our promotions just as she requested. I've never seen her use that tumbler before and she never said that tumbler was precious to her. She never even said that the tumbler was left by her grandmother when she died. She got so mad when she saw that tumbler and I apologized to her. We ate the fermented soybean soup and washed it cleanly after returning to the dorms."
-Hyunjoo claimed that she had been bullied by everyone and even attempted to take her own life.
"We were all scared of Hyunjoo. How can we pick on a person like that nevertheless bully her and ostracise her? Doesn't make sense."
"There's a part that Hyunjoo's younger brother wrote, 'After Hyunjoo tried to take her own life, her members realized and came to apologize.' That part is completely wrong. We never heard that Hyunjoo tried to take her own life. Because we weren't aware of it, it's not true that we went to apologize."
"What kind of person would ignore a member who tried to take their own life? We would have gone to her right away after hearing the news. But we didn't even have cellphones and didn't hear anything from the agency. After this incident occurred, we were able to find out about the details.
"We tried to comfort Hyunjoo who had a hard time adjusting to the dorm life and there's even a video we did a birthday party for her. We didn't record that for broadcast but it was a real surprise birthday party. Hyunjoo was really happy back then. If the bullying rumors were true, those videos wouldn't exist."
-Have you talked with Hyunjoo?
"She would always say being an idol was difficult and she didn't want to be an idol. She kept saying she wanted to be an actress."
"Hyunjoo would always say she was sick often even when we were trainees. She would miss a lot of practice making it difficult for us. She even missed two music show broadcasts without excuse twice. She missed the 9/11 rehearsal for KBS's 'Music Bank.' At that time, we weren't even able to take photos of us coming into the station and we had to enter through the back door. All the members cried while trying to practice with just five members last minute because Hyunjoo didn't show up even at the rehearsal. Those memories are still clear until this day. Hyunjoo said right before the live broadcast, 'I should still perform live' and walked in. After, we weren't able to perform at that broadcast station while promoting that song. We knew we would be penalized for that."
"When we were promoting with 'Tinkerbell,' she didn't show up at all during the MBC 'Show! Champion.' We didn't know the reason she didn't show up even at that time. Hyunjoo didn't show up even before the live broadcast so the manager told us to go back to our dorms. We went back to the dorms while taking off our makeups while crying. The next day, the company told us we have to perform as a four-member group so we planned the choreography all night long. We just thought Hyunjoo must be sick again."
-Can you explain the rotten Kimbap incident that Hyunjoo's younger brother mentioned?
"We returned after a schedule, and there was a kimbap at the back seat where the youngest members sat. It was May and the kimbap went bad, so it stank up the whole car. Hyunjoo began overly spraying perform. Yena is sensitive to smell, so she quickly got a headache. We asked her to stop spraying the perfume, but she began yelling out loud like she always does. She kept screaming so much that the manager told her to be quiet. Hyunjoo began cursing at Chaewon, who asked her to keep it down and she yelled at Yena, saying, "'Why are you opening your eyes like that?' Then she didn't show up to 'Show! Champion.' We didn't think she missed the show because of that incident; we just thought she was just sick again. We never saw her again after that."
-Why do you think this happened?
"It was because we were just kids who were pushed to our limits when we were in our puberty period. We didn't even have our cellphones and lived away from our families. Some of us were only 14, 15 years old and we weren't able to get close to one another during the short trainee period. We can't get close to all the members and we might not have wanted to get close. You can't be friends with everyone. But is that such a big sin? All the girl groups must be like this but we tried to put in the effort to adjust with each other and lasted. I believe all the idol members, senior idols, and trainees would understand us."
"There were things we were upset and disappointed about while living in the dorms but we just did what the agency told us to do. We didn't have room to take care of each other. We started living in different dorms after five years and we missed each other and understood who precious we are to each other. But because of Hyunjoo, because of one person, April was ruined. We don't want her to blame the members for whatever hardship she went through."
-What are your plans from now on?
"We just want to say sorry to all our fans.
All the members gave their everything, starting from their teens to make April to what it is now. There were some rackets, but we endured well. None of the members want this group to disappear because of the bad name of being a 'bully' girl group. All the members suffered because of Hyunjoo's insincerity and lies. There were members who suffered so much that they felt like dying. We were hesitant in revealing all the documents, but now the members will explain to our best abilities, and we will reveal in detail about everything that happened until now."
"We know that the police decided not to send Lee Hyunjoo's younger brother and her acquaintance, who claimed that Hyunjoo was bullied, to prosecution and were cleared of the charges. That just means that there wasn't enough evidence to prove that the claims were false. So, we will ask for a reinvestigation for libel charges caused by timely false information, and we hope that the truth will be revealed through a deeper investigation."