20140915_seoulbeats_t-araIt seems that no matter what happens, T-ara is unable to retain stable footing. The ground just keeps shifting from underneath them, in both positive and negative ways. Right now, their world is tilting in ways that are horrible, inspiring, and odd.

The misfortune that most recently besieged T-ara is the accusation that Core Contents Media CEO Kim Kwang-soo embezzled money from the company. Kim Kwang-soo is already a notorious figure in K-pop. He has famously (mis)managed idols such as Speed, Davichi, and F-ve Dolls, who rarely promote while T-ara is pimped out twenty-four/seven. He did himself no favors with the extraordinarily bad handling of T-ara’s original bullying scandal and the departure of Ahreum.

In late June, reports from the prosecutor’s office emerged. Those reports indicated that Kim Kwang-soo is suspected of stealing 4 billion won from Core Contents Media. And while the initial investigation was revealed almost three months ago, he’s still under investigation. This is the point where I have to ask: how the hell is Kim Kwang-soo still CEO? Does CCM not have a managing board that can fire him? Or did he simply finagle his way into a position that had no real way to remove him from power? Because thief or not, he sucks at his job, and that investigation would be a great way to get rid of him.

While that mess cannot be pleasant to put up with, T-ara does have a bright spot on their horizon. They recently signed a five billion won contract with Longzhen Cultural Development, a major Chinese entertainment company. While many K-pop groups, including T-ara, have achieved fame in countries outside Korea, those countries were Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and the Philippines — for the most part, smaller countries whose entertainment scenes are not as large as Korea’s. Japan is much harder to crack, with success coming from either a) complete assimilation, or b) providing music that’s a bit outside the mainstream sound.

20131224_seoulbeats_t-ara3China, on the other hand, has remained unconquered by everybody. Only SM Entertainment can even claim to have made inroads, and those inroads are debatable. Thus, T-ara’s contract with Longzhen is nothing short of groundbreaking. Longzhen Cultural Development is one of the biggest entertainment companies in China, with artists such as Andy Lau, Jacky Cheung, and A-mei under its belt. This won’t open doors for T-ara in China, it’ll knock whole walls down. After a second public contract signing and press conference on October 13, T-ara will be pursuing opportunities is Chinese TV, shooting Chinese commercials, and possibly holding Chinese concerts. This is a stroke of luck and genius for T-ara, as unlike Korea and Japan, they never made much of a splash there pre-2012 Bullying Scandal and are free of the baggage there that has made their careers unpleasant for the last two years. However, there is something odd about the contract: it wasn’t signed between Longzhen Culteral Development and Core Contents Media. Instead, Longzhen’s new business partner is MBK Entertainment.

On October 1, it was announced that Core Contents Media would be legally renamed to MBK Entertainment. All the employees and idols are to be carried over to MBK, with little change in practice. The sudden change might seem a bit odd, but considering that “Core Contents Media” doesn’t exactly inspire warm, fuzzy feelings in people, it’s not exactly shocking. With T-ara’s great leap forward, it’s possible that the higher-ups at Core Contents Media thought a new name might help their fresh start along in the eyes of the press. However, that fresh start is in the eyes of the media only: changing the name has no effect on legal investigations. So if Kim Kwang-soo thought this might aid in that pesky embezzlement charge, he’s wrong. Still, there’s nothing wrong with gaining a new name for a new market.

T-ara is perpetually in the headlines, whether from promotions or news or more scandals, and this is likely a factor in their failure to reclaim their earlier status. Right now, though, it looks like life is bringing up roses for them, and I wish them the best in their new ventures.

(News via Naver [1], [2], [3] [4])