Loona has always had quite the presence on social media, especially since they have a passionate fanbase that promotes them on every platform possible, so much so that it has become a meme for people to tweet #StanLoona once they have a viral tweet. Regardless of whether you’re a fan or not, or maybe you don’t even like K-pop, Loona has certainly appeared on your feed at some point, especially in the past few weeks.

Perhaps the biggest news you’ve seen so far is media outlets reporting that Blockberry Creative (Blockberry) has announced the removal of one of Loona’s most popular members, Chuu, leading to shock and outrage from fans worldwide. This was quickly followed by news reports of nine of the remaining eleven members of Loona allegedly working towards suspending their contracts with Blockberry despite Blockberry’s denial of the report. It has been a whirlwind of a week for Loona and Orbits, and we have yet to receive any follow up or confirmation on how Loona and Blockberry will be moving forward in the future.

Of course, as most Orbits know, this tension between Chuu and Blockberry did not appear out of the blue, but rather has been running since the end of 2021. Earlier this year, Wikitree reported that Chuu won a partial victory in her injunction request against Blockberry to suspend effects of her exclusive contract, and a court cited this request from December 2021. Although the reasons behind the injunction have not been revealed, many have speculated that the money made from Chuu’s side gigs such as her advertisement campaigns, Youtube channel, and TV appearances were going to Blockberry.

Furthermore, staff who were working with Loona have stated on their personal social media accounts that they have not been paid by Blockberry for the work that they have done. Considering Blockberry has been involved in numerous financial crises, such as owing up to three million won after a contract violation, and being unable to pay staff, it is not far-fetched to think that the members of Loona have not been getting paid accordingly either.

With Chuu’s newfound victory, media sites reported that she was going to partner with BY4M, and that they were working out the details of an exclusive contract. However, this was disputed by Blockberry, stating that “the contents [of these articles] related to Chuu […] are groundless”. There was no follow up regarding said exclusive contract, or what was to become of Chuu, but in June, Korean fansites reported that Chuu had been attending events by herself without a manager, and she also left events in transportation separate from the rest of the members. This was followed by Blockberry announcing that Chuu would not be participating in Loona’s Japanese comeback, Seoul concerts, as well as Loona’s world tour due to conflicting schedules.

In October, Chuu’s appearance on Dr. Oh’s Golden Clinic shed light on her experience with a binge-eating disorder. She explains how she tends to eat until she vomits when she is stressed, and that it resulted in her visiting the emergency room several times. She also goes on to state that she received zero income in 2021, and the reason as to why she started binge eating was because she “didn’t have the money to eat what [she] wanted”. Later in the month, Chuu held a birthday fan meeting, and it was revealed that she paid for it with her own money.

This brings us to the current situation at hand, with Blockberry removing Chuu from Loona due to “reports of abuse of power, including verbal abuse, towards company staff”. However, former staff and individuals in the industry who worked with Chuu have come online to defend Chuu and her character. Nine of the remaining eleven members of Loona are supposedly attempting to suspend their contracts with Blockberry while the company denies these reports… you get the gist.

The emergence of this situation sheds light on the abuse of power from a company towards its idols. We have seen this situation before, especially in the 2018 incident with The East Light, yet abuse and exploitation continues to run deep in the industry. Of course, since we do not necessarily have all the facts just yet, and since the rest of Loona’s attempt to suspend their contracts have not been confirmed, it is difficult to come to a solid conclusion as to what is happening.

However, if we were to believe that the members of Loona are indeed working to suspend their contracts, this would inevitably condemn Blockberry, thus hurting their reputation and credibility. What would this mean for the industry and its idols as a whole? Would it potentially lead to more idols speaking up and taking legal action against their companies for exploitation and unfair working conditions? Would this also lead to fans standing up for their idols and protesting against these companies? If that were the case, we would probably see more companies creating better workplace environments not only for their idols, but also their staff. 

Yet, there is a part of me that is skeptical that the fall of Blockberry would lead to a huge shift to the Kpop industry as a whole. As mentioned above, The East Light speaking up against their company, Media Line Entertainment, was incredibly shocking and it most definitely raised awareness of Gapjil (defined as verbal, physical, and psychological abuse by those in power over their subordinates), it certainly has not changed the ways companies treat their idols, as seen between Blockberry and Chuu. After all, everyone was shocked and horrified upon finding out the abuse that The East Light had suffered. Sure, discussions were rampant on social media during that time, but much like many incidents that have happened throughout the industry’s lifetime, these conversations soon fade, and companies go back to doing what they are doing. The unfortunate outcome of this is that separate incidents on their own are not enough to overthrow the current system or properly impact the industry to change for the better.

Perhaps it will be different this time, considering the fact that Loona is a group with a much larger following in comparison to The East Light – which in itself is a disturbing thought to have, the idea that your experience does not really matter because you do not have a large enough following – and how this situation with Blockberry has led to scrutiny from news outlets and fans all over the world. Maybe this time, there will be more of a change in the industry, and hopefully, a change for the better.

(YouTube [1], Chosun Ilbo, Naver [1][2][3][4], Wikitree, MK Sports, Sportskeeda, TheQoo [1][2], Korea Herald. Images via Blockberry Creative, Naver)