Fans have since discovered an inconsistency with the statement.
APRIL members have been at the center of a bullying controversy, after former member Hyunjoo‘s younger brother accused members of bullying his older sister. DSP Media and APRIL members have all denied the accusations, but Hyunjoo and her acquaintances have stuck by their story.
Sports Kyunghyang sat down with Chaewon, Naeun, Yena, and Jinsol in an exclusive interview to discuss the bullying allegations. Rachel and Chaekyung were excluded from the interview, as they were not members of APRIL when the alleged bullying incidents occurred.
The members shared that they had been undergoing therapy due to severe mental duress.
For us, time stopped on February 28. We are not the perpetrators, we’re victims. Although we have done nothing wrong, we were accused as the villains and as we are currently being treated as criminals, we want to set this straight.
Naeun shared her diary from after Hyunjoo had left the group in 2016, as well as psychological counseling records that spanned 5 months from November 2015 to April 2016 with reporters. Chaewon also brought psychological counseling records where she had detailed how Hyunjoo’s insincerity in practices and lies had caused her to suffer. These pictures were not included in the exclusive interview or report.
The girls were asked to explain the accusations:
Regarding the tumbler and shoes incidents that Lee Hyunjoo had claimed to be a victim of, at that point, there were between 2-300 pairs of shoes at the entrance of the dorms. The shoes that were in question, were sneakers that the company had given to us, two pairs for each member, sponsored for us to be used during practice. They were shoes that any rookie girl group would have received. They weren’t expensive so there was no reason for us to steal them.
We didn’t write names on the shoes so there is no way for us to know whose is whose, so it’s impossible that we were able to purposely steal them to bully someone. Four members have the same size, 230, and from time to time we get confused as to which shoes belong to who. At that point in time, I did think that I wore the wrong pair, but I never thought to steal the shoes maliciously.
The tumbler incident was similar to the shoes incident. There were over 100 tumblers in all parts of the dorm and in the cupboards above the sink. It was to the point where the cleaning lady had even once said that we had more tumblers than Starbucks and that we could set up a cafe.
There are many people asking if it was soybean paste stew (doenjang) or extra-strong fermented soybean paste stew (cheonggukjang); it was soybean paste stew. As we were on a diet, we could not buy food at the agency’s cafeteria to eat, so we usually ate salad or fruits or something from the convenience store. My mother had made some soybean paste stew blocks that were kept frozen, and I heated that up, adding tofu to them before putting it in a tumbler and bringing it to a schedule.
That tumbler was not a red one like Hyunjoo’s brother had said, but a light pink one. There was no name on it either. When I used it, Hyunjoo was not in the dorms. Hyunjoo was always sick and following her own requests, excluding the trainee days and rookie days, she was always almost not living at the dorms.
I had never seen Hyunjoo use this tumbler regularly, neither had she said it was a precious object or a gift from her grandmother. That day, when she had seen the tumbler on site, she got really mad and I apologized immediately. I finished eating the soup with the members and washed the tumbler cleanly when we returned to the dorms.
The reporter followed up by asking what the members thought about Hyunjoo claiming to have attempted suicide due to the alleged bullying.
All the members were scared of Hyunjoo. It is impossible that we could have bullied such a person. If you read Hyunjoo’s brother’s post, he claimed that after she attempted suicide, the members soon realized and came to apologize. That is totally wrong. We have never seen nor heard about Hyunjoo’s suicide attempt. As we didn’t know, we couldn’t have apologized either.
Logically, if a member from the same team made such an extreme choice, regardless of the reason, who would simply leave it be and pretend not to have seen it? Of course, we would have gone to visit her. However, we did not have cellphones and we did not hear about it from the agency either. We only found out after this issue blew up.
On the other hand, it was us that had tried to comfort Hyunjoo when she made things hard for us. We even held a birthday party for her that was taken on video. It wasn’t meant for broadcast but we really had a surprise party for her. Hyunjoo was really happy then. If we had bullied her, such a video wouldn’t exist.
The members also revealed sticker booth photos taken in 2015 when they were all trainees. The members also shared that Hyunjoo had often said she did not want to be an idol and that it was hard for her. They claim she wanted to be an actress.
Hyunjoo had always been sick since trainee days and we had it hard as she did not turn up for practices. She also did not turn up to two music show schedules. On November 11, Hyunjoo did not turn up at the rehearsal for Music Bank. That day, she didn’t even take ‘going to work’ press photos and went in by the back of the building. We still remember clearly, as she had not turned up even up to right before the rehearsals, the members cried and hurriedly practiced the choreography for 5 people. She came in right before the live broadcast and said that she had to do the live broadcast. After that, we were unable to perform that song on music shows. We thought that we had received a penalty.
After that, as we began promotions for ‘Tinkerbell’, she completely did not show up for Show Champion. We did not know why at all. She did not turn up for the broadcast either and the manager told us to go back to the dorms. We went back crying as we removed the stickers on our face and the clip-in hair extensions. The next day, the agency told us that we were going to perform as 4 from then on, and we stayed up to prepare the new choreography. We had only just thought that Hyunjoo must be sick again back then.
Regarding the kimbap incident, the members explained once again that there had been kimbap at the backseat of the car, where the youngest members usually sat. As it was summer, the food got spoiled easily and Hyunjoo allegedly began spraying perfume around heavily.
As Yena was sensitive to smells, she began having a headache and requested for Hyunjoo to stop spraying perfume, and allegedly Hyunjoo began screaming at her as per usual. She had allegedly also scolded Yena and Chaewon who had told her to lower her voice as the manager was on a phone call. Reportedly, she did not turn up for Show Champion the next day and the members never saw her since.
The members also explained why they thought the incident had happened.
Maybe this is the limit of an idol who lives in a dorm away from their family without a cell phone during their teenage years. Although we are adults now, at that time, we were just 14, 15 years old. We may have not been able to get to know each other well due to our short trainee period. Also, we may have not been able to reach out to all the members, or we may have not wanted to approach each other. We all could not become close with one another. Is that such a big sin? Like all other girl groups, there is jealousy within the team, and even though it’s not intentional, there will be words that hurt each other. But we still worked hard to try and make things work. We felt that all other idols and seniors and trainees would understand us.
While living in the dorms, there were times we couldn’t say anything even though we were upset. At that time, we only did what the company told us to do. There was no time to take care of each other. It was when we were past the fifth year that we started living in separate dorms that we started to miss each other and realize the importance of each other. But APRIL fell apart all because of Lee Hyunjoo. I hope that she doesn’t blame the members, regardless of the reason for her hardships.
Part two of the interview is planned for release by Sports Kyunghyang. Stay tuned.
Previously, Hyunjoo’s younger brother had stepped up, claiming that his sister had been bullied severely, leading to suicide attempts. After DSP Media had denied such claims, other acquaintances that claimed to be Hyunjoo’s classmates reiterated the bullying allegations. Hyunjoo’s most recent statement can be read here.