[news] Wonder Girls ill-treated: ex-tutor

Original members of Wonder Girls before Sun-mi’s (far left) departure from the group in January Kim Myung-sub/The Korea Herald

A former English tutor for popular K-pop group Wonder Girls on Tuesday painted a grim and detailed account of JYPE’s “ill-conceived” management of the band’s venture into the North American market.

Daniel Gauss, who was the group’s New York-based English tutor from October 2009 to May 2010 said over e-mail that the girls had been mismanaged by local music mogul Park Jin-young’s entertainment company.

Gauss’ claim as the group’s private tutor was confirmed over the phone by two current Manhattan-based JYPE employees.

In the e-mails, Gauss alleges that all members of the group had not been given health insurance coverage. “I was shocked when one of the girls told me that the girls are not covered by health insurance in America,” he wrote. “I once saw one girl in extreme pain -- due to a pre-existing problem stemming from a previous operation -- who received no professional medical treatment for the pain and I saw others with minor ailments go untreated.”

Gauss further wrote that after the group acquired the sponsorship deal with Sony Ericsson, JYPE had Sun-ye perform in Sanya, China, for Sony Ericsson executives, shortly after her father was rushed to the hospital in a coma.

He wrote that Sun-ye had told him “her father had stopped breathing and had to be rushed to the hospital. In the ambulance, (Sun-ye) and her family had to decide whether the father should be given treatment to be kept alive since he had lapsed into a coma. The family chose to keep him alive and I was told by the girl that he was never going to come out of the coma.”

"Very shortly after that trauma, she was performing for Sony Ericcson executives in Sanya," Gaus wrote "I did not have the heart to ask her whether it was her idea or JYPE’s idea for her to perform."

He also claimed JYPE illegally housed the members within the company’s Manhattan office -- for which he said the city of New York slapped the company with a $2,500 fine.

An online link to the New York City Department of Buildings was provided by Gauss which confirms the company had not only been issued a class-2 citation on May 28, 2009 and fined for altering and changing an occupied building for residential use without a valid permit, but also defaulted on the violation.

The company was scheduled to appear in court for a hearing last month, but failed to do so, which has resulted in the case being given a default status.

Gauss also said that JYPE had sold the band’s CD at a bargain basement price of $1 at retail clothing chains around the United States, which significantly boosted both its sales and its performance in the Billboard Hot 100 charts.

On Oct. 23, 2009 the group’s single "Nobody" entered the top 100 at No. 76 that was widely publicized by the local media.

This allegation was confirmed by Wonder Girl’s former manager and current JYPE marketing department employee David Hyun. "That was part of our distribution deal and that is definitely one of the reasons why they cracked the top 100."

When pressed about other allegations made by Gauss, Hyun refused to comment any further.

”I rather not comment on anything that came from (Gauss) other than confirm he did used to tutor for the Wonder Girls,“ he said.

Jane Kim, the group’s current manager, refused to state why Gauss had quit his job as a private tutor.

Gauss claims he quit his position because he had become disenchanted with JYPE’s management of the band.

He had been contacted by reps from the company after he had posted a Craigslist classified ad of himself as an English tutor in New York, but according to him, once he began his job as tutor, he had become increasingly concerned about the way the group was being managed by the company.

"I cannot profit in any manner by revealing this information," he wrote.

"I believe my motives are genuine. I did not ask for any compensation for any of this information and I do not want any. I saw and heard about some nasty things at JYPE and I think people have a right to know the truth especially since the girls are under contract for the next three-plus years and might not be able to speak freely about negative aspects of their experience."

By Song Woong-ki (kws@heraldm.com)

SOURCE: The Korean Herald