[News] Cube's CEO states, ""Jaebum's termination conference should have never happened" and his thoughts


Cube's CEO, "Jaebum's termination conference should have never happened"

As soon as rookie G.NA debuted as a singer and received her album, she wrote a thank you letter to her agency Cube Entertainment's CEO, Hong Seungsung (46). The letter starts with her calling him 'father.' The title remains true for Cube groups 4Minute and Beast as well. Although agency CEOs are usually called 'representative,' these groups call him 'father' without any hesitation. 

Cube's CEO Hong Seungsung stated, "I try not to look like a representative to the kids." Maybe it is because of such reason that he appeared wearing jeans and sneakers despite being into his mid 40's. 

How did Representative Hong earn 12 children? In a recent meeting at Kangnam, Seoul at the Cube office, he gave a hearty laughter. "One day, they just started calling me father. It's not something that happens often so I thought it was pretty cool. I think it's possible because we're able to open our feelings towards each other. I try to act like their father and the kids were able to feel that."

▶ Turning a '2nd place idol' into a '1st place idol' is the greatest feeling ever. 

- When was Cube created?
"In the beginning of 2008. It's been about 3 years." 

- Within 3 years, you've debuted 4Minute, Beast, G.Na, and others. Your growth rate is quite fast.
"I have 20 years of experience and know-hows under my belt. I can only be fast (laughter)."

Representative Hong worked in the music industry for 10 years and met singer and producer Park Jinyoung. They then went on to create JYP Entertainment and found stars such as Rain, Wonder Girls, 2PM, 2AM, and others. 

- Why did you separate from JYPE?
"I worked with an extremely talented man named Park Jinyoung but I had my own music, future, and dreams that I needed to pursue. I also felt that there was a lot of improvement needed regarding our relationship with the singers. The owner of JYPE is Park Jinyoung so I couldn't do everything I wanted. And being in the industry for 10 years also makes you kind of lazy. I needed a new start. I also felt the need to take responsibility of the trainees that I raised and, like coincidence, 2PM and 2AM had a successful debut so the timing just felt right."

- 4Minute, Beast, and G.Na are now popular stars but they all have one thing in common.
"4Minute's Hyuna is from Wonder Girls and G.Na used to be the leader for a group called '5 Girls.' Beast's Kikwang was a solo, Hyunseung was eliminated from Big Bang, and Doojoon was eliminated from 2PM and 2AM. They're all kids that were tagged with '2nd place.' Seeing them made my heart hurt and I felt responsible. Of course they could have been eliminated because they lacked certain things but I think that's only subjective to perspective. Just because someone else doesn't want them doesn't mean they don't fit well here. And being in this industry for over 20 years, I've learned that skills aren't everything. Passion is important. Kids that have already gone through hardships have a different kind of determination and are stronger in the face of adversity."

- Did you purposely gather just the '2nd place' kids then?
"You can say it like that, I suppose. It's hard to find great talent when your company is just starting off so it was a tactical move but that isn't all there is to it. Being able to put a '2nd place' idol into '1st place' makes your efforts just that much greater and happier. I also trusted the kids enough to believe that they could do it. '2nd place' idols are strict with managing themselves. There can be singers that don't manage themselves but never an artist. There's a limit to everything if you don't manage yourself."

Omitted further information on Cube and Cube artists. 
Briefly Summarized: All cube artists and trainees complete volunteer/charity work, character training, sex education, and counseling once a week because Representative Hong feels that the age singers are debuting at lately are much too young and feels responsible since the company is not raising just a star but also a child. This aids in helping them mature into responsible adults while preventing any attitude changes once they actually debut. Hong will never debut an idol with exceptional talent that lacks an upright character. Although everyone benefits from it, he chose Kikwang and Hyunseung as the members that learn the most from their weekly charity work and character training/counseling.

▶ "Jaebum's termination conference should have never happened"

- We heard that you have a briefing session once a month with all of the parents of your trainees.
"Problems arise when there isn't any trust between the company, the artist, and the parents. If there's no communication, the singer has no idea what he/she is supposed to be doing and the parents themselves will be nervous. That is why we reveal everything going on inside of our company to them. We show them what kind of training their children are receiving, how they're rehearsing, how much we're spending on music production, how much stage outfits cost, and etc. We also give in depth explanations on why we chose to put them in certain TV shows. The parents try to be understanding in return."

- You've been nicknamed as 'Hong Cube' amongst the fans. The fans are ecstatic that you listen and apply their opinions so well and that you're the first agency to do so.
"The status of the mass public has been raised and their decision making skills are very accurate. I find the answer to my problems in the mass public more often than not. Fans have a tendency to believe whatever the singer does or doesn't do and vice versa for the company. So whatever our company does, we try to let the fans know. For our company, the fandom is our greatest strength. Because of that, we try our best to look out for the opinions and reactions of the fans and converse with them often."

- Do you really reflect the ideas and opinions of the fans?
"Of course. I monitor the fans a lot especially during comeback time. If you see any changes in hair styles, outfit concepts, or performances in the middle of a promotion, it's because we've listened and are attempting to reflect the fans' desires. (laughter) My decisions cannot always be 100% right so I try to accommodate accordingly."

- When JYPE terminated Jaebum, there was huge backlash from the fans because their opinions were ignored.

"If such a situation happened at Cube, we would have handled it differently. First of all, I do agree that sending Jaebum to America was the right decision when his Myspace posts became controversial. It was needed in order to progress with the rest of the process. But furthermore, if the company wasn't able to tell or explain the "answer," holding a conference should have been out of the question. How can any one expect any fan to be understanding in a conference with no answers? Yes, they could have been in a situation where they couldn't say the answer but if that was the case, the conference should have never happened then. And there's also a very big problem with the fact that the members themselves stated at the conference that they 'could no longer work with him because they are the victims.' It would have been better if they just stated, 'We would like to work together but had to separate because we did not want to bring harm to one another' and left it at that. Regardless, I'm a bit disappointed because I feel that they should have at least attempted to protect their own leader at least once." 

Journalist Kim Ayeon aykim@donga.com


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