[INTERVIEW] Attorney reveals details behind IVE's Jang Won-young's legal win against YouTuber (2024)

[INTERVIEW] Attorney reveals details behind IVE's Jang Won-young's legal win against YouTuber (1)

Attorney Chong Kyong-sok, who specializes in entertainment industry law, speaks during an interview at The Korea Times headquarters, Jan. 11. Korea Times photo by Do Hien Thao

Chong discusses complexities of pursuing legal remedies in K-pop industry

By Pyo Kyung-min

In a landmark case for K-pop, Jang Won-young of K-pop act IVE recently won a civil lawsuit against the controversial YouTuber Sojang, renowned for disseminating derogatory content about celebrities.

This achievement is particularly significant as it marks a successful legal outcome against a YouTuber, a notable challenge due to their potential anonymity shielded by international platforms.

Sojang's channel targeted Jang as one of its primary victims. The rumors about the idol included baseless claims such as Jang's "uninvited presence at one of Miu Miu's fashion shows" and that "Jang's jealousy resulted in ousting a prearranged IVE member."

The YouTuber's continued production of malicious content prompted Jang's team to pursue legal action in the United States to disclose the YouTuber's identity, and the effort ultimately succeeded in unveiling the person behind the channel, a woman in her 30s surnamed Park.

This legal stride was achieved with the expertise of attorney Chong Kyong-sok from LIWU Law Group. Chong, a seasoned professional known for his numerous cases in the entertainment industry, shared insights into the case during an interview at The Korea Times headquarters in January.

"A prime issue in this case was the inability to determine the identity of the YouTuber essential to file the lawsuit," the attorney explained. "The YouTuber's personal data was stored on Google's overseas servers, making it harder to access the needed information. We obviously cannot file a search warrant against foreign companies."

[INTERVIEW] Attorney reveals details behind IVE's Jang Won-young's legal win against YouTuber (2)

A screenshot of the currently unavailable YouTube channel run by Sojang, a notorious online troll posting malicious content about different celebrities and influencers / Captured from Youtube

Chong pointed out the inherent difficulty in accessing the identities of "online trolls" using international platforms.

"[Online trolls] often use YouTube, Instagram, X and TikTok — all based on international servers — to spread malicious content. This makes it harder for national investigative authorities to track down the people behind usernames," he said.

"Especially in countries like the U.S., where freedom of expression is broadly protected, companies are reluctant to readily cooperate with other countries' legal requests."

Despite these challenges, Chong filed a request to the U.S. District Court for the California Northern District, seeking the disclosure of Sojang's personal information, in May 2023. Fortunately for the idol, the attorney's request was granted two months later, with Google finally revealing the name and address of the channel owner.

Upon receiving notification from Google about the disclosure, the YouTuber then promptly shut down her channel.

"The defendant chose to delete the channel voluntarily. Given Google's limited intervention, requesting the channel's suspension on the company's side would have been futile anyway," Chong said.

"Upon receiving notification from the company that her name, date of birth, address and other details were exposed, it was only then that she abruptly took down the whole channel."

[INTERVIEW] Attorney reveals details behind IVE's Jang Won-young's legal win against YouTuber (3)

IVE's Jang Won-young and her agency, Starship Entertainment, worked with attorney Chong Kyong-sok to identify Sojang, the operator of the malicious YouTube channel. Captured from Jang's Instagram.

As a result of the civil lawsuit, Park was instructed to pay Jang damages of 100 million won ($75,400). Chong noted that during the lawsuit, Park said she was unaware that her claims were misinformation and believed her videos served the public interest.

The attorney also addressed the various excuses he encountered throughout his legal career, offered by parties attempting to escape accountability.

"Once they find themselves in a situation where they cannot escape, they come up with various excuses. They plea, 'I used to be a fan, but my feelings changed because of this or that,' or 'I didn't think it would become such a big problem.'"

However, Chong maintains an uncompromising stance on defamation.

"I have a policy of not reaching settlements with perpetrators in the cases I handle. Therefore, once identified, no matter what explanations or personal circ*mstances they bring up, it is futile for them."

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While Jang's challenging lawsuit ended in victory, Chong acknowledged that there is still a long way to go in combating online trolls tarnishing the reputation of some entities in the K-pop scene.

"We are still cooperating with various agencies in collecting and reviewing data on other malicious YouTubers or rumor spreaders. However, it is not an easy task considering the time and cost involved in pursuing legal remedies and various factors that need to be considered from the agency's perspective," he said.

"To restore the honor of artists who are victims of online harassment, taking legal action against such trolls is, without any shadow of a doubt, the best option. Protective legal measures are necessary."

[INTERVIEW] Attorney reveals details behind IVE's Jang Won-young's legal win against YouTuber (5)

Entertainment attorney Chong Kyong-sok speaks during an interview at The Korea Times headquarters, Jan. 11. Korea Times photo by Do Hien Thao

Legal affairs in K-pop

Other legal issues also often lurk beneath the glossy surface of the K-pop industry, affecting both artists and fans alike. To shed light on these complexities, Chong shared his viewpoints on other topics that recently went viral, such as contract renewals and fan safety.

One of these issues is BLACKPINK members' decision not to renew individual contracts with YG Entertainment. According to Chong, this highlights the intricate nature of contract negotiations within the industry.

"Contract renewals in the K-pop industry are multifaceted [...] While some may view the decision negatively, citing trust issues between the two parties, it's important to remember that contracts are essentially based on the premise of termination," Chong said.

"So it's meaningless to guess why the BLACKPINK members would have decided not to extend the relationship with the agency."

Chong added, however, that money plays a big role.

"To be completely honest, on behalf of many idols, financial considerations are the biggest factor when it comes to renewing contracts. Once idols have established a significant reputation, they often seek a larger share of the revenue [...] If the agency agrees to accept their requests, the contract is renewed. The establishment of trust relationships comes into play later."

Chong added that BLACKPINK's choice not to renew their contracts with YG Entertainment signifies a broader trend towards individual autonomy among K-pop artists.

"This paradigm shift could reshape the dynamics between K-pop idols and their agencies, including fostering a sense of power balance between the two parties," he said.

[INTERVIEW] Attorney reveals details behind IVE's Jang Won-young's legal win against YouTuber (6)

Seen are the four members of BLACKPINK, who, in 2023, opted to leave YG Entertainment for solo activities while staying with the agency for group activities. Clockwise from the top left are Jisoo, Jennie, Lisa and Rose. Courtesy of TakeOne Company

He also mentioned a recent incident involving a fan being violently pushed by a security guard affiliated with HYBE Entertainment, which has raised concerns about fan safety.

In a video posted through an online community, a bodyguard pushes a fan on her shoulder who came to China's Qingdao Jiaodong International Airport to take pictures of her favorite boy band. The fan dealt with an apparently nasty fall backward as a result of the push.

Speaking on the incident, Chong said that fan safety is paramount, and incidents involving security mishaps warrant legal scrutiny.

"Regardless of intent, instances like this could constitute negligence or even assault, so if this fan suffered actual physical damages as a result, legal action can be taken."

He also noted that the common misconception regarding the low likelihood of fans claiming victory against a giant agency is inaccurate.

"Fans have the right to pursue legal action if they suffer any sort of damage — both mental and physical — from the agency or even a K-pop idol. If clear evidence of harm is presented in court, fans stand a good chance of prevailing against even a giant agency."

Yet, the attorney added that being careful is the optimal approach to prevent legal actions for both fans and the agency.

"In cases like this, the severity of the damage will influence the extent of legal recourse available, which makes it somewhat paradoxical. The more you are hurt, the better the chance of compensation. But that's never a good thing," Chong said.

"It's crucial for fans to prioritize their safety, while the agency should take proactive measures to prevent such incidents from occurring."

[INTERVIEW] Attorney reveals details behind IVE's Jang Won-young's legal win against YouTuber (7)

Fans take photos of BTS member Jin with their cell phones as he exits a gate at Incheon International Airport Terminal 2 in this Dec. 6, 2021 file photo. Yonhap

[INTERVIEW] Attorney reveals details behind IVE's Jang Won-young's legal win against YouTuber (2024)


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