K-pop singer and actress Hyunjoo is the latest South Korean star dragged into a brewing controversy over bullying incidents.
On Sunday (Feb 28), someone claiming to be her younger brother said on social media that she had been bullied by members of popular girl group April, which she was a part of from 2015 to 2016.
He wrote: "She was ostracised and bullied in the group, and she ended up getting anxiety and had breathing issues because she suffered so much. She even tried to commit suicide."
Hyunjoo, 23, took a seven-month hiatus from the group before quitting in October 2016 to pursue an acting career.
"My sister left the group and her label sent her a letter that claimed she was leaving to pursue acting and told her to write it the same way exactly. So my sister did that," said the anonymous post. "But after my sister wrote that, she got so many hate comments saying she betrayed the group for her own benefit."
The allegations by Hyunjoo's brother were accompanied by proof of his identity, such as selfies of them together and a family document showing their birth dates, with his face and name blacked out.
Following that post, an anonymous friend of hers also spoke up in support, claiming that all the other five members of the group, except for the two newest ones who had joined after her departure, had picked on Hyunjoo.
She alleged that there were numerous petty aggressions against Hyunjoo - such as hiding her belongings, talking behind her back and tripping her up - and their manager turned a blind eye to the incidents.
"After Hyunjoo attempted suicide, the company said the members were reflecting on themselves so Hyunjoo and her mum visited the company. Members met them but ignored them and laughed with each other," her friend wrote in her post.
The management company, DSP Media, released a statement on March 1 explaining the difficulties Hyunjoo had faced: "After she debuted, because of her physical and mental state, she had difficulties participating in April's activities. Because of this, there was a lot of conflict and the other members also experienced damage."
The statement, however, did not address the specific details of bullying and appeared to absolve all parties of blame. "Everyone had a hard time and suffered, and we decided that no one could be considered a victim or the perpetrator."
Hyunjoo has so far been silent on the matter.
A chorus of bullying accusations against South Korean celebrities have piped up in the past week.
The Uncanny Counter (2020 to 2021) actor Jo Byung-gyu, girl group (G)I_DLE's Soojin, boy group Seventeen's Mingyu, Extracurricular (2020) actor Kim Dong-hee, Monsta X's Kihyun and former I.O.I member Kim So-hye have all denied the allegations against them.