Monsta X to drop all-English album while fans continue global protest over member's departure
I.M, from left, Minhyuk, Jooheon, Kihyun, Wonho, Hyungwon and Shownu of the band Monsta X pose for photographers backstage during Q102's iHeartRadio Jingle Ball 2018 at the Wells Fargo Center on Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2018, in Philadelphia. (Photo by Owen Sweeney/Invision/AP)
TORONTO -- K-pop super group Monsta X announced last week that they will be releasing an all-English album in February of 2020, a rarity for a South Korean entertainment act – while their global fan base continue their protest over a “scandal” that caused a member to leave the group earlier this year.
On October 31, Wonho, real name Lee Ho-Seok, announced in a statement from his management agency Starship Entertainment, that he was departing the seven-member group. That was followed by a social media post apologizing for his past “mistakes.”
The allegations against him at the time included owing his ex-roommate money, selling her things, attending a juvenile detention centre and partaking in cannabis use in 2013, prior to his debut in Monsta X.
None of the allegations have been tested in court, and the cannabis accusation is the only one that is illegal under South Korea’s strict drug laws.
Since then, Monsta X fans, affectionately known as “Monbebe” or “my baby” in French, have launched an unprecedented global protest in support of the group and of Wonho, who they say is being slandered and defamed by rumours.
The fans have made themselves heard through an organized social media campaign with a rotating influx of hashtags on Twitter in support of Wonho and Monsta X – which have made the global Twitter trending page almost daily.
Numerous petitions with hundreds of thousands of signatures continue to make the rounds online and billboard ads paid for by fundraising fans have been displayed in places like New York’s Time Square.
Other massive advertisement campaigns were organized and crowdfunded in Argentina and the Philippines, while Chinese Monbebes sponsored an ad in the Seoul subway and banners hung on lampposts in front of the Starship Entertainment building.
The fan group has continued to adopt a plethora of animals in a massive charity drive in honour of Monsta X, including whales, great white sharks, alligators, polar bears, wolves and Artic hares.
A Twitter account dedicated to notifying the fans about animal charity projects has the current count hovering around 93 sponsorships.
But fans say that their protest goes beyond Monsta X and Wonho, and that their commentary is on the wider scope of the entertainment industry in South Korea -- which has a track record of being rigorous, demanding and strict with their performers.
Fans say that K-pop entertainers, known as “idols” are held to impossible standards, and have taken aim at the culture of “cyberbullying” and “cancel culture” which pervade the entertainment industry.
As K-pop grows in popularity globally there have been several instances of international fans clashing with the home-grown South Korean fan base, which tends to be more socially conservative.
In the case of Wonho, fans say if the allegations against him were levelled at a Western artist it would laughable, and that the South Korean entertainment industry needs to evolve its standards to stay relevant internationally.
Starship Entertainment has not responded to any of the fans efforts or media’s request for comment in regards to Wonho’s departure.
But fans are undaunted.
A single off the upcoming English album and the accompanying music video which dropped Friday entitled “Middle of the Night,” still featured vocals from Wonho on the track – and eagle-eyed fans spotted a tribute to him in the music video, giving them a glimmer of hope for his return.