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K-pop’s Newest Controversy: Did ILLIT Copy NewJeans?

Source: ADOR

Amid rising tensions between Bang Si Hyuk, chairman of HYBE, and Min Hee Jin, CEO of ADOR, on the 22nd, ILLIT, HYBE’s youngest group, has been embroiled in a plagiarism controversy with NewJeans.

On the 23rd, after HYBE publicly disclosed the Min Hee Jin Incident, posts comparing the concepts of NewJeans and ILLIT began to flood online communities.

Posts comparing the two groups included videos and articles contrasting the choreography of ILLIT, their agency-mate NewJeans, and LE SSERAFIM. Netizens have divided opinions.

Some netizens who agreed with the claim that ILLIT copied NewJeans’ concept compared the choreography of NewJeans and ILLIT, stating, “The concept, music video, and choreography are all strikingly similar. I’d be angry if I were Min Hee Jin,” showing sympathy with CEO Min.

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Those who disagreed argued, “Isn’t this part of HYBE finding its color? I’ve never felt they overlapped. Does only NewJeans have to do such a concept? If that’s the case, all idols are copycats,” revealing a critical view towards CEO Min.

They continued criticizing CEO Min, who raised the issue of ILLIT copying NewJeans, saying, “CEO Min is trying to distract from the main issue. By using NewJeans as a shield, only NewJeans and ILLIT are left in an awkward position.”

So, how did foreign countries judge the issue of copying a singer’s concept, which became the point of contention in this incident? Copyright protection is more robust in foreign countries than in Korea, and the process is more systematically organized.

In fact, in 1970, The Beatles’ “My Sweet Lord” was a huge hit, but it was pointed out that this song was very similar to “He’s So Fine,” released by the American girl group The Chiffons in 1962, which drew attention.

A protracted legal dispute ensued, which was further complicated by Allen Klein, The Beatles’ manager at the time, acquiring the publishing rights. In the 1976 conclusive trial, the presiding judge asserted that The Beatles had subconsciously stolen the melody, thereby affirming the plagiarism allegations against the band.


Beyoncé, often referred to aswhich was a leading pop artist, is also one of the singers who cannot easily escape plagiarism controversies. Beyoncé has been charged with stealing everything from the music of singer-songwriters to choreography and concepts.

Beyoncé’s case is considered the most similar overseas case to the claim that ILLIT has copied everything from NewJeans.

Firstly, Beyoncé was involved in a controversy for plagiarizing the music video of Belgian dancer COUNTDOWN. Although she claimed to have been inspired by Belgian choreographer Anne Teresa De Keersmaeker, the music video was produced at an almost identical level, causing a stir. Fans even compared the two videos side by side.

Beyoncé later stated that the video was an homage but faced criticism from netizens for the copy-and-paste level video. Furthermore, Jennifer Armour, a struggling singer-songwriter, claimed her song was plagiarized by Beyoncé, causing controversy. She sued Beyoncé, claiming “BAD BOY” was too similar to her music, but lost the lawsuit as she could not prove that Beyoncé had stolen her song.

She later claimed to have composed “Crazy in Love” herself, but this was revealed to be a lie. The song was composed by producer Rich Harrison.

The peak of Beyoncé’s plagiarism was copying an entire performance. In 2011, Beyoncé received a lot of criticism for a disappointing performance. To shake off the stigma of a disappointing performance, Beyoncé brought in the entire performance reference of Italian pop star Lorella Cuccarini, claiming again to have made an homage, and faced much criticism from fans. However, there are no known instances of Beyoncé being directly proven guilty of plagiarism and losing a lawsuit.


Meanwhile, the Korean Copyright Commission focuses on creativity, substantial similarity, and dependence when judging whether copyright infringement has occurred. Given the characteristics of Korean copyright law, it is challenging to claim infringement simply because they look similar.

Even if it is claimed that the concept copyright has been plagiarized, it is necessary to determine whether the owner is ADOR or CEO Min Hee Jin.

Initially, NewJeans’ agency was ADOR, and currently, the largest shareholder of ADOR is HYBE.

CEO Min’s side currently states, “We publicly state our position on the ILLIT’s NewJeans copy incident to protect our artists and for the sound development of the Korean music industry and culture,” adding, “The cultural achievements made by ADOR and its artist NewJeans are ironically being most severely infringed upon by HYBE.”

Regarding the plagiarism of girl group ILLIT, they claimed, “HYBE’s label Belift Lab debuted the five-member girl group ILLIT in March this year. ILLIT is copying NewJeans in all areas of entertainment activities, including hair, makeup, costumes, choreography, photos, videos, and event appearances,” and added, “HYBE’s chairman Bang Si Hyuk produced ILLIT’s debut album. ILLIT’s NewJeans copy is not just an act by the label Belift Lab, but something that HYBE was involved in.”

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