After bullying allegations arose against ATBØ‘s Yang Donghwa, IST Entertainment addressed the issue in an official statement, revealing that Yang Donghwa will be leaving the group before they make their official debut later this year.
This is not the first obstacle ATBØ has faced before their debut. Recently, IST Entertainment made the decision to change the group’s name from ABØ to ATBØ after netizens raised strong concerns about the resemblance between the name ABØ and a racial slur that is used against Aboriginal Australians.
even if their group name has a different meaning, let's not dismiss the fact that it shouldn't be a kpop name and ist should have thought abt it carefully… that's why a/b/o has a slash and ABO blood system comes together to distinguish the differences from the offensive word.
— gian ♪ (@baehjun) May 5, 2022
This came after the members had already gone through a difficult time in the survival show The Origin – A, B, Or What?, where the group was created. The final line-up, including Yang Donghwa, was announced during the show’s finale, along with the group’s original name. The group was to consist of seven members, although that number is now down to six with Yang Donghwa’s departure.
Many fans were taken by surprise by the company’s statement, as not everyone had been aware of the bullying allegations against Yang Donghwa.
Yet, as others pointed out, the allegations were not made recently. There were rumors of Yang Donghwa’s being a school bully since the first episode of The Origin – A, B, Or What?, though IST Entertainment failed to address them at the time.
since a lot of y’all are confused, back when the origins first ep was out donghwa had rumors around about being a bully in middle school.
even tho the notice says not everything is as ppl painted it to be(because they were talking very poorly of donghwa), donghwa did give a hard+
— bee (@atbomembers) June 13, 2022
According to IST Entertainment’s statement, the company conducted an investigation into bullying allegations against him that were made on social media and online communities. After interviewing many people, including school officials and alumni, the investigation proved that, while some of the allegations were not entirely true, “there were students who were hurt because of Yang Donghwa’s immature and inappropriate remarks and actions.”
They were able to contact some of the students, and Yang Donghwa personally apologized to them. There are, however, still more people who were hurt.
Apart from the students he had the opportunity to meet with in person to apologize, he knows there may be more students who went through a hard time because of him, and he has a heavy heart thinking of them.
— IST Entertainment
After the results of the investigation were revealed, IST Entertainment made the decision to remove Yang Donghwa from ATBØ’s line-up. And according to the company’s statement, this was a decision that Yang Donghwa himself, along with his parents, fully agreed to.
Through this decision Yang Donghwa intends to apologize sincerely to his fellow students for his past misconduct. Although he hasn’t made his debut, Yang Donghwa and his parents have expressed their desire to be reprimanded for the mistakes, and will take this time to self-reflect and repent. We have gone through an in-depth discussion with Yang Donghwa and his parents, and we will be respecting their decision regarding this issue.
— IST Entertainment
Naturally, both the company and Yang Donghwa understand that this does not change much for the victims, especially since there seems to have been a considerable number of them. But the company states that this will hopefully serve as a new beginning for the young artist, seeing as he still has his whole career ahead of him.
Read IST Entertainment’s full statement below.