GOT7 fans campaign for K-pop band's global stardom and protection from stalkers but label JYP keeps mum
Ahgase fandom pays for the band's ads and billboards in addition to translating their work and securing them appearances on TV shows, while JYPE provides them limited security and creative freedom
GOT7's fans continue to face radio silence from JYP Entertainment even two years after they began campaigning for better treatment of the group's members. The GOT7 fandom 'Ahgase' are no strangers when it comes to speaking out on the group's behalf. They have been vocal about the treatment of the group members ever since they debuted back in 2014 with their first EP, 'Got It?', owing largely to what the Ahgases perceive as mismanagement of the group which they believe has significantly hindered their progress.
GOT7 was first introduced to a South Korean audience as an 'international' group, owing to its multinational members: American-born Taiwanese Mark Tuan, Jackson Wang from Hong Kong, BamBam from Thailand and South Koreans JB, Jinyoung, Youngjae and Yugyeom. Additionally, the group's sound and style were heavily influenced by popular Western music, specifically rap, hip hop and R&B, and their lyrics included a mix of Korean and English. Right from the get to, GOT7 was primed for international success and it appeared that was the primary goal JYPE had in mind when they created the group.
Prior to being in GOT7, JB and Jinyoung (who went by Junior at the time) debuted under JYPE as actors in 2012's 'Dream High 2', following which they debuted as the duo JJ Project with the single 'Bounce'. Remaining members Mark, Jackson, BamBam and Yugyeom, the group's original rap line, first appeared on Mnet's reality-survival program 'Who is Next: WIN' in 2013 before officially joining the GOT7 line-up. Youngjae, who had just begun his training the same year, debuted with the group only seven months later. GOT7, being the first boy band JYPE debuted since 2PM in 2008, were already generating buzz right from the beginning. The group's sound combined with their R&B-leanings and highly synchronized dance moves that included martial arts and tricking often saw them drawing comparisons to 2PM, who debuted with a similar concept and seven members with various nationalities, but GOT7 managed to carve their own space in the industry outside of the shadows of their predecessors pretty early on.
GOT7's first full-length studio album 'Identify', released in 2014, topped South Korean charts. Despite the norm in K-pop to organize comebacks relatively quickly, the group's follow-up EP 'Just Right' (which included their most commercially successful single of the same name) would only drop eight months later in 2015, and it was immediately followed by 'Mad', their second Billboard World chart-topper. Their fifth Korean EP 'Flight Log: Departure' and their second full-length studio album 'Flight Log: Turbulence' were both chart-toppers, and 2017's 'Flight Log: Arrival', the third and final part of their Flight Log series, became their highest selling album at the time and found its way to the number three spot on Billboard's Heatseekers chart. Their subsequent releases continued in the same vein, topping charts locally and charting worldwide. Most recently, Got7 dropped their 'Dye' EP, including the lead single 'Not by the Moon', which broke their own personal record for first day and first week sales in addition to debuting on the Billboard World Albums chart at number four.
Overall, the group has proven their mettle within the K-pop industry in addition to making inroads worldwide, particularly in the American market. Ahgases can't help but notice, however, that the group continues to be hindered by their own label, something the GOT7 members themselves have seemingly hinted at on more than one occasion. They have also joked about their lack of creative freedom (even as their labelmates are afforded far more control over their artistry) and the company's odd policy of not promoting the group's work as much as that of their labelmates (with their latest comeback seeing zero promotion except via the company's official Thai account). They band is also aware of hashtags like #GOT7DeservesBetter as evidenced by BamBam liking a tweet that details some of the group's accomplishments with regards to breaking multiple sales records within JYPE.
The main area that Ahgases see an issue is with regards to group management and promotions. Early last year JYPE partnered with Sony Music Entertainment's The Orchard for global digital and physical distribution of releases from JYPE artiste to United States, Europe and beyond, citing a goal of expanding the label's global presence. This meant that artistes like GOT7 would see a much larger presence across digital platforms. Or so Ahgases were led to believe. Despite being one of their top-performing acts, GOT7, along with fellow Division 2 acts like ITZY, appear to be the only JYPE artistes without album sales within the US. Ahgases began trending #WeNeedGOT7OnAmazon earlier this year, demanding distribution of GOT7 releases via Amazon, something that the label already does for Division 1 acts like Stray Kids and Division 3 acts like Twice.
The company has not yet addressed this complaint. But adding insult to injury, for a group that was marketed as an international act, JYPE appears to have no regard for making their content accessible to their targetted audience: international Ahgases. Currently, it's the group's fans that translate all of their work and subtitle all their videos to make them accessible for fans worldwide. Additionally, GOT7's fandom has been at the forefront of the group's marketing campaigns: they paid for YouTube ads to help promote 'Not by the Moon', in addition to local Korean ads and Billboards, which ideally would be done by the group's label and not their fans. Worse still, it's the Ahgases that contact shows like Dingo, Good Day New York, Knowing Brothers and more to have GOT7 appear on them. The band members have themselves stated in interviews and social media that they would love to appear on a variety of shows, but have been barred from doing so by JYPE on account of founder and producer Park Jin-young's insistence that they are not "funny enough". The members have repeatedly called out the company for failing to get them on shows, but it appears their complaints have gone largely unnoticed.
Park's treatment of the group has been further highlighted as an issue. Across multiple interviews, he has been heard berating the members for everything, from their singing, rapping, dancing to writing skills, besides their ability to perform well on shows. He is also notorious for rejecting songs written by the group themselves, or alternatively, ordering several rewrites until it meets a specific sound that he defines as the group's 'color'. Additionally, GOT7 do not get to select their own title tracks.
In addition to not promoting the group or allowing them to define their own artistry, however, JYPE has fallen far below the standard when it comes to the group's safety. A major issue within K-pop is the existence of Sasaeng or 'stalker fans' who go far beyond cyberbullying artists: they actively hunt them down. From calling them incessantly through all hours of the day to breaking into their apartments to physically assaulting them in public to leaking private information to attempting to kidnap and poison idols, Sasaengs have plagued the industry for decades and made living a normal life quite impossible for many in the industry. GOT7 members posted statements on social media last year demanding that fans stop stalking them or breaking into their homes and agency headquarters, and Youngjae has been extremely vocal about the daily harassment he receives via phone, texts and beyond. But despite JYPE's firm stance against fans who harass artists, which includes taking legal action against online harassment and increasing security around several artists who have been repeatedly hounded by stalkers, no such action has been taken for members of GOT7 over their career.
From mismanagement and lack of protocol when it comes to artist safety to essentially having the fandom provide user-generated content as opposed to doing the work themselves, it appears JYPE has a lot to answer for, as far as Ahgases are concerned. Yet, seven years into the game, it seems like the label has no real intention of meeting the fan demands nor fulfilling the wishes of the members themselves. And sadly, it's GOT7 that ultimately suffers for it.