YG Entertainment Founder Yang Hyun-Suk Leaves K-Pop Company Amid Turmoil

Starnews/AFP/Getty Images
Yang Hyun-suk photographed on Aug. 20, 2013. 

More than two decades since founding YG Entertainment in 1996, founder Yang Hyun-suk announced on Friday (June 14) that he has stepped down from playing any role in the company. Over the years, YG has launched and managed the careers of many of K-pop’s biggest acts over the years, including BLACKPINK, BIGBANG, 2NE1, and Psy. The move came after months of instability at YG following a series of high-profile legal scandals surrounding the company and its artists, with Yang’s actions increasingly coming under scrutiny.

A statement from Yang shared through YG Entertainment's website expressed the K-pop mogul's thoughts on the situation.

"I've dedicated the past 23 years of my life to YG Entertainment. It brought me great happiness to support the best music and the best artists," it read. "I thought of it as the only thing I could offer fans and society."

"However, from today I will step away from all of my roles and work at YG," he added. "I sincerely hope that there will not be any further damage to my beloved celebrities under YG, and to the loving fans, because of me."

Trouble began for YG after the start of this year saw the company become a focal point in the highly-publicized “Burning Sun” investigations into corruption and criminality in Seoul’s clubbing and entertainment scenes, largely in part due to the involvement of former YG star Seungri (Lee Seung-hyun) of BIGBANG. It resulted in a series of allegations about the company’s practices, and opened up a tax evasion probe into the K-pop company in March.

Last month, attention was directed at Yang after reports surfaced of him allegedly soliciting prostitution for business partners in the past. YG has denied the claims.

This week, iKON’s B.I (Kim Han-bin) left the group suddenly on Wednesday (June 12) after reports revealed a 2016 attempt by the star to purchase LSD, despite it being highly illegal and stigmatized in South Korea; the songwriter-rapper denied taking drugs but admitted past interest in them in an Instagram post through which he withdrew from iKON. Over Wednesday and Thursday (June 13), allegations appeared in Korean media that Yang had actively worked to keep B.I's case from being investigated by police. YG Entertainment denied the claims. 

In the past, several other YG Entertainment stars have also faced drug allegations and criminal investigations.

Throughout 2019, YG Entertainment’s stock has been immensely unstable, with dramatic drops occurring each time news broke relating to any of the investigations.

Yang did not directly address any of the allegations made against him in the letter, but did close the statement saying that he believed the truth would eventually be revealed regarding “malicious gossip.”

Hours after the news of Yang’s departure broke, his younger brother, Yang Min-suk, also reportedly stepped down from his role as CEO of YG Entertainment. The elder brother previously held the position but in recent years more generally served in a more public role as the head of the label and the company’s primary creative director. According to the Korea Herald, Yang Hyun-suk is the largest shareholder of YG with a 16.12 percent stake, while Yang Min-suk owns 3.31 percent.

Yang is a household name in South Korea, after rising to prominence as one-third of iconic ‘90s trio Seo Taiji & Boys, whose 1992 song "Nan Arayo (I Know)" is considered the prototypical K-pop song and performance.

Billboard has reached out to YG Entertainment regarding Yang's statement and the future of YG Entertainment's leadership.