Fantagio Corp., the Korean entertainment label behind Astro, Weki Meki and Wanna One’s Ong Seungwoo, is facing an internal feud and potential strike after the founder and CEO Na Byeong-Joon was ousted by investors, reports South Korean media outlet Yonhap.
On Saturday, Na was reportedly fired by JC Group, the China-based private equity fund that acquired a controlling stake in Fantagio in October. Following the firing, JC’s local Korean branch, Gold Finance Korea, announced that Fantagio will be run by Chinese management moving forward.
Fantagio’s employees reportedly formed an emergency committee and vowed to stage a walkout if Na was not reinstated as CEO, protesting what it described as the shareholder’s “illegal and unusual management intervention.”
Along with Astro, Weki Meki, and Ong, who is part of the temporary Produce 101-formed group Wanna One, Fantagio also represents the girl group Hello Venus and numerous actors, including Seo Kang Joon and Kim Sung Kyun.
The label is one of several South Korean entertainment agencies that have seen investment from Chinese sources in recent years: Alibaba Corp. invested in SM Entertainment, home to dozens of popular K-pop stars including EXO and Red Velvet, last year; the Hong Kong-based Legend Holdings Corp. is a shareholder of BTS’ Big Hit Entertainment; YG Entertainment, home to Psy, BIGBANG and Blackpink, has received investments from Tencent and Weiying; and multiple other labels, including FNC Entertainment (CNBLUE, FTISLAND, AOA) and Cube Entertainment (HyunA, BTOB, CLC), have also seen investments from Chinese sources. The move at Fantagio comes at a time when Sino-Korean relations are normalizing after a cooling last year that resulted in South Korea’s entertainment industry taking a hit.