Hours after the news broke that the 26-year-old (real name Lee Ho-seok) was leaving his group on Thursday following a swirl of rumors and accusations about his past behavior, local fans began gathering outside the Seoul offices of Monsta X’s Korean record label Starship Entertainment. Billboard observed the quiet and peaceful gathering where Monsta X fans (known affectionately as Monbebe) began writing on stickie notes and posting them across the front and side of the building as a security guard stood outside and watched. The messages were mostly in Korean but included some English messages, with dozens of fans of multiple nationalities in attendance.
The notes had been cleared the next day with supporters under the impression they were collected and brought to Starship.
Monbebes respectfully outside Starship’s building and showing their support for Wonho by sticking post-its with various messages to Wonho on the building
Please Wonho, come back #?????? pic.twitter.com/w9qWx4016l
— –atermelon — #?????? (@wonho__) October 31, 2019
the starship building is filled with post it notes from monbebe giving strength to monsta x and asking starship to bring back wonho, this is the most beautiful thing but also the most heartbreaking. everyone is desperate im devastated#?????? pic.twitter.com/ZzpqO6bwW0
— saf– #?????? (@byoungmidam) October 31, 2019
— ?’s marwa ? broken (@8eezs) October 31, 2019
Supporters who couldn’t make it to Seoul have shown their feelings online via social media, with Twitter becoming the main fighting ground for Wonho.
The hashtag #?????_??? (roughly translating to Supporting Monsta X) has been a top trending topic worldwide on Twitter since Thursday’s news. Meanwhile, other phrases like #FightForWonho and #???_???_???_?? (Starship, We Want Answers) have risen to the top of worldwide trends on Twitter as fans discussed everything from theories in how the news broke and finding additional ways to support the singer.
At press time, a Change.org petition titled “Keep a member of Monsta X” has more than 350,000 signatures.
Monbebe, we need to talk about rumors that appear during every M0N$T? X comeback.
In the weeks prior every M0N$T? X comeback, accounts dedicated to spreading rumors about them appear, all created on the same month or just the month before [cont] pic.twitter.com/giaaIX4uCA
— find : Monbebe | #?????? (@theot7bebe) October 17, 2019
monbebes let us be the proof that love can conquer all in the end! let’s show Wonho and the members how thankful we are to them and that we have opens arms for them no matter what!! #FightForWonho
#???_???_???_??@STARSHIPent @OfficialMonstaX pic.twitter.com/adniaRlRZT
— Monsta X Europe (@MonstaXEurope) November 1, 2019
You have to know this is a planned attack on Wonho. Every time there seems to be hope, they release something about his past. WH admitted he made mistakes & tried his best to turn that around to become a better person & stay on right track, and he did!#?????? #?????
— ???? ???? ? issa ghost ghost ghost ? (@xxUnderwaterxx) November 1, 2019
Like past incidents involving K-pop stars, the increasingly international fanbase of the Korean music scene continues to have a rocky reckoning with its home base in conservative South Korea.
The past days have seen Wonho accused of failing to pay back borrowed money from a former friend, attending a juvenile detention center and smoking marijuana — with the latter accusation being the only actual illegal activity the star has been accused of, as marijuana is illegal in Korea while no specific evidence of the former two accusations have been shared to date. Still, the rumors have caused a K-pop controversy and led to marks against his image in Korea, where one’s public perception is invaluable and a digitally connected online fan community is slow to forgive.
But as Monsta X has grown their global fanbase (recently signing with Epic Records for U.S.-focused English releases), these incidents increasingly appear unfair to other fans who have watched over Wonho as a Monsta X member for more than four years and aren’t afraid to speak out. A similar situation arose when HyunA and E’Dawn of boy band Pentagon were axed from their record label Cube Entertainment for publicly revealing their relationship — a controversy for K-pop, but not in many other music scenes — before the label announced they would review the situation after public outcry on social media. HyunA and E’Dawn eventually parted ways with their company, but it became a turning point in watching the influence that international fans and social media has on K-pop.
As Monbebes threaten boycotts and further in-person and online protests, Monsta X and Starship Entertainment have not announced plans to review or reconsider their decision. Still, there’s certainly more international eyes watching these supposed K-pop controversies and forcing labels to widen who they’re considering when making major decisions.
In korea kmbbs will be holding a protest at 12pm KST NOV 2nd at the starship building for imbbs that aren’t able to make it we will be trending
— wonho #????? (@jookiheon) October 31, 2019