Compared to some groups, Red Velvet has had relatively few controversies since their 2014 debut but, despite their scandals, Red Velvet has always managed to bounce back. Here are some of Red Velvet’s worst scandals and the stories behind them:
1. Red Velvet’s group name
Red Velvet’s group name became an issue because another indie band with the same name had already been active under the name “Red Velvet” after being formed in 2013. The indie band had apparently already released a digital single, which showed up in various search engines and music websites, and was making an effort to gain more recognition through activities such as performances in Hongdae. A member of the group made a post on an online community explaining that SM’s new girl group “Red Velvet” could make it difficult for them as an indie group to continue their promotions with the same name. They added that they’ve become deeply attached to the name and would like to continue promoting under the same name.
Although the indie group did not receive a trademark registration for the name, it was a form of courtesy in the music industry to avoid using the same name and, therefore, SM Entertainment received some criticism from netizens who were sympathetic towards the indie band. SM Entertainment later apologized at a meeting with the indie band and explained to them that SM does not have any right to prevent them from continuing the use of the name Red Velvet.
2. Music video controversy
Shortly after the release of the music video of Red Velvet’s debut song, “Happiness”, netizens discovered some insensitive imagery that sparked controversy. The music video had contained images of articles that referred to the September 11 attacks as well as the Hiroshima atomic bombings.
SM Entertainment immediately released a statement explaining that the images were not intentional and re-uploaded the edited music video, completely erasing 2,000,000 views from the original music video.
3. Joy’s absence in the Pyongyang performance
Red Velvet had been selected to visit Pyongyang with a group of other South Korean artists for a historical performance from March 31 to April 3, 2018.
The controversy began when the media broke news a day before the performance that Joy would not be joining Red Velvet for this performance. A media outlet had apparently reported that the South Korean government was not aware of the fact that Joy would not be attending the event and that SM Entertainment had reported the fact to the press first on the day before departure. The situation was made worse when news of Joy attending the Red Velvet Concert in Japan (March 28-29) and SM Town Concert in Dubai (April 6) after adjusting her drama schedule began spreading.
Joy was, in the end, unable to attend even the SM Town Concert in Dubai due to her drama schedule. Moreover, according to affiliates of the event, SM Entertainment had notified the government during talks that Joy may not be able to attend the Pyongyang event and had received approval to send Red Velvet as a 4-member group. Joy, as well as the other Red Velvet members, had to endure a difficult time due to a misunderstanding but bravely completed the Pyongyang performance.
4. Yeri’s comment about Kim Jong Un
In an interview after the performance in Pyongyang at the East Pyongyang Grand Theatre, Yeri mentioned that it was an honor to meet Kim Jong Un, angering netizens. She had said, “I didn’t know we would be shaking hands, but it was truly an honor. But we believe it was an even greater honor to have been able to meet so many people from North Korea and we hope that there will be more opportunities like this in the future.”
Yeri’s comment quickly went viral with many netizens criticizing her for calling it an honor to meet a person who has “enslaved” millions of North Korean citizens. Many others, however, came to her defense and indicated that the comment was made in order to be polite and that the general context simply expresses that the Pyongyang event was a good experience. Moreover, at her young age, this type of misunderstanding should be forgiven as a good lesson to be learned.
5. Irene’s feminism controversy
Some fans have claimed that Irene was “feminist” simply because she read a feminist novel. Irene revealed that she had recently read the book in an interview celebrating the group’s reality show Level Up! Project 2. The novel called “Kim Ji Young, Born 1982” describes the life of a modern woman in the Korean society.
Some male fans had gone to extreme measures such as cutting up and burning photos of Irene to show their disapproval. Many have pointed out that it was unfair for Irene to receive so much criticism as other idols such as BTS’ RM and Girls’ Generation’s Sooyoung had also read the book and even praised it. Moreover, the book is a bestseller that has sold over 100,000 copies. Most were even confused as to why the situation was a controversy at all.
6. Red Velvet’s comment about Kim Jong Un
Red Velvet sparked controversy once again when they apparently described Kim Jong Un as “warm”. The group was invited to the Blue House by South Korean President Moon Jae In for a luncheon with the other members of the South Korean artist group. During a quick interview, they described that Kim Jong Un was very warm towards them. They said, “The North Korean audience was unfamiliar with our music but still clapped for us. We knew that Kim Jong Un came to the performance but we didn’t know we would be meeting him afterward. He was very warm to us.”
Korean netizens were yet again furious that they referred to Kim Jong Un as warm claiming that it was disrespectful. In a similar aspect as the “honor” controversy, it seems as though Red Velvet was simply being polite but the sensitivity of the topic has made the issue much bigger than it should have been.
7. Wendy’s “black girl” impressions
As Red Velvet’s resident English speaker, Wendy often gets asked about her experiences living in North America. In fact, there is a running joke that Seulgi is obsessed with visiting Wendy’s family home in Canada. Unfortunately, however, not all of Wendy’s conversations about life in North America have been seen as so wholesome.
On an episode of the Korean talkshow TALKMON, Wendy was asked about different dialects in North America and she responded by doing an impression of how she thought popular white women talked vs how popular black women talked.
Her impression of the stereotypical “sassy black woman” was met with volumes of disappointment from international fans who felt that it was racist and harmful, particularly in a country with limited exposure to black people and cultures.
Many were especially disappointed as this was not the first time Wendy had done an impression of that played into the negative stereotypes surrounding black people and it seemed that she hadn’t learned her lesson the first time. In 2014, Wendy appeared on a radio show where she said, “What up? You wanna go, man? You wanna go?!” along with stereotypical gestures.
In neither case was the incident acknowledged by either Wendy or her company, but some fans hold out hope for an apology and hope she will learn from these mistakes.