If you want a comprehensive account of the accusations against ex-Le Sserafim member Kim Garam, responses by Source Music or even just a general overview of how this scandal transpired, there are plenty of sources to turn to. This is not that.
For the purposes of this op-ed, two things are important:
1. Shortly before Le Sserafim debuted on May 2, their debut was shrouded in scandal stemming from accusations that member Kim Garam was a violent school bully.
2. On July 20, Le Sserafim’s company Source Music officially announced the company had terminated its exclusive contract with Kim Garam and her former group would go on to promote as a five-member group.
To be completely transparent: I was, and still am, in ardent support of removing Garam from the Le Sserafim lineup. Not only is it the best decision for the future of the group, as bullying scandals are taken incredibly seriously in South Korea and would likely have had a lasting detrimental effect on the group, but for the girls themselves. Not only did the remaining members of Le Sserafim seem more relaxed than ever during a V Live to celebrate the end of Fearless promotions, but the choreography for that track works much better for a five-member lineup. When there were six, members were covered up, quite often by Garam herself. Now, everyone gets their moment to shine.
But, I want to be crystal clear: when I say “the girls themselves,” that includes Garam.
At the end of the day, the general public will never know the unpolished truth of the accusations leveled against her. It’s possible she was this relentless bully who was quick to anger and caused a lot of suffering during her time at school. It’s also possible that she was the victim of a smear campaign to sabotage her debut.
In either case, there is one factor which must be kept in consideration: Kim Garam was, and still is, a child.
At sixteen years old, she is hormonal, immature and thus incredibly prone to rash decisions that can hurt herself or others. But, as children tend to do, she will grow up. As she does, she will learn better, which she has explicitly stated is her intention in an Instagram post shared by her friend. Even if she had stayed silent on the topic for the rest of her life, I’ve never supported the idea of eternal punishment for one’s mistakes, especially those made in adolescence. In a few years time, if a career as an idol is one she still wants to pursue and she learns from her experiences, I don’t see any reason why she shouldn’t re-debut.
It’s good that Kim Garam is no longer in Le Sserafim – but don’t count her out just yet.