Everyone might have assumed that FIFTY FIFTY would only achieve new heights ever since the group went global—with their hit “Cupid” and getting included in the original soundtrack of the hit movie “Barbie.” That is, before word of the lawsuits from all sides broke and now the future of the group is uncertain and might be over. But what specifically occurred to cause events to go in this direction? 

Before anything else, let us present the cast of characters of this rather messy drama that, unfortunately, is still ongoing and doesn’t look like will be ending anytime soon.

Also read: FIFTY FIFTY’s Song for Barbie Soundtrack Absent From Film

  • FIFTY FIFTY: A K-pop girl group that debuted in November 2022, composed of four members– Sio (main dancer), Saena (leader), Aran (vocalist), and Keena (rapper). 
  • Jeon Hongjoon: CEO of Attrakt, FIFTY FIFTY‘s entertainment agency
  • Ahn Sangil (Siahn) – Music producer who claims to have had the biggest role in the group’s success, also CEO of his own music production company The Givers

Now, to present the drama-filled story of FIFTY FIFTY which seems to rival American soap operas and K-dramas, let’s make a timeline, shall we? 

Timestamp What Happened?
2019 Attrakt CEO Jeon Hongjoon met with the CEO of US-based performance production company KAMP in Singapore to collaborate on the production of a global K-pop girl group. Attrakt was supposed to be in charge of the group’s formation while KAMP was in charge of the overseas marketing. Record producer Ahn Sung-il (Siahn) joined the conversation. In December, Jeon initially recruited 12 trainees, eventually reduced to four through monthly evaluations.
January 2021 KAMP left the project due to differing views over the global strategy. 
May 2021 Siahn and two other KAMP employees involved in the project resigned and created their own company, The Givers, while still working with Attrakt. Jeon was in charge of raising money, Ahn chose the music direction and trained the members in music theory, singing, dancing, rapping, acting and English. CEO Jeon claims that Attarakt spent more than ₩20–30 million monthly on the group, and more than a billion was invested in the production of four music videos. CEO Jeon also reiterated on interviews that he did everything to have the group’s eventual debut released, including selling his car, opting for inexpensive meals and even operating tea stalls to generate funds. 

On his LinkedIn profile (which has since been taken down), Siahn also identified himself as the CEO of Attarakt while also serving as the company’s chief music producer while still being the CEO of his then newly-established The Givers. By this time, we could accurately name the people involved in Attarakt, and therefore, FIFTY FIFTY as CEO Jeon, another CEO Choi Seungho, and CEO/Chief Producer/TheGivers CEO Siahn. Siahn may have more current experience, but in the past, CEO Jeon also worked with big names in the Korean music industry such as 1990s entertainment staple Jo Kwanwoo, rapper Yoon Mirae, and hip-hop artist Bobby Kim. 

But then, Siahn played a bigger role in the production of FIFTY FIFTY‘s music, as well as making sure that the chosen members improve their communication skills in English so that they are ready anytime to venture into the highly competitive, not to mention very finicky and picky international music market. 

As for the members, the Korean public was only familiar with Saena, who was a contestant on KBS’ dancing competition show Dancing High. 

November 14, 2022 After two years of training, Attrakt announced that FIFTY FIFTY would be debuting later in the next few days by releasing the group’s official logo image posted across all the group’s social media accounts. The same day, a pre-released music video for the song “Lovin Me” was released on their official YouTube channel.
November 15, 2022 The members were made public through the concept art for their first album, which included the members’ first-ever official images as well as their names and album release date. The same day, a performance video for “Log In” was also made available.
November 18, 2002 FIFTY FIFTY released their debut EP The Fifty, with “Higher” serving as the lead single. 
November 22, 2002 With their music broadcast debut on SBS M’s The Show, promotions for the extended play’s release got underway. 
December 2, 2022 FIFTY FIFTY‘s ended their promotional activities for their first EP on KBS2’s Music Bank.

Even though it did not initially appear on the Circle Album Chart on its debut weeks, The Fifty appeared at number forty-four on the Circle Chart issue dated December 18–24, 2022, with 2,597 album sales. While largely ignored by the public, the album was positively received by music journalists and critics. It got a rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars from the Korean critic publication IZM, the best score the publication has ever given to a girl group. FIFTY FIFTY, according to the music writer Son Seunggeun, “is a good example of what happens when great songs and good singers meet. Thanks to them, Korea has one more good girl group.”

Even internationally, the debut was well-received.  The quartet “displays various colors and a vocal maturity that is both hard to find and crucial to have,” according to The Recording Academy, who also named FIFTY FIFTY one of the “Best K-pop Debuts of the Year” and included “Tell Me” and “Loving’ Me” on lists of the “Best K-pop Songs of 2022” compiled by Paper and Mashable, respectively.


February 24, 2023 FIFTY FIFTY’s sophomore efforts saw the light of day. The Beginning: Cupid, the group’s debut single album, and the “Cupid” music video were both released. Keena contributed some of the Korean lyrics to the song, which was recorded in both Korean and English. Soon after, a sped-up fan-made version of the English version gained popularity on TikTok. As of press time, TikTok videos with the hashtag #cupidfiftyfifty (song covers, dance choreo videos, and any video that uses the song as its background track) have accumulated a total of more than 563 million videos.
March 27, 2023 “Cupid” went on to become the highest charting hit by a South Korean girl group in the history of the Billboard Pop Airplay chart and only the second South Korean music act to land on the Adult Pop Airplay after BTS. The song went on to make them the sixth group and the fastest K-pop group in history to enter the Billboard Hot 100. A four-month-old group entering the Billboard Hot 100, how major was that?
May 6, 2023 Music streaming platform Spotify announces that with only six songs, FIFTY FIFTY surpassed the 30 million monthly listeners mark.
May 16, 2023 “Cupid” has maintained a perfect streak of rising to a new peak with each passing week. In its eighth consecutive week on the Hot 100, the song climbed to No. 17, marking its highest ranking yet on the chart. Since then, “Cupid” has surpassed Blackpink X Selena Gomez‘s “Ice Cream” for the longest-charting K-pop girl group song in Hot 100 history, as Cupid, as of press time, is still on the chart at number 24 on its eighteenth week. 
May 25, 2023 The musicians who would be a part of the soundtrack for the live action movie Barbie were disclosed, including FIFTY FIFTY and Kaliii. FIFTY FIFTY‘s agency Attrakt confirmed the same day that the group’s song on the soundtrack would be titled “Barbie Dreams” and include Kaliii. 
June 2023 All FIFTY FIFTY group activities and promotions for Cupid were put on pause. Attrakt issued delayed statements, saying that one of the members (Aran) had to undergo surgery for a medical condition, causing the group to momentarily halt promotions. 
June 19, 2023 The members of the group FIFTY FIFTY filed for an injunction to suspend their exclusive contracts with Attrakt, citing broken contractual obligations, a lack of transparency in financial settlements, and instances of medical malpractice during the group’s promotions. The group alleges that the agency Attrakt had no right to disclose Aran’s condition to the public and point to it as a cause of the group’s momentarily hiatus. They also filed for trademarks for the name of the group and their stage names.
June 23 and 25 2023 CEO Jeon of Attrakt released statements stating external companies have been trying to poach the FIFTY FIFTY members from them. He adds that he will be pursuing legal action against these parties in the next few days.   
June 26, 2023 CEO Jeon’s sued Warner Music Korea for unfair practice, mainly for trying to poach or pirate the members of his company. Days later, it was revealed that Attrakt has also sued Siahn for encouraging the members to violate their contracts to sign with another agency. Both parties denied the claim while Attrakt further filed criminal charges against Ahn and three other individuals for fraud, breach of duty, and obstruction of business.
July 3, 2023 Further evidence has come out, largely thanks to news outlets like Dispatch, of course. 

  • The song CUPID was bought (all rights) by The GIVERS from its Swedish composers for USD 9,000. Considering how massive the song is currently, 9,000 dollars is a steal. 
  • The group FIFTY FIFTY was being sold to Warner Music Korea to the tune of at least USD 15 million. The company, for confidentiality purposes, could not disclose the other party in this transaction, while Attrakt CEO Jeon has denied any knowledge in this. Although he did say that no other person has the capacity to do that except Siahn.
  • Receipts of conversations between CEO Jeon and the girls revealed that the girls caused the cancellation of the Barbie MV creation. After Aran’s surgery in May, the members asked for a break and asked they return to their homes. CEO Jeon originally planned to make the girls spend a week in their Gangnam apartment first so they can all be provided with the best medical monitoring in one place before allowing them to return to their respective homes for a week.

However, the girls already left their dorm and demanded their contract with Attrakt to be suspended on June 19. This further proves that the lack of FIFTY FIFTY activity despite their phenomenal popularity was not because Attrakt was paralyzed with indecision on how to manage the girls’ success or because the company was overworking the girls. It was the girls who wanted to spend their break with their families and eventually, leave the company. How can Attrakt force them to do the Barbie MV when they have already asked for their contract with the company to be suspended?

  • Netizens were quick to point out that the girls have been billeted in luxury accommodations and were given outfits from high-end fashion brands from the start, not only when Cupid became a viral hit. As early as their debut, the four members have stayed in a 3-bedroom, 2-bathroom unit in the luxurious Gangnam district (compare this to the 2-bedroom apartment the five members of NewJeans have to share) costing USD2,500 a month. 

Moreover, FIFTY FIFTY members have also been seen wearing Miuiu tops, JW Anderson jeans, and other branded outfits averaging a million won per piece. Those clothes don’t even get worn by idols in big companies, so it’s head-scratching how these girls who have had one flop and one hit could afford these expensive outfits. 

July 5, 2023 It was discovered that the parents of the FIFTY FIFTY members had filed for the trademark of “FIFTY FIFTY” in Hangul on June 19, 2023, right when the lawsuit between girl group FIFTY FIFTY and their agency Attrakt broke out. They had also filed to trademark the stage names of each member. Attrakt has stated that they already registered the trademark previously on May 15, 2023, as part of a business dealing with artists and performances. They followed up with another application on June 15, to cover other uses and applications of the trademark. The parents, however, claim that since “hangul and English titles are treated the same, the authority goes to them, for they have already registered it.”
July 6, 2023 Barbie Dreams was released, but without any accompanying MV as fans expected. 

July 18, 2023 The Korea Music Copyright Association (KOMCA) has decided to withhold all royalties for the popular song “Cupid” until all legal issues pertaining to copyright ownership have been resolved.
July 24, 2023 Allegations regarding Siahn’s academic background and career were raised. Investigations have shown that while portal sites indicate that Ahn graduated from Chung-Ang University’s Department of Business Administration, he is not listed as an alumnus of the university. Additionally, there are discrepancies between the details of Ahn’s career as mentioned on portal sites, and the actual working period.
July 25, 2023 On July 25 KST, The Givers said in an official press release, “We have confirmed the wrong parts regarding CEO Ahn Sung Il’s academic background and career, and we apologize for the confusion in this regard.” They added, “We apologize for not being able to deliver accurate information, and we will take corrective action.”

On the same day, FIFTY FIFTY’s trademark licenses in four of the top music markets are  now owned by Attrakt. Munhwa Ilbo announced that Attrakt had successfully applied for and secured trademarks for the group name of FIFTY FIFTY in the four main K-Pop markets: the United States, the United Kingdom, Japan, and China.

Given the revealed information, the shifts in public opinion, and the usual routes these “agency versus idol court cases” go, all parties, in this case, have lost, but the biggest losers would be the four members of FIFTY FIFTY: Aran, Sio, Saena, and Keena.

These cases drag on for years and as revealed to have backstabbed Attrakt, no entertainment company in their right business senses would dare accommodate them. Even Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin had the sense to return to SM Entertainment, who is currently the Korean entertainment company with the most compromised reputation. However, they were back in the public’s favor when it was revealed that CBX might have been influenced to leave the company by external forces that were trying to poach them.  

More on the FIFTY FIFTY vs ATTRAKT controversy: FIFTY FIFTY’s Lawsuit May End with a Settlement Between Members and ATTRAKT CEO

Sources: Forbes, Naver TV, KoreaJoongAngDaily