In February, when a netizen claiming to be former APRIL member Lee Hyunjoo‘s younger brother shared a post online about the alleged team bullying that took place, DSP Media immediately denied the points made in the post and claimed they have been nothing but supportive for the former member. As the younger brother continued to speak and fight for Lee Hyunjoo on her behalf, the agency eventually announced that it will take legal action against the former member for “spreading false information.”

Then, on April 18 KST, Lee Hyunjoo has uploaded a lengthy post on her personal Instagram, detailing what actually happened — for the first time since the allegation broke.

Hello, this is Lee Hyunjoo. Since everything that has happened regardless of my intentions, I did feel frightened to speak up for myself. I still am terrified. Based on groundless statements that are not true, my agency has sued my younger brother, who is still a student, along with my friends. The bullies’ parents have sent hateful text messages to me and my parents. So, to be honest, I hesitated a lot because I was scared that I would end up dealing with even more difficulties if I decided to add my voice to the situation and tried to clarify.

I’m finally sharing this, however, because of everyone who have shown me support throughout the whole thing. I decided I need to show courage and face this head on, because other people have shown the courage to help me.

The bullying began in 2014 when I was preparing for the team debut. It continued throughout until 2016 when I withdrew from the team. I was 17 years old at the time, living in the team dorm to finalize the debut. I had no one to rely on, while living and spending 24 hours a day with my bullies.

When I couldn’t take it any more, I told my parents about the hardships I’d been facing. They tried talking to my agency’s CEO about the situation. But I ended up getting frowned upon for causing trouble. When my bullies found out that [my parents tried to intervene], the bullying grew worse. Eventually, I was only allowed to talk to my parents on the phone for brief moments in front of the managers. Things became unbelievably hard for me and I continued to feel really helpless.

What has been revealed online is only a small portion of what actually happened to me. For three years, I endured physical abuse, verbal abuse, mocking, harassing, and hate from the members. When they began verbally attacking and harassing my beloved grandmother, parents, and my brother, I felt so much pain. The agency knew about this but they did not take any action to stop it. They neglected me.

I felt like I was trapped in what is unending darkness. I tried to take my own life too. But my bullies did not seem sorry at all. They didn’t really care about any of this. Soon, I was asked to withdraw from the team and the agency forced me to recite a statement written entirely from their point of view. I was left to deal with the malicious comments about the withdrawal and the rumors suggesting that I was the one who betrayed the team.

I tried to stay happy, healthy, and hard-working because I felt like it is my fault to have put my family through the hate. But it wasn’t easy to get over the hurtful memories from the past. They lingered in my heart and eventually traumatized me. I felt like I would give in to the trauma. I spent a long time suffering and being a burden to the people around me.

That’s when my family and friends stepped up for me. That’s how we’ve gotten this far. And now, to help my brother and my friends, I too want to step up.

Going through this, I realized that I still have so many people by my side and I’m grateful. They continue to check in with me daily, asking me about how I’m doing. And that has given me the strength to go on. I also realized that there are many people out there who went through what I went through and who are still suffering over it.

Memories of getting bullied and outcast become traumatizing. While I understand that as humans, we can’t all get along and we can choose to hate, I do not believe bullying and violence can ever be justified. I believe bullying and harassing of anyone anywhere must come to a stop.

Seven years have passed, and I’m still traumatized by the memories of my past, but I won’t let them weigh me down. Even though sometimes it feels impossible to overcome, I don’t think I should give up and live in sadness. So I want to show everyone, especially those who share experiences similar to mine, that we too can grow from it and find happiness again. And I want to show the people who have remained nothing but supportive of me how I triumph over this situation. Thank you for rooting for me and sending me so much strength. It really helped making me feel brave again.

— Lee Hyunjoo

Lee Hyunjoo also shared that DSP Media has not yet terminated the contract with her, but won’t allow her to work on anything. She assured everyone that she will face the lawsuit with help and to keep fighting for herself until the matter is resolved.

The agency has currently halted all activities for me. They are turning down any work opportunities that get sent my way without consulting me first. But they insist they cannot terminate my contract either. I’m not going to let them keep doing this to me, for my sake and my family and friend’s sake. I will respond to the legal action they have taken against me with the help of the people who are keeping by my side.

I know it won’t be an easy ride, but I want to bring this to an end once and for all. I want to rise from this and show you a healthier, brighter, and newer side of me. I promise to work hard and prove to you that I can overcome. I hope we can all have a good, pleasant rest of April. Thank you.

— Lee Hyunjoo

DSP Media has not yet responded to this personal statement coming from Lee Hyunjoo, especially about the claim that they are turning down her work opportunities as an agency.