Fantagio? What is all the fuss about?
Fantagio is a Korean talent and film company, but also a Korean drama production house. At first, the company was founded as NOA (Network of Asia) Entertainment, in September 2008, before the name was changed to Fantagio, in June 2011.
To this day, Fantagio has already made many subsidiaries. Starting from Madin Entertainment that runs on acting management and has given birth to many talented actresses and actors. Then, Fantagio Pictures, which runs on film and television drama production, Fantagio Music, which is a record label and runs on music production, and the last one is Solid C&M, which runs on franchise restaurants, education, distribution, and other businesses.
Let’s Find Out More About Fantagio Entertainment
Fantagio Entertainment was founded on September 16th, 2008, by Na Byeong-jun as the CEO before Wei Jie replaced him in early 2018. In the beginning, this company was named NOA (Network of Asia) Entertainment but was then changed into Fantagio, in June 2011.
In January 2011, Fantagio set up its acting management division named Madin Entertainment. Up until 2015, Fantagio had managed over 50 actresses and actors. Some of their actresses and actors are Ha Jeong-woo, Chu Ye-jin, Gong Myung, Kang Han-na, Seo Kang-joon, Lee Tae-hwan, and Lee So-yeon.
Later, in November 2011, together with other subsidiaries, Fantagio Music and Solid C&M, Fantagio Entertainment set up its film and television dramas production division named Fantagio Pictures. Some of the films that the brach has produced are Cunning Single Lady (2014) starring Seo Kang-joon, Liar Game (2014), Fasten Your Seatbelt (2013), The Crucible (2011) starring former Fantagio actor, Gong Yoo, and To Be Continued (2015) starring ASTRO.
Fantagio Music, on the other hand, is a record label and music production division in Fantagio Entertainment. In May 2012, Fantagio debuted its first girl group, Hello Venus, as part of Tricell Media, a joint venture along with Pledis Entertainment. However, since 2014 Hello Venus continued their career under Fantagio Music right after the joint venture was disbanded.
Then, in September 2013, Fantagio Music debuted 5urprise, as its first actor group, even in South Korea. 5urprise members are actors from the acting division, Madin Entertainment, and the group consists of five actors, namely Seo Kang-joon, Yoo Il, Lee Tae-hwan, Kang Tae-oh, and Gong Myung.
Fantagio Music also launched ASTRO, on February 23rd, 2016, after they starred in the drama, To Be Continued. This boy group that consists of MJ, Jinjin, Eunwoo, Moonbin, Rocky, and Yoon Sanha, made their debut with the single “Hide & Seek” from their debut mini-album Spring Up, which successfully reached the 6th rank on Billboard World Albums Chart in the United States.
In 2017, Fantagio Music formed an eight-member girl group named Weki Meki (then i-Teen Girls) comprising members Ji Soo-yeon, Elly, Sei, Rina, Lua, Lucy, and the former members of I.O.I, Cho Yoo-jung, and Kim Do-yeon. They made their debut on August 8th, 2017, with their extended play titled Weme.
The last subsidiary of Fantagio is Solid C&M that runs on restaurant franchises, education, distribution, and other ventures division. One of the restaurants is the Cafe Fantagio that was launched in September 2012 in Gangnam-gu.
Where Can I Find Fantagio Entertainment in Korea?
If you wonder about the correct location of Fantagio Entertainment, the address of the company is 248 Yeoksam-ro, Gangnam-gu, Seoul, 06226 Korea. It’s a building where Fantagio holds the auditions for everyone who wants to be a K-poop star and where its trainees are practicing before their debut.
Oops! Fantagio Entertainment Seems to be Having Troubles
Starting in the middle of 2017 and until 2018, Fantagio Entertainment was the center of attention in the South Korean entertainment industry. There was a lot of chaos that was going on inside the company and it endangered its artists’ activities.
It all began with the intervention of the largest shareholder in the company, to the dismissal of the CEO that led to the obscurity of the artists’ fate in the company. There were so many fans and netizens who felt sad about the internal conflict that occurred in the company.
What Kind of an Internal Conflict Occurred?
About the chaos in Fantagio Entertainment was heard for the first time on December 2nd, 2017. At that time, JC Group, the largest investor of Fantagio, which was from China, decided to fire the CEO and founder of Fantagio Entertainment, Na Byung-joon, and it was confirmed in the meeting of shareholders that was held on December 28th, 2017. It was known that the dismissal occurred because of the budget deficit. Then, JC Group unilaterally announced that a Chinese CEO named Wei Jie would be taking his position.
It was known that Fantagio Music, which was a subsidiary of Fantagio that hold 95 percent shares, was in a disrupted capital status with assets of $1,5 million USD at the end of 2017. Then, the company’s debt was almost $8 million USD. While the net assets owned by the company was $6,5 million USD.
On January 2nd, 2018, the Korean Management of Fantagio immediately made an emergency response team and tried to stabilize the company’s condition. It was all done not only because Na Byung-joon was fired, but because of the unilateral dismissal of other employees as well.
The team said that the intervention of JC Group was ‘an abnormal intervention’ and they asked JC Group to return Na Byung-joon to his position. If the request wasn’t fulfilled, they wouldn’t hesitate to make a mass strike. It certainly raised concerns about the activities of their artists. Moreover, it was known that JC Group withdrew credit cards that had been given to the artist to support their activities.
In the middle of 2018, the internal conflict also became a hot conversation in the Korea Entertainment Management Association (KEMA), until it reached the final decision. It was said that KEMA had asked for verification three times from the company’s ability to operate as an entertainment agency legally. It was because, after the dismissal of their CEO, Fantagio didn’t have a CEO who was considered worthy enough to meet the standards of ‘Act on the Development of the Public Culture and Arts Industry’ by The Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism in South Korea.
After that, Fantagio responded that they couldn’t fulfill the conditions requested by KEMA. Then, KEMA stated that as of May 23rd, 2018, Fantagio had broken the rules of the Korean entertainment agency and has been removed from the membership list. But, If Fantagio took steps to meet the required criteria from KEMA and could provide proof of change, KEMA would officially review the eligibility of Fantagio to become an associate member again.
Firing the CEOs
After Na Byung-joon was fired in December 2017, he set up a new entertainment agency named STARDIUM, in March 2018. He also brought with him Fantagio’s ex-employees who previously said they would carry out a mass strike, but eventually chose to join him after he submitted the resignation letter.
Na Byung-joon said that STARDIUM would be a new beginning for him and that he started the company with people who could be trusted and had worked with him for a long time.
Then, in May 2018, the entertainment world was shocked again by the news that Wei Jie from JC Group got rid of another CEO of Fantagio. He decided to fire Woo Young-seung, CEO of Fantagio Music, on May 11th, 2018.
A representative of Fantagio Entertainment said that Fantagio Music’s financial structure needed to be improved and a replacement of the CEO was required to invest in their artists in a fast and appropriate way.
After being fired, Woo Young-seung took the same steps as Na Byung-joon, he gave an official resignation letter. However, he said that he would see the progress of the problem carefully. “I don’t feel happy leaving the artists who have worked with me from the start,” he said. He also added, “I know that assets are not everything, but I’m looking forward to the future carefully.”
The dismissals of the two CEOs made Wei Jie be the sole CEO of Fantagio. But, in order to run a pop culture and art business in Korea, the person who is the representative or the executive must have at least 4 years experience in the business. Therefore, fans became highly concerned about how Wei Jie and his new management staff would be handling the artists’ future activities.
But eventually, Fantagio Entertainment announced that they would choose a new executive director after holding a meeting with the shareholders. Around the end of May 2018, Fantagio Entertainment made an official statement that revealed Park Hae-sun as the next potential executive director.
Park Hae-sun is a veteran in the entertainment business with more than 30 years of experience. He joined KBS in 1993 and was first a director of entertainment at Box Media Entertainment before becoming a CEO in 2009. He has also directed popular TV programs, such as Yoon Do Hyun’s Love Letter, 2 Days 1 Night, and Happy Together. In 1993 and 1994, he won the Korean Broadcasting Award and the Baeksang Arts Award.
Later, on June 18th, 2018, at the meeting that was held in the agency they agreed to appoint Park Hae-sun as the new executive director of Fantagio Entertainment. The news immediately affected the value of company shares. The market seemed to be positive about this decision, even though Park Hae-sun had a criminal background in the past.
As we have known from before, in 2009, Park Hae-sun was incriminated and sentenced to prison for taking bribe from entertainment companies. At that time, Seoul’s Central District Court sentenced him with ten months in jail and 75 million won fine.
After the CEOs were Fired, the Status of ASTRO and Weki Meki was Being Questioned
Because of the dismissal of the CEOs, Fantagio was considered as an agency that stood illegally because there was no CEO who had the ‘Public Culture of Art Label’ certificate. The aftermath of the problem was that the exclusive contract of the artists was considered invalid without any responsibility. Therefore, the artists’ futures, such as ASTRO, Weki Meki, and Hello Venus became unclear.
Unlike actors and actresses, who appear in dramas and films produced by the production company and broadcasting station, singers only rely on their agencies in music production.
On January 4th, 2018, there was a rumor that said Weki Meki had to cancel their comeback agenda. Whereas, they were previously scheduled to release a new song in January. Then, the representative of Fantagio confirmed that the company was in a bad mood and at the moment, there was nothing to say about Weki Meki’s comeback plans.
It was not only Weki Meki’s comeback that was canceled, but ASTRO also had to postpone their comeback in June 2018 because of the management chaos in the company.
But finally, in July 2018, the management chaos in the company was eventually overcome and the fate of ASTRO and Weki Meki became clear.
Reported by Soompi, ASTRO would have their comeback at the end of July 2018, while Cha Eun-woo was still in the process of filming his most recent drama. Then, Weki Meki also will have their comeback, but they are still preparing.