The head of JYP Entertainment Jung Wook on Wednesday confirmed allegations by its former employee that their client the Wonder Girls had not been covered by health insurance since January and their $2,500 citation from the NYC Department of Buildings is in default status.
|Wonder Girls with new member Hye-lim (JYP Entertainment)|
He also revealed the group had been on student visas when they first arrived in the U.S. last April .
He said the group had been registered at an undisclosed language institute as students but applied and received O-1 visas upon learning of the possible legal repercussions.
United States law states that F-1 visa holders are allowed to work part-time -- under 20 hours a week -- while still enrolled in an academic institution.
An O-1 visa is a type of employment visa under U.S. immigration law that applies to people who are deemed to have extraordinary ability in the sciences, arts, education, business, or athletics.
“We knew it was illegal before we switched the girls to an O-1 visa,” Jung said in a telephone interview with The Korea Herald.
“However, the girls didn’t start getting to work as soon as they entered the United States, so we didn’t anticipate there would be problems regarding that matter,” he said. “So at first, our girls entered with a student visa while they were registered at the language institute.”
Although Jung did not state the exact day and month the group had been given the visas, he said the switch came “immediately.”
Jung was asked about the name and location of the institute for confirmation purposes but maintained he did not know specific information on the whereabouts of the academy the group were allegedly attending in order to stay legally in the United States.
“But that’s a minor issue -- an issue our stateside branch handles that I have no knowledge of,” Jung said.
On the matter of the group’s health insurance, Jung said they had been covered until January, when the group was still registered with the language institute.
“You do realize over 50 million Americans don’t carry health insurance and most Korean nationals there don’t as well, right?” he asked. “With that said, up until January they did have health insurance.”
“That was possible because they were legally allowed to apply for health insurance as students, but because the girls had been flying back and forth from Korea to the U.S., they stopped attending classes which took them out of coverage once they left the school.”
So if the group had maintained legal status as O-1 holders, why would they be required to attend the language institute until January?
“They needed to continue their linguistic studies,” Jung explains.
“Dan was hired to further teach them along with another tutor named Claire.” He was referring to Daniel Gauss, the band’s former English tutor who spoke about JYPE’s alleged mistreatment of the girls to The Korea Herald.
Jung said JYPE was under no obligation to provide the members of the group with health insurance because the company ”did not maintain an employer and employee relationship.“
He refuted claims of medical neglect saying “there was never a time when they weren’t given medical attention if they needed it.
“If you’re a top class star like the Wonder Girls, your health is our first priority.”
Jung was also asked about the $2,500 fine handed down to the company’s Manhattan office.
“The title holder of the property prior to its acquisition by JYPE had remodeled the entire structure to be suitable for office use,” he said.
“We then made the appropriate renovations that would allow the girls to live there.”
According to the citation administered by the New York City Department of Buildings, it has placed the unresolved case into default status after representatives of JYPE failed to make a court appearance on April 29, 2010.
“We didn’t show up to our court hearing because the contractors who had originally commissioned the construction of it had said they would appear on behalf of us after we filed a complaint to them,” Jung explained.
The JYPE president bluntly responded to allegations from the group’s tutor, Daniel Gauss.
“I don’t understand why the entire country has to hear about what this guy has to say. He is just a disgruntled ex-employee who quit because he thought we weren’t treating him well.”
Gauss refuted local reports that said that he had been sacked after he demanded a pay raise to JYPE.
“I was never fired, I quit because they treated me like garbage,” Gauss told The Korea Herald.
“I was being paid $20 an hour to teach the group.”
Gauss said he saved most of the e-mail correspondence between himself and JYPE to prove his claims.
“The day before I was supposed to go back to JYPE on May 3, I had a conversation with one of my other private students who told me JYPE probably wasn’t paying me enough money,” he said.
“At that point I just decided to quit because I didn’t want to go back and negotiate. At that point, I was already set on leaving the job. But I was hesitant because the girls were so nice and I was convinced the girls were not being treated well.”
After Gauss quit his position as the band’s tutor, he decided to look into a “hunch” he had about the “strange” look of the Manhattan JYPE office.
“I thought the building looked strange because they had an office in the basement and they had people living on the second and third floors,” he said
“Of course I was surprised when I found out that they had been busted by the city. So I made inquiries and I spoke to somebody from the NYC Department of Buildings and that person confirmed JYPE’s violation.”
Gauss’ allegations against JYPE included charges of illegal housing, lack of health insurance coverage, and the coercion of one of its members to perform a private concert for corporate executives in China.
Meanwhile, group members Sun-ye and Ye-eun addressed Gauss’ allegations yesterday through their online fan club and micro-blogging site, Twitter.
Sun-ye wrote on the official Wonder Girls fan club site, “There is no truth to what our former English tutor has said. The fact his allegations involved my private life was embarassing. A few months ago, my father’s pre-existing ailment had gotten worse and was sent to the hospital. I flew back immediately upon hearing that news.”
|A screen capture shows Ye-eun, a member of Wonder Girls, wiping her tears while talking about her stint in the U.S. on a MBC TV talk show in November 2009.|
Ye-eun wrote on her Twitter account, “One day while in the recording studio I showed some flu symptoms and our management provided me with a box of vitamins to take on a daily basis. Another time, I was given five jars of organic honey and told me to have honey water every morning. These are the so-called ‘mistreatment’ we’ve been receiving from our management.”
By Song Woong-ki (email@example.com)
[단독] 원더걸스 건강보험 없이 美 활동 공식 확인
JYP 엔터테인먼트 정 욱 대표는 12일 코리아헤럴드와의 인터뷰를 통해 원더걸스가 1월부터 건강보험에 가입이 되어있지 않았으며 뉴욕사무소에 대해 부과된 2,500 달러 벌금도 아직 납부하지 않은 상태라고 밝혔다.
이는 11일 코리아헤럴드가 단독 보도한 내용의 핵심 부분을 인정하는 것으로 정 대표는 또한 원더걸스가 2009년 4월 미국에 처음 도착했을 때 학생비자를 가지고 왔다고 말해 주목된다.
원더걸스의 전 영어과외 선생 Daniel Gauss는 JYP 측으로부터 해고되었다는 국내언론 보도를 정면으로 반박하며 “해고 당한 것이 아니라 스스로 그만 둔 것” 이라고 잘라 말했다. Gauss는 “그들은 (JYP) 나를 쓰레기처럼 대해 왔다”고 말해 파문이 예상된다.