▲ A public hearing on KU Cheerleaders Scandal being held. Photographed by Choi Ye Ho
On June 5, a public hearing for the management of Ipselenti—Jiya Hamsung was held at Woo dang Hall. Korea University Cheerleaders (KUC) have been suspected of embezzlement and back-scratching alliance with Haevici Culture & Contents (Haevici), the agency in charge of the event preparation. Various KU press and students attended the hearing to demand an explanation, but the hearing ended without yielding definite results. Attendees had to make a vow of confidentiality for legal reasons; therefore, disclosure of information on accounting was restricted.
The 42nd Ipselenti had fueled a fierce debate among KU students even before it began. Its increased price and limited sales of tickets stirred the students. After the festival, students’ anger intensified due to the unsuccessful event administration and disappointing lineup. On May 29, KUC revealed its quotations, bank statements and settlement of accounts for this year’s Ipselenti, but this unspecified budget report further raised suspicion about KUC’s embezzlement. As a result, KUC planned a public hearing to clear the air on the matter.
Preparing for Ipselenti—A Bumpy Ride
The hearing was divided into two sections; the first part focused on the overall arrangement of Ipselenti. Every year, KUC have been initially selling tickets for different groups such as departments, independent colleges and the alumni association. However, as the festival date was moved from Friday to Saturday, many groups from outside the campus also signed up to buy tickets. Surprised by the unexpected increase in group ticket sales, KUC hurriedly decreased the number of individual ticket sales. However, such abrupt change triggered criticisms from the student body leading KUC to eventually increase the ticket sales by 1,000. Furthermore, KUC’s original announcement that it will start distributing tickets from 10:00A.M. changed to noon in consideration of students who commute to school and therefore had to come early in the morning for the tickets. However, the change was not well informed, leading to greater confusion.
Recurring Safety Issues—In and out of the Green Field
Failure in safety management was further shown in poorly managed gates. The KU Broadcasting Station (KUBS) pointed out that in the process of exchanging tickets for wristbands, an inspection of personal belongings was done carelessly. KUC replied that they had to simplify the procedure since entering was delayed due to the newly implemented entering procedure using wristbands. Accepting the feedbacks, KUC are thinking of dividing lines into two—a line for those who brought belongings with them and the other for students who did not.
Despite the augmented security, safety control was still largely inadequate. To answer KUBS’s inquiry on the background for increasing the number of guards hired, KUC answered they felt the necessity to do so from one of the student representatives’ injuries in last year’s Ipselenti. They also informed that a total of 26 guards were assigned to maintain order near the gates and the barricade, which is a huge increase compared to three or four in the previous year.
Yet, this allocation was proved inefficient as long-range cameras, food and beverage were carried in without strong restriction. President of KU Student Union (KUSU), Kim Ga-young (’13, Life Sciences) claimed, “Every time we caught people bringing food or drinks into the hall, we promised to upload the photos on the group chat as evidence” and added that countless photos appeared in the group chat. Such facts proved that the inspection done by members of the KUC at the gate was far from sufficient.
Furthermore, communication between the student staffs and KUC was clearly unsuccessful. Kim stated that one of the people with longrange cameras refused to comply with the student staff’s repeated request to exit. Since his physical resistance was difficult for student staffs to restrain, KUSU requested back-up from the professional guard, but did not receive any response. KUC explained that the process of assigning roles to the guards was delayed and had to send the security management team instead. KUC eventually apologized for the inefficient safety control and delayed responses, promising effective safety control in the future.
Barrier-free zone—Lack of Preparation?
Barrier-free zone, which is a protected zone for the disabled, was not well-prepared as well. On May 24, a day before Ipselenti, Lee Sun Young (’17, Biotechnology), the chairperson of the KU Disabled Association (KUDA) visited the stage and the hall only to find out that the barrier-free zone was half the size of that from last year. Last year’s barrier-free zone had 2*6 square meter platform with 2*4 square meter semi-platform and one-meter square range of area was surrounded by fences, which is the standard and mandatory size. However, this year, there was only one 2*6 square meter platform and even that area was barely covered by the fences.
Lee’s request for more fences and a larger area was accepted. At the very day, the barrier-free zone was prepared in the standard size, just like last year. Yet it was still hard to understand why the barrier-free zone was not fully prepared even on the day before Ipselenti, if KUC had all the supplies necessary. KUC responded that due to the changed entrance, additional fences were needed. Thus, the blueprint received from the KUDA was not sufficient for constructing the zone and claimed that they needed actual data such as a photograph. However, KUDA asserts that they cannot understand KUC’s response, as several photos of 2018 Barrier-free zone are readily available on KUDA’s official website, making it hard to accept the lack of data as a real reason for the lack of preparation.
All the previously mentioned violations and problems, including complications during the preparation process, were predictable and recursive. Thereby, students and press repeatedly inquired about a safety manual, which KUC stated to have turned over to KUSU last October. KUC admitted that the manual was weak since its their first version, but the students’ discontent did not seem to be solved as Ipselenti has been held for the 42nd time this year and a clear manual should have already been provided. They ultimately declared that they would submit a clearer, revised safety manual on June 21.
Auditing KU Cheerleaders’ Financial Records
The second session of the public hearing was initiated with the elucidation of the KUC’s suspected embezzlements and back-scratching alliance with Haevici. KUC stated the embezzlement of the Ipselenti profits, any back-margins or rebate are totally untrue, and that they have never used the remaining profits for personal use. Haevici also tried to explain their situation, asserting that all of the suspicions on the rebate system are false, and that they did not receive any illegal, unethical money or service from KUC.
When The Korea University Weekly and The HOANS questioned the Ipselenti budget, KUC stated that their profits and support funds are not entirely fixed, and that financial problems with the agent cost and overall budget occur every year. The problem was that throughout the years, the transfer of duties was done without providing any solution to such financial problems. KUC explained that they needed to deal with multiple financial factors such as the increase of minimum wage without even knowing how much money they will be provided with during the year.
Suspected Tax Evasion
One of the issues that gathered most attention was KUC’s cash withdrawal. On 2018, part of the transactions made between Haevici and KUC was done in cash, unlike 2019 when all payments were made through account transfer. As an explanation for this cash exchange, KUC emphasized that they wanted to maintain or enlarge the scale of the event with the same limited amount of budget every year, adding that Haevici had promised to support the enlargement of the festival in the preferred price if the transaction is made through cash. They admitted that they did not expect any problems to arise from this and explained that they have experienced few conflicts with Haevici and even have worked with another company last semester, strongly asserting that the cash transaction was solely due to Haevici’s suggestion and not for embezzlement.
Cash exchange directly led to questions on doubts regarding Haevici’s tax evasion. According to The Korea University Television System (KUTV), Haevici received money from KUC first on May 17, with two transactions made on May 20. Yet, Haevici paid the taxes for the deposit on May 20 right after they got paid from the KUC, but paid the taxes for the first deposit on May 27, which was ten days after the deposit. When KUTV requested Haevici for an explanation on the delayed payment, Haevici answered that tax returns can be progressed any time before the 10th of next month, regardless of the date the deposit was made. Therefore, the company simply wrote down the deposit list chronologically, and then paid the tax in the written order, from bottom to top. On the other hand, Haevici chose to maintain silent towards questions on whether they reported income from the cash payment, highlighting the fact that this public hearing aims to audit financial records of KUC and not the company.
The focus shifted when KUTV questioned whether KUC are admitting tax evasion if they have slowly increased the proportion of the surtax paid throughout the years; Haevici argued that they persuaded KUC to pay surtax, in which KUC accepted and have thereby slowly increased their payment, paying all of surtax charged for the first time in 2019. KUC admitted that they were not aware of the exact meaning of the surtax and its system. They also mentioned that they are not obligated to pay taxes because they are a club, rather than a registered business operator.
Repetitive Comparisons with Akaraka
Besides the suspicions merely within Ipselenti, comparison with Akaraka was also inevitable in evaluating the legitimacy of the expenditures for the festival. While Akaraka used 33 million won for its system fee, Ipselenti used around 90 million won. As an elucidation for such difference, Haevici and the KUC first compared the Green Field of KU and Outdoor Theater of Yonsei University (YU). While Akaraka only requires a stage that is 1.5 meters high, Ipselenti requires a stage that is 1.8 meters high at the minimum because Ipselenti is held on a field rather than a theater designed to hold concerts and shows. Also, unlike YU that has a fixed truss structure, KU needs a layer system, which is at least three times more expensive. Therefore, in response to one student’s question on such a big difference, Haevici answered a larger scale and usage of complex structures led to a higher price.
One of the main factors that put the two festivals in direct comparison was the relatively weak celebrity lineup of Ipselenti. To answer The HOANS’s inquiry on lineup selection, KUC strongly asserted that the argument that KUC had been overly obsessed with the concept “movie” of 2019 Ipselenti that they failed to provide a satisfactory lineup is not true. They added that the lineup selection was decided prior to the main concept of the festival and they have tried their best to separate the concept and the lineup.
In response to one student’s inquiry on the specific standards on lineup selection, KUC answered that they put genre diversity as their number one priority. They explained that lineup is finalized through many rounds of process of elimination, and disclosed their first version which included Taeyeon, Red Velvet, Winner, Chungha. However, the students did not seem to be persuaded by the high expenditure for 2019 lineup selection, which costed 101million won compared to 88 million won last year. Due to contracts, the individual price of each lineup could not be revealed.
Money for Ipselenti Used for Other Activities of KU Cheerleaders?—Inept Financial Management
Towards the end of the public hearing, Kim Tae Gu (’12, Business Administration) raised a problem on KUC’s usage of Ipselenti profit for other activities. Despite KUC’s explanation on the impossibility of hosting cheering activities without the money from ticket sales, they were criticized because they did not officially announce that the money from ticket sales is used for other activities hosted by KUC. They stated that they did not expect this issue to become problematic as their budget has been confirmed by student representatives in the student representatives meeting held every semester. They added that he will be careful to make clear announcements for events held in the future.
KUC’s response to this whole scandal including the public hearing was mainly future-oriented, failing to provide persuasive solutions or regain students’ trust. Such result is not surprising as it became evident that KUC have been carrying out their agendas without a clear manual under their traditionally close society. Students seemed tired of raising problems on similar issues for the past few years and expressed disappointment towards KUC’s failure to change. One student wrote in a campus wall poster that it is doubtful whether KUC’s repetitive promise to “correct the system”, and “apply the feedback” is sincere.
The student body’s anger is clearly expressed through voices of boycott and the countless signatures showing support for the campus wall poster criticizing unsatisfactory answers given by KUC at the public hearing. Using this chance, KUC should open up their sealed society and carry out their agendas in a much clear method so that there is no reason to doubt embezzlement, inept management, or corruption.