On March 16, SM Entertainment told Newsen: “aespa is preparing to return in May. Please wait for it.”
If aespa officially returns in May, it will be the group’s first music release in 10 months since the release of their second mini-album “Girls” in July last year.
Aespa was originally scheduled to return on February 20. However, the girls’ return plan was postponed following a dispute with SM management.
In a video titled “SM Entertainment CEO Lee Sung Soo’s Statement Part 1” uploaded to SM’s YouTube channel on February 16, CEO Lee Sung Soo explained the reason for delaying aesp’s return. He said, “Since last year, Lee Soo Man has organized and hosted various K-pop festivals, emphasizing “sustainable development” and launching tree planting campaigns in various countries”adding “He even forced aespa, a group created with a unique worldview, to sing a lyric about planting trees for an upcoming song, which is completely inconsistent with the group’s concept.”
he continued “As a result of such an unwarranted instruction and directive from Lee Soo Man, all the staff in the department were given the mission to combine the existing worldview of the aespa team with completely unrelated lyrics. Because of such absurd tips, content was created that no one could sympathize with. Therefore, our co-directors decided to cancel the release of this song due to aespa. That’s why the return of aespa has been postponed.”
Meanwhile, SM faced a crisis with a management dispute between their current co-founders (Lee Sung Soo, Tak Young Joon) and former executive producer Lee Soo Man. As the co-CEOs joined hands with Kakao, Lee Soo Man sold his stake in SM to Bang Si Hyuk’s HYBE, turning a management dispute into an acquisition battle.
The fierce rivalry between SM-Kakao and Lee Soo Man-HYBE continued until March 12, when HYBE announced the suspension of the acquisition process due to internal and external factors.