Song Ji-Hyo did not receive payment.
On February 10th, February 12th, February 28th, March 10th, March 31st, April 10th, April 30th... The 'promised' payment was postponed again to June.
The amount of money Song Ji-Hyo should have received was 900 million KRW. However, what really worried her was something else. Employee A's 2.17 million KRW, employee B's 1 million KRW, employee C's 2.1 million KRW...
"I can live without that money right away. But the employees have become credit defaulters, their credit cards have been blocked and their mobile phones have been cut off. The 2 million KRW Porsche lease fee for the CEO of Uzurocks is luxury, but the monthly salary of 2 million KRW that these friends should receive is for their livelihood." (Song Ji-Hyo)
That is why Song Ji-Hyo took matters into her own hands. She broke the news to the public and the public attention was gathered, gearing up for the start of a fight to receive the employees’ much delayed and well-deserved compensation.
'Dispatch' uncovered Uzurocks’ fraud case. It turns out that it was not just the issue of Song Ji-Hyo’s unpaid income, but more. Most of their business was close to fraud. CEO Park Joo-Nam’s false statements had only caused Uzurocks’ former employees to suffer, including Song Ji-Hyo.
◆ Uzurocks' show biz
CEO Park Joo-Nam commutes to work in a Porsche. From head to toe, it is all about luxury. He boasts his wealth, claiming to have billions of dollars. Looking at the unofficial statistics, he seems like a genius entrepreneur.
But what is the reality? He is almost at the level of a debtor. Unpaid, unpaid, unpaid... The money he owes to the employees has piled up in heaps. Not only is their salary way overdue, but the expenses incurred due to work have also not been paid.
Uzurocks was established in 2019. In the early days, the agency created content for social media platforms such as YouTube and TikTok. CEO Park Joo-Nam also ventured into the entertainment industry through his celebrity connections, with singer Lee Ji-Hye becoming a stepping stone for him.
Soon, Park expanded the company in a disorganised manner. He dipped his foot in beauty, theme parks, music production and even fitness businesses. However, his messiness resulted in losses, losses and even more losses. The capital has therefore been eroded a long time ago and according to official numbers, the net profit margin of Uzurocks is -72%, with the debt ratio at 214,820.95% (on average the debt ratio ranges from 100% to 200%).
CEO Park Joo-Nam needed money. The debt dependency ratio was already at 100%. So what did he do? He began to post fake investment news on the company’s internal website. There were news articles titled, "Naver Invests 10 Billion KRW in Uzurocks" and "Golf Zone GDR, Starts Direct Business with Uzurocks.”
'Dispatch' inquired about the businesses with Naver and Golf Zone directly. Naver stated, "It is fake news. We will take legal action." Similarly, Golf Zone denied any business deals, saying, "We have supplied GDR products to the company, but never have we engaged in any other form of business with them."
Furthermore, Uzurocks even embezzled the membership fees of fitness club members. It is estimated that around 600 members suffered from losses. Testimonies were given about unpaid wages of fitness coaches as well. (Note: the new management team who took over the gym are currently holding responsibility for the affected members).
'Dispatch' visited the Wirye branch fitness club. Coincidentally, we were able to meet one of the victims at the scene. He exploded with anger saying, “Could you have ever imagined that the company with Song Ji-Hyo would embezzle health membership fees?”
◆ Song Ji-Hyo's damages
Just as it is stated above, this is a company that holds leading artists such as Song Ji-Hyo. Indeed, who could have imagined such embezzlement? However, Song Ji-Hyo also fell victim. Since signing an exclusive contract with Uzurocks in October last year, she has not received any payment, not even once.
The unpaid income confirmed by 'Dispatch' amounts to approximately 900 million KRW. (Luckily, she received direct payment from SBS for her weekly cast in ‘Running Man.')
Uzurocks’ management operation system is also unique. The managers use their personal cards for company expenses first and later claim reimbursement from the company. It is what they call an ‘expense settlement’ system.
This means that managers used their personal cards for all expenses. They put gas in cars, bought meals and drank beverages using cards with a limit of 1 million KRW. However, the employees have still not received reimbursement for these expenses.
Song Ji-Hyo became aware of this fact soon after. She heard about the employees’ card payment delays. One manager said, "Ji-Hyo unni gave me her own card. We used that card for on-site expenses."
In the end, Song Ji-Hyo chose to take legal action. She sent five written requests for payment verification to Uzurocks. The company responded with a "debt repayment agreement" and requested an extension until April 10th, asking for mercy.
In the messages, the company kept stalling, saying they would “send the remittance soon” or “the corporate bank account is blocked” or “we will pay the outstanding amount in cash” or “we will receive investment from overseas soon” and even “the investor has arrived in Korea.”
However, even on April 10th, the settlement did not happen. Instead, they lied another ‘promise’ saying, "We will definitely send the payment by the end of April." Was the promise kept? On April 27th, CEO Park suddenly resigned from his position.
◆ Employees' damages
‘Dispatch’ met employees A, B, C, D, E and F. Their average age was between their twenties and thirties. Their average salary stated in the contract was 27 million KRW, but the actual take-home pay was a mere 2 million KRW. The employees were youngsters who had just started their career and amongst them, some had moved to Uzurocks together with Song Ji-Hyo last year when she signed an exclusive contract with the agency.
Earlier this year in February, the employees received notices of delinquency. It stated that the company had failed to pay national pension contributions. As a domino effect, naturally, their salaries were not paid on time either with salaries and settlements being delayed for two or more months.
Employee A had to break into his savings account to survive. He told ‘Dispatch’, "I had no other choice but to break into my savings account because I was not being paid my salary on time.” He continued, “my credit card payments were severely overdue I had no other choice but to ask my parents for financial help.”
Employee B became a defaulter. He said, "Since I did not receive my salary, I could not pay for my credit card bills." He complained, "Later, even my transportation card was suspended. I even received a notice of attachment from a credit information company."
Furthermore, employee B was under a regular prescription for a chronic illness. Due to his unpaid loan interests, phone bills and utility bills, he selflessly had to postpone his medical checkups. He collapsed due to poor health and his Mother paid for his hospital bills.
"I wanted to be a proud son to my Mother and not to worry her anymore when I started this job. But in reality, I could not even pay for my own medical bills. She was so concerned about my health and if I was even eating meals… She handed me 50,000 KRW and told me to never give up… (sobs).”
Employee C said, "I survived with the help of my parents." He expressed his anger, saying, "When I asked about the reason for the salary delays, the company replied, “the company is expanding.” And shortly after, they fired me.”
"They said investment funds were coming from Italy and that the investor requested to fire existing employees as a cutdown in management costs. They claimed that using subcontractors would be more beneficial and demanded resignations from other employees."
The stories told by employees D and E were similar. These employees had also struggled to make ends meet by using alternate credit cards. The employees revealed, "It was a relief when Song Ji-Hyo heard about our situation and gave us her own card."
"It is not like I had overspent and accumulated a lot of credit card debt. I had only used my card for company-related tasks. I did not receive my salary, nor did I receive reimbursements... But I could not even raise my voice in case the company would not settle the reimbursements...”
Fortunately for the employees, when Song Ji-Hyo intervened, some of the overdue salaries were paid back and resolved. Now, what remains is the April salary and March settlements.
◆ Justice until the end
Song Ji-Hyo expressed gratitude to Dispatch for hearing out the employees. Song Ji-Hyo even conveyed her wish for the employees’ salaries and settlements to be resolved before her own outstanding payments.
On the other hand, the employees were more concerned about Song Ji-Hyo's unpaid income. It was not about the amount of money. The employees explained, "It is because we know that Song Ji-Hyo is a good person with a caring nature that we are thankful for.”
"Last year, I had an accident. I had to undergo surgery twice and the medical expenses exceeded 10 million KRW. My family could not afford to support me but Song Ji-Hyo subtly covered my hospital bills for me.” (Employee A)
The employees added that there were incidents more valuable than money.
"Due to COVID-19, I was not allowed to have a caregiver to stay with me in hospital. It was Song Ji-Hyo who came to keep me company at night. She was there for me when I was admitted to the emergency room and there for me when I was discharged from hospital. The hospital staff were all surprised.”
Employee F mentioned, "Whenever her schedule for the day was over, Song Ji-Hyo always ensured to provide us with taxi fares. When the manager was busy, she personally drove to the site. To us, she is not just a celebrity but like an older sister, like family."
Song Ji-Hyo decided to bite the bullet. She has filed a lawsuit even though she was offered a secretive proposal by CEO Park Joo-Nam to receive the money.
"The CEO even said he would give the settlement amount in cash. However, he requested that the money be deposited to the company's account. It sounds bizarre to not know the source of the cash and then deposit into the corporate account.”
(Her logic aligns with the fact that Song Ji-Hyo received a presidential commendation as an exemplary taxpayer in 2023. She has also been appointed as a public ambassador for the National Tax Service).
Song Ji-Hyo's representative emphasized, "If we had chosen a method where only the actor benefits, how would the employees receive their delayed salaries? We hope that the matter will be resolved through proper methods and procedures."
In the meantime, Uzurocks listed their coin (UZRS) last year. They extensively promoted it on economic channels, stating, "MCN content meets blockchain." UZRS skyrocketed more than six times right after the listing, but it has now plummeted.
Where did the 1.2 billion KRW in sales that Song Ji-Hyo generated go? The corporate account of Uzurocks has been frozen. How did CEO Park Joo-Nam manage to secure 900 million KRW in cash? Did the coin transactions occur normally? The suspicious flow of money also needs to be closely reviewed.