HYBE Accused of Cult Association: Fan-Found “Evidences” Fuel Conspiracies

HYBE Accused of Cult Association: Fan-Found “Evidences” Fuel Conspiracies

In February 2010, Rolling Stone published an article headlined “The Yoga Cult: How a Korean guru has created a fanatical following on college campuses that is part Moonies, part New Age boot camp, and pure profit.” The article outlined what Amy Shipley experienced at Dahn Yoga, the American expansion of the South Korean Dahn World franchise.

| Rolling Stone

And it is at Dahn World where the current storm of conspiracies begins, connecting HYBE and CEO Bang Si Hyuk to the “cult” in question.

Bang Si Hyuk | Kyunghyang

While Dahn World founder Ilchi Lee (born Lee Seung Heun) might disagree, dubbing himself “an author and educator who helps people use the full potential of the brain” on his website, the Rolling Stone article introduced Lee as a cult leader and a classic “charismatic con man.”

“Like most cult leaders, Lee’s story follows the classic line of the charismatic con man. As a child in South Korea, Lee’s grades were a disappointment to his father, a schoolteacher; the boy’s mind was so scattered, he could scarcely pay attention to his lessons. But Lee gradually found that moving his body helped him to focus. He threw himself into martial arts and excelled. He made it through school, married and took a job as a lab technician. But by age 28, Lee felt unfulfilled. In his own retelling, he hiked to the top of Moak Mountain in 1980 and meditated for 21 days, neither eating nor sleeping, until he was hit with the revelation that he was composed of cosmic energy, energy with no beginning and no end. This was his moment of enlightenment. Lee descended the mount to spread the good word.

He changed his name to Ilchi, or one who is “pointing the way,” and taught mind-body exercises in a park, gradually developing a following. In 1985, he opened his first Dahn center in Seoul. From there, Lee moved at a relentless pace, touring Korea and opening centers across the country. Left behind were his wife and two young sons. Lee wasn’t worried, he told followers, since he had asked the heavens to look after them: “From that moment onward, I forgot my family and focused solely on ‘vision.’” His single-mindedness was astonishing. Once, as Lee was leaving for Korea’s Jeju Island — a tropical vacation spot — he received word that his younger son had been in a car crash. “If he was meant to live, he will, and if he was meant to die, he will,” Lee said. Then he hung up and got on the plane. (The boy, apparently, was meant to live.) Lee expected the same level of commitment from his members; former followers say that as part of the standard ceremony to be elevated to Dahn masters, they were required to recite a pledge vowing to die for Ilchi Lee if necessary.”

— Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Rolling Stone

In addition to Dahn World, Lee founded the South Korean Global Cyber University (GCU). In October 2009, the school was accredited by the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology. The following March of 2010, Lee appointed himself the chancellor (or “president” as he referred to himself in his tweets) as the school opened its doors to students.

Last week, as president of the Global Cyber University, I signed a MOU with Tarlac State University in the #Philippines to create a #BrainEducation program. By practicing Brain Education, I hope we will become healthier, happier, and more peaceful…a new humanity. #earthcitizen pic.twitter.com/C6rhKP0m15

— Ilchi Lee (@IlchiLee) May 16, 2023

On GCU’s official website, BTS is mentioned—though in incomplete and grammatically incorrect sentences.

| global.ac.kr/

The first speculation of HYBE’s involvement with Dahn World stems from the fact that six out of seven members of BTS attended GCU. Korean locations of Dahn World centers had no hesitation using BTS’s name in promotion of their programs—though some blog posts and other traces have since been getting deleted.

BTS members with their GCU professor. | Korean Spirit

It is, however, important to note that an abundant amount of K-Pop idols also attend and/or have graduated from GCU. GCU’s simple admission process and virtual degree completion attract idols who don’t have the same capacities as regular college students do. Also, college enrollment aids in postponing enlistment—also attracting male idols and other male celebrities in Korea.

Idols attending/who attended GCU. | global.ac.kr

That said, Lee (and Dahn World)’s teachings have come under close investigation of Koreans who still feel the ties run too deep to call coincidental.

Signage inside a Dahn World center in Korea. | Dahn World

The actual theology that members were required to spread was a little shaky. For a while, Lee promised followers that once they had harnessed enough energy through something called “brain respiration,” they would fly to an “enlightenment star” aboard a spaceship shaped like a golden turtle. (He ran a brisk business selling $4,000 golden turtle statues meant to harness cosmic energy.) Later on, he spoke of the need to recruit 100 million “new humans,” at which point this critical mass of Dahn followers would somehow create world peace. After that, he began preaching the healing powers of “brain wave vibration” and of smiling the “HSP (health, smile, peace) smile.” But in the end, theology didn’t matter; what mattered was that everyone felt united for a greater purpose — and that they were kept too busy to think it through. In that regard, Lee reportedly had help from Hwa Young Moon, a Korean woman who joined Dahn in the late 1980s and whipped it into shape; she knew a good deal about the enlightenment trade, having grown up in the “Moonies,” the Unification Church.

— Sabrina Rubin Erdely, Rolling Stone

A blog post from April 2021, titled “Please Save TXT From A Cult,” accused HYBE of cult association…

| @kaiismyson/Postype

Their cult era began at Global Cyber University.

— @kaiismyson/Postype

…for dressing two GCU-attending members in a hanbok with a three-legged crow ornament.

According to the blog post, the three-legged crow ornament signifies Dahn World because, in 2010, Lee “ran a brisk business” of selling qi (energy) channeling ornaments. And one of the ornaments were in the shape of the three-legged crow.

Lee’s ornaments, including the three-legged crow design, as shown on “Unanswered Questions.” | SBS

The blog post alleged that by “dressing the two GCU-attending members in the three-legged crow hanboks,” HYBE was putting out subliminal messages favoring Dahn World via its idols.

| theqoo

Would dressing the two Dahn World-based GCU-attending members in the three-legged crow hanboks make us uncomfortable or not? Damn Dahn World- Wait, no. Damn you, HYBE f*ckers!

— Blog Post

The three-legged crow, though, isn’t exclusive to Dahn World. It is a mythological creature present in East Asian cultures—and, therefore, not out of the ordinary to be embroidered on a hanbok.

In Korean mythology, it is known as ‘Samjok-o’ (literally three-legged crow). During the Goguryeo period, the ancient Korean people thought the Samjok-o to be a symbol of the sun and of great power, often representing the ‘Taewang’ (emperor) and Goguryeo’s sovereignty. It was also believed that the three-legged crow lived in the sun while a toad lived in the moon. The Samjok-o is such a highly respected symbol of power, even superior to both the dragon and the Korean bonghwang, that it carried into Silla, Goryeo, Joseon, and modern Korea.

— Wikipedia

In addition to the three-legged crow, another mythological creature has been presented as evidence of HYBE’s involvement with Lee’s cult.

A mega-viral tweet, with over 51M views and counting, drew connections between GFRIEND‘s November 2020 album, 回:Walpurgis Night, as well as its title track, “MAGO,” and Dahn World.

GFRIEND | Source Music

According to the tweet’s theories, HYBE intentionally named GFRIEND’s final album after the Christian feast tied to witchcraft.

“Walpurgis Night, an abbreviation of Saint Walpurgis Night (from the German Sankt-Walpurgisnacht), also known as Saint Walpurga’s Eve (alternatively spelled Saint Walburga’s Eve), is the eve of the Christian feast day of Saint Walpurga, an 8th-century abbess in Francia, and is celebrated on the night of 30 April and the day of 1 May. This feast commemorates the canonization of Saint Walpurga and the movement of her relics to Eichstätt, both of which occurred on 1 May 870.

Saint Walpurga was hailed by the Christians of Germany for battling ‘pest, rabies, and whooping cough, as well as against witchcraft.’ Christians prayed to God through the intercession of Saint Walpurga in order to protect themselves from witchcraft, as Saint Walpurga was successful in converting the local populace to Christianity. In parts of Europe, people continue to light bonfires on Saint Walpurga’s Eve in order to ward off evil spirits and witches.”

— Wikipedia

Then, the tweet alleged that GFRIEND “disbanded” on May 1, after “Walpurgis Night” of April 30, as the “witches burned.” The tweet then went on to speculate that LE SSERAFIM debuted on May 2—though a year apart—as the (le) “Seraphim” or the high-ranking red-winged angels.

하이브 관련 존나 무서운 이야기 나옴
여자친구 앨범 이름 = 발푸르기스의 밤
발푸르기스의 밤 = 마녀를 불태우는 날
여자친구 해체일 5월 1일
르세라핌 데뷔 5월 2일
마녀를 태우고(해체) 다음날 세라핌(천사)가 데뷔함
– 1년 간격은 있지만 이해편의상 말한거임

그리고 민희진 주주총회 4월 30일 pic.twitter.com/wSXaFM5t9s

— 길티아카이브 (@guiltyarchive) April 27, 2024

GFRIEND’s contract termination was reported May 17, 2021.

GFRIEND Will Reportedly Disband As They Fail To Agree On Contract Renewals

The tie to Dahn World is said to come from the title track, “MAGO.” The theories claimed that Mago is the “god” that Lee’s cult “worships.”

An illustration of Goddess Mago from ancient Korea. | @ecolifenet/Tistory

But Lee is not the one who created Mago. Mago is a “creatrix,” a goddess that frequents Korean creation folklore. The same goddess appears in IU‘s K-Drama, Hotel Del Luna, too—meaning Mago’s existence isn’t necessarily a direct relation to Dahn World.

Actress Seo Yi Sook as Mago in “Hotel Del Luna.” | tvN

Mago is a goddess who appears in Korean creation myths. She is known as the Great Goddess, a creatrix, and ruler of the first age of Korean history, the Age of Mago.

— Study.com

However, Lee did erect the Mago “Mother Earth” statue in Sedona, Arizona where he also founded the “Mago Earth Park.”

Lee (second from right) in front of the Mago Mother Earth Statue in Sedona, AZ. | Kookje

The statue, first made public in December 2010, was later dismantled, but Lee continued to base a lot of his activities out of the area where the “energy vortexes” serve as its main tourist attraction.

Sedona vortexes (the proper grammatical form ‘vortices’ is rarely used) are thought to be swirling centers of energy that are conducive to healing, meditation and self-exploration. These are places where the earth seems especially alive with energy. Many people feel inspired, recharged or uplifted after visiting a vortex.

— VisitSedona.com

Speaking of songs being discussed as part of HYBE’s Dahn World agenda, BTS’s “Attack on Bangtan,” too, has come into spotlight—thanks to an old online post resurfacing linking the song to Lee’s cult.

The original poster (OP) of the 2021 post recalled the time they were in elementary school, under the care of a teacher following the Dahn World cult. They claimed that the teacher would make the students repeat a phrase that they later found quoted word-per-word in the song.

| theqoo

OP: When I was in elementary school, I had a teacher who was into the Dahn World cult. So I had a really difficult year. That said, when I first became an ARMY and heard the song, “Attack on Bangtan,” it gave me PTSD.

Every morning, the teacher would make us stand on our desks, barefoot, and do some breathing exercises. And she would always tell us to “tighten our stomachs.” I was shocked out of my mind when I heard the exact phrase as part of the lyrics to “Attack on Bangtan.” For over a decade, I’ve never heard anybody else say that. But then to hear it in a song?!

Comment: What part of the lyrics?

OP: “Tighten your stomachs and take! A! Deep! Breath!”

Comment: Oh, sh*t.

Comment: What the f*ck?!

ILLIT‘s “Magnetic” has also raised questions.


While, at first, the rookie girl group’s debut track, “Magnetic,” sounds harmless, it has been speculated to be based on one of Lee’s published works. Claiming to boost meditation and mental health, Lee’s 2013 book is titled Magnetic Meditation

Lee’s “Magnetic Meditation” on sale. | Kyobo

…and local Dahn World centers in Korea have been active in promoting using magnets to meditate, the Ilchi Lee way.

| @dahndani/Naver Blog

Come to Jongam branch Dahn World Meditation Center to learn Magnetic Meditation!

— Dahn World Blog

The TikTok-famous dance for “Magnetic,” using unusual hand and finger movements, has also been linked to the cult.

A screenshot of a Google search result for “Dahn World Finger Exercises” has been circulating, drawing similarities between ILLIT’s choreography and the cult’s “dementia prevention” method.

Results for searching “Dahn World Finger Exercises.” | Google

And, amid all that has unexpectedly gone down between HYBE and ADOR‘s CEO Min Hee Jin, these cult conspiracies are—regardless of their factuality—striking K-Pop fans as “just too creepy.”

when hybe media played mhj’s shaman convo only for knetz to out hybe as a cultist is the funniest shit in this entire mess.

— PoppyKPoppie (@PoppyKPoppie) April 28, 2024

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