Hello Soju, a product developed by the entertainment agency The Hello Group (THG), has issued a statement in response to plagiarism allegations made by another soju brand, Hummy Soju.
Hello Soju, which debuted at Coachella last month, came under fire after Hummy, a New York-based soju brand founded by Korean American friends David Lee and Chris Park, accused the company of copying their hummingbird-inspired packaging design.
In a now-deleted Instagram post, the brand placed an image of its old packaging next to a promotional photo of Hello Soju and asked followers, “Feeling déjà vu?”
“We’re not here to be exclusive about Korean culture and love that it’s entering the mainstream,” the Hummy co-founders previously wrote. “But we believe that what looks to us like copying another brand’s design, copy or marketing is not the right way to honor the culture.”
In response, Hello Soju has since denied the allegations in a statement posted on Instagram.
Last week another soju brand claimed that Hello Soju was culpable of cultural appropriation and plagiarism. We take this claim seriously and have responded through the appropriate channels.
(1) Our Korean staff, Korean board members, and Korean investors can vouch for our genuine intentions in promoting Korean culture throughout the world, and share our belief that soju can be enjoyed by everyone.
(2) Our legal team has demonstrated that our logo and packaging predate the designs we are being accused of plagiarizing.
“With that said, we still make our products with real soju, real fruit juice, no artificial flavors, gluten-free. Plus a flying phoenix in our logo,” the team added.
In a statement to NextShark, the company noted that they have presented their design timeline to Hummy directly, indicating “no foul play on Hello Soju’s part as its logo and can design predates Hummy Soju’s publication of its designs.”
In the facts presented, Hello Soju’s legal counsel provided an email in which THG instructed a creative designer to create a logo of a Phoenix on July 6, 2021. Three weeks later, Hello Soju received its first can design from its second creative designer.
The company noted the date as three months before Hummy Soju showed its old can design in an Instagram reel that was posted on Oct. 14, 2021.
According to Hello Soju LLC, Hummy has acknowledged the facts presented.
Hummy Soju has since removed their social media posts relating to the purported plagiarism. In a statement to NextShark, Lee and Park said:
“We have been in contact with the Hello Soju team and have learned that, despite seemingly similarities with Hummy’s original can design that was launched in late 2021, their can design had been independently created. As a result, we have since removed our post.”
Due to the allegations, Hello Soju has faced backlash, including online accusations of cultural appropriation. The company hopes that the clarifications will help dispel the rumors amid future activations.