Top South Korean girl group T-ara has stirred controversy with the surprise decision to shed one of its members, a move which sparked an Internet protest campaign backed by some 330,000 people.
The row began Saturday when five of the eight group members posted tweets apparently critical of the attitude of one member, rapper Hwa-Young.
On Monday the group's management agency Core Content Media announced it was ending its contract with her.
Fans who suspected the 19-year-old had been bullied by other members -- a claim denied by the agency -- began a campaign to reveal what they called the truth.
The issue attracted widespread media attention in a country which has seen a rising number of suicides of young people bullied by their peers.
Disillusioned fans created a website entitled "We demand the truth from T-ara" and by Wednesday had attracted some 330,000 subscribers.
On Tuesday Hwa-Young took steps to defuse the controversy.
"I'm sorry to all the fans for disappointing you. Please stop (criticisms)," she wrote on her Twitter account, apologising also to the management agency.
The affair has still damaged the group, with some clients scrapping advertising featuring them. T-ara's official fan club lost about 6,000 members, Yonhap news agency reported.
Chosun Ilbo newspaper, in an article on its English-language website, said the affair revealed a "culture of catfights" among the manufactured girl groups which are typical of South Korea's K-Pop phenomenon.