South Korea: Boy Band Exo Sues File Label to Escape ‘Slave Contract’

Three members of the famous person Korean pop (Ok-pop) boy band Exo introduced on Thursday they’re searching for to terminate their contracts with their report label, SM Leisure, instantly, citing “abuse of power” in an trade rife with “slave contracts.”

SM Leisure is one in every of South Korea’s most profitable and infamous report labels, churning out a continuing stream of younger stars with manicured photos, good dance strikes, and voices perfected by grueling coaching. Lots of its stars start their careers as youngster “trainees” in SM’s “boot camp” coaching services, the place they’re anticipated to place in as a lot as 12 hours a day studying to sing, dance, communicate overseas languages, and different music trade abilities. The report label has had not less than two high-profile artist suicides within the final decade.

Exo is one in every of SM Leisure’s flagship bands, presently made up of 9 members. The three searching for a launch from the report label — Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen — have been a part of the group since 2012 and stated in a public assertion via their lawyer that a part of the explanation they need to terminate their contracts is that doubtful provisions within the contracts make it attainable for SM to maintain them tethered to the corporate for so long as 18 years.

EXO 엑소 '늑대와 미녀 (Wolf)' MV (Korean Ver.)

“SM not only required its artists to sign long-term contracts lasting 12 to 13 years but also made them renew their contracts upon expiration, effectively prolonging their contractual obligations for a period of 17 to 18 years,” the lawyer, Lee Jae-hak, stated, in response to the Korean information company Yonhap. “This constitutes a highly unfair abuse of power by SM toward its artists.”

“Most of the other artists managed by SM are facing a similar situation as far as long-term contracts are concerned,” the lawyer alleged.

The South Korean authorities has historically suggested report labels to not lure artists with contracts that last more than seven years, although it has completed little to curb the excesses of Ok-pop report labels for a lot of the previous twenty years. The Nationwide Meeting addressed labor abuses within the trade solely in April, passing a legislation that protects youngsters within the trade by stopping report labels from protecting them out of faculty and capping the variety of hours artists between the ages of 15 and 19 can work to seven hours a day, not exceeding 35 hours every week. Youngsters aged 12 to fifteen can solely legally work 30 hours per week, whereas youngsters below 12 can work as much as 25 hours every week.

The Exo members additionally accused SM Leisure of hiding crucial monetary paperwork that present the band’s income and thus ought to decide their salaries. The lawyer stated the boy banders requested to see “clear and transparent records” of the funds seven instances this yr to no avail.

As is custom within the Ok-pop world, the Exo members additionally shared a separate assertion apologizing profusely to their followers for the ordeal:

We apologize for inflicting nice concern to followers via this situation, and there’s no approach to totally specific our apology…As we attempt to communicate up with our small voices concerning the unfairness we couldn’t communicate of till now, we are literally very frightened and afraid of this second proper now. We hope that you simply take curiosity in what we’re saying in addition to our troublesome braveness.

SM Leisure denied the allegations referring to the paperwork in an announcement following the contract termination announcement and dismissed the accusations concerning contract lengths as a scheme by unknown “outside forces” trying to steal the corporate’s expertise away.

“We have cooperated by allowing access to the settlement data whenever they want,” the SM assertion learn, in response to Yonhap. “We have also provided separate information on expenditure details during each artist’s visit, and there have been no objections raised by the artists regarding the settlement process over the years.”

SM Leisure accused the “outside forces” of “illegal acts” and promised to retaliate with out elaborating.

“We will not sit on the movements of those who pursue the greed of money, and we will take all possible legal measures,” the assertion concluded.

On Friday, the Exo members in query rejected the declare that unspecified “outside” people had been influencing them.

“Baekhyun, Chen and Xiumin have not entered into or attempted any other exclusive contracts besides the existing ones with SM,” an announcement from their authorized workforce learn. “The artists made requests for financial settlement based on their own decisions and were not influenced by any external forces.”

“Denying document provision is the core issue behind the termination notice, as it violates the artists’ fundamental rights,” it emphasised, reiterating that the excessively lengthy contract time rendered it a “slave contract,” a typical time period within the Ok-pop trade. The lawyer defined that SM Leisure generally allowed the artists temporary peeks at their funds, however not sufficient to truly analyze the numbers.

“Payment data is supposed to be read through slowly for 30 days, but only allowing artists to glance at it is the agency’s effort to build its justification and say, ‘We showed what we had to,’” the lawyer defined, in response to the Korea JoongAng Every day. “Knowing SM Entertainment’s intentions, we could not compromise by just ‘reviewing’ the data and not be ‘provided’ it like we asked.”

Exo has already misplaced three members to contract disputes. Luhan, Tao, and Kris, all three Chinese language nationals, efficiently sued SM Leisure up to now decade, two in 2014 and one in 2015.

The authorized dispute is the most recent black eye for SM Leisure — referred to as in its heyday “the company that created K-pop” — and a strong driver of South Korea’s financial system. SM has solely a handful of authentic rivals on the scale that it operates in its trade and skilled a stroke of luck when its principal competitors, YG Leisure, bought caught up in a prostitution scandal in 2019. Dubbed the “Burning Sun” scandal after the Seoul nightclub the place the alleged solicitation was occurring, the federal government of South Korea opened an investigation into then-YG CEO Yang Hyun-suk and one of many company’s greatest abilities, Seungri of the boy band Large Bang, for reportedly providing prostitutes to millionaire VIPs and potential buyers at Burning Solar. Among the girls implicated within the scandal claimed to have been raped. Yang was ultimately discovered not responsible however stepped down from working the corporate. Seungri served 18 months in jail.

Whereas artist abuse and psychological well being points are outstanding all through the trade, SM Leisure has been on the forefront of the Ok-pop suicide epidemic. In some of the high-profile losses within the trade, Jonghyun, a member of the boy band SHINee, took his life in 2017 on the age of 27.

“It wasn’t my path to become world-famous,” a suicide word discovered with Jonghyun reportedly learn. “Why did I choose this path? It’s quite funny now that I think about it. It’s a miracle that I endured through it all this time.”

Sulli, a member of the lady band f(x), was discovered useless with a suicide word in her condominium in 2019. She was 25 and started her profession at age 10; she debuted as an artist after her “trainee” stage at age 16.

Comply with Frances Martel on Fb and Twitter.

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