Lawsuits in the Korean Entertainment Industry
Some entertainment agencies in South Korea have been sued by artists for various reasons. Reasons can vary, starting from the reason for the employment contract to sexual harassment.
Unfair contracts are one of the problems often experienced by singers in the K-Pop industry. This can happen to anyone, whether they are from a large or a small agency.
In this article, Channel-Korea will introduce you to the K-Pop idols who have filed a lawsuit against their agency. So, keep reading everyone!
Hangeng (Former Member of Super Junior)
Hangeng, who is a member of Super Junior and leader of Super Junior-M, left the two groups when he sued SM Entertainment in 2009 due to termination of his contract. He revealed later that he had done this because he wanted to pursue an acting career and SM Entertainment was inflexible. He told a Chinese talk show: “The agency controls your image and will not let you do the things you want. An idol must place the agency and group above himself.”
He has been promoting as a singer and actor in China ever since and has gained international success with the same solo album and film. In 2014, he had a cameo role in Transformers: Age of Extinction. He also has a permanent place on the Chinese variety show Street Dance of China.
Junsu, Yoochun, Jaejoong (Former Members of TVXQ!)
In a very well-known and publicized lawsuit, three TVXQ members with five members! sued SM Entertainment for unfair contract terms in 2009. The lawsuit was settled in 2012, but by that time, the three had moved under C-JeS Entertainment as JYJ.
Each of their albums released between 2010 and 2013 reached number one on the charts. The three also had acting successes, with Yoochun playing major roles in dramas such as Rooftop Prince and Xia (aka Kim Jun-su) becoming very popular in musical theater. Xia also became an OST legend, appearing in Scent of A Woman as himself.
Jaejoong currently come back to his acting career as an actor of several drama, Junsu or who better known as Xia currently is resting from the world of entertainment because of tax cases. And Yoochun, on April 2019, he was fired by his agency because his drugs case.
Kris Wu (Former Member of EXO)
Kris left SM Entertainment in 2014, sparking massive controversy with his lawsuit against the company, citing health and financial reasons for terminating his contract. He returned to his home country in China and was promoted as a singer, model and actor, achieving great success. He is now one of the hottest Chinese actors and musicians, known throughout the world for his role in Mr. Six and Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back, which is one of the highest-earning Chinese films of all time. He is also active in the US and Canada, after making his Hollywood debut on xXx: Return of Xander Cage in 2017. He has his own entertainment company and continues to make music in the US.
In 2017 he talked about his decision to leave SM Entertainment, saying it was due to the lack of freedom to make his own music and the pressure of being away from his family for seven years.
Luhan (Former Member of EXO)
In October 2014, Luhan filed a lawsuit to terminate his contract, following Kris Wu’s footsteps. He cited the ongoing persecution of EXO Chinese members compared to Korean members and also cited his deteriorating health (and lack of SM Entertainment care) as a reason for termination of his contract. He was responsible for the actions for the group and appeared on many variety shows that mobilized at the request of SM Entertainment, often injuring himself while promoting and performing with EXO.
Lu Han, now known in China, has acted in several films and dramas since leaving the group. He has also released studio albums and four EPs that have sold more than 5 million copies. He made his massive drama debut in 2017 with Fighter of the Destiny and Sweet Combat. He starred in the latter with his real girlfriend, Chinese actress Gabrielle Guan (Guan Xiao Tong).
Tao (Former Member of EXO)
In August 2015, Tao filed a lawsuit to terminate his contract with the agency: EXO’s third Chinese member who left SM Entertainment. Like Kris and Luhan before him, Tao felt that SM Entertainment’s strict policy did not allow him to pursue his dream of branching. Now known by his full name with a successful acting and music career in China, Huang Zitao has appeared in films such as You are my Sunshine, Railroad Tigers, and The Edge of Innocence. Zitao also starred in the romantic drama The Negotiator that just aired, which was a huge success.
He has released a number of EPs and studio albums under the name Z.Tao. His latest single, released in October 2018, is called “KOC.”
All members of the South Korean top hip-hop group, B.A.P, filed a contract claim against their own agency, TS Entertainment, at the end of last November. They claim to have been improperly treated by receiving very little payment, a crazy schedule, and no transparency in the company’s finances. Various controversies and speculations accompanied the group’s lawsuits fronted by Bang Yongguk, Kim Himchan, Jung Daehyun, Yoo Youngjae, Moon Jongup, and Choi Junhong (Zelo). Especially during this time, TS Entertainment was known as a “cool” agency, which even though it was only established in 2008, but was able to orbit quite famous artists, such as Untouchable, SECRET, B.A.P, and will debut SONAMOO’s potential girl group.
What exactly is the chronology of the “war” between B.A.P and TS Entertainment? Next, we will provide you with a short rundown. B.A.P officially debuted on January 27th, 2012, with the single “Warrior.” Their name immediately skyrocketed shortly after debut. Until now, the six men have released 11 albums, starred in 3 reality shows, and toured Japan and the world. B.A.P has recorded 24 prestigious awards, including New Rising Star at the Golden Disk Awards and Best Male Rookie at the K-Pop Awards Gaon Chart. They also won the MTV EMA Best Korean Act at the end of last October, and were championed as the 2014 Best Worldwide Act on MTV EMA Glasgow.
In fact, they were scheduled to be holding a South American tour ‘B.A.P’ that same year. However, on October 27th, 2014, TS Entertainment surprisingly announced via their Facebook account that B.A.P will be on hiatus for a while. As a result, South American concerts were canceled. Babyz (the fan club name of B.A.P) was relieved because there had previously been news that B.A.P would be disbanded for reasons not stated. However, on November 27th, fans were shocked by the news that six members of B.A.P filed a lawsuit at the same time.
The essence of the B.A.P lawsuit is the distribution of unfair income and agency finance that has never been shown to them. B.A.P signed a contract in March 2011 with a duration of seven years. They claimed that they only got a salary in July 2014, amounting to 17,900,000 won (around 16,058 dollars) per member. If it is calculated for three years since their contract was signed, it means that every member of B.A.P gets a salary of around 450 dollars (around IDR 5.5 million) per month. Although the cost of living, such as food and shelter has been borne by the agency, the amount is considered to be very incomparable to the hard work they have done. B.A.P also claimed to have received poor treatment in health, such as paying for hospital fees with their own money and being forced to appear even though they would have attached a sick letter from a doctor.
TS Entertainment’s first statement on November 27th said that they were shocked and did not know anything about the lawsuit. They also refused to provide further statements regarding the “slave contract” claimed by B.A.P. On November 29th, the local Korean media, Dispatch, which is famous for clearing artists’ scandals, released 21 Q & A related to the lawsuit of B.A.P against TS Entertainment. From the Q & A, it was revealed that profit-sharing was 1:9 for album sales, 1 for B.A.P and 9 for TS. The same arrangement applied to merchandise sales, such as Matoki dolls and lightsticks. Whereas for concerts, photoshoots, variety shows, and other entertainment shows, it is divided equally by 5:5.
Seen, if the South American tour is to take place, TS Entertainment will pocket a profit of 600 million won. Because the tour was canceled, TS received only 285 million won. The problem for B.A.P is the transparency of the report of that amount of money. During this time, TS seemed to cover up their financial statements from B.A.P members and member parents. The salary paid in July 2014 was obtained after B.A.P “insisted” on asking for their rights since 2013. On the same day when Dispatch released the Q & A, former vocal teacher of Daehyun, HAK Ssem, wrote his support to B.A.P on his Twitter account @natarajahak. He confirmed all the facts Dispatch had written, and left a message that he and Babyz would always be behind B.A.P.
On December 5th, TS Entertainment released their official statement. The agency denied that they imposed a so-called “slave contract” on B.A.P. They mentioned that profit-sharing was 4:6, 4 for B.A.P and 6 for TS, not 1:9 as reported by Dispatch. TS even accused a third party of intentionally “provoking” B.A.P to file a lawsuit related to payment. TS also attaches a chart that contains a graph of exit costs and agency profits from 2011. The amount is exactly the same as that released by Dispatch, which is 600 million won (if the South American tour is to be held), and 285 million won (actual profit). That amount is profit for TS.
According to an insider, after Bang Yongguk and Zelo left the band, the remaining 4 members (Himchan, Youngjae, Daehyun, Jongup) also ended their contract with TS Entertainment. It has been said that TS Entertainment had decided not to re-sign the contract with them. Currently, Youngjae is preparing to sign a new contract with a new agency while Himchan, Daehyun, and Jongup still haven’t decided yet.
In B.A.P, Bang Yong-guk and Zelo debuted in January 2012, they debuted as a whole group of 6 members. Bang Yongguk’s contract ended in August last year, and Zelo’s in December. Even though TS Entertainment’s contracts with the guys have ended, because the name B.A.P is copyrighted under the name of TS Entertainment, even if they return from their military services and decide to return as a whole group, it will be impossible. In the end, they have to be on their own.
Block B who feels aggrieved by management due to their unpaid salary. Zico, Taeil, B-Bomb, Jaehyo, U-Kwon, Kyung and P.O finally filed a lawsuit against their agency CEO. The South Korean boy band felt disadvantaged in the matter of honorarium.
In addition, members of Block B also felt cheated because their agency apparently requested a sum of money to orbit them. They were asked 70 thousand USD or around Rp. 676 million to make U-Kwon and other members idols.
This boy band was formed in 2011. Shortly after debut, the boy band started experiencing problems, including communication with its management. They thought that their agency doesn’t want to listen to Zico and the other members’ voice. Before it dragged on, finally, the singer of the song “Do You Wanna B?” filed his lawsuit against their agency. They hope this problem will soon be over.
Block B eventually lost in court, so the members refused to cooperate again with Stardom and stood alone. This chaos was also marked by the death of the former CEO of Stardom who was found killed by suicide which gave rise to allegations of the lawsuit from Block B.
However, the fans can now be happy with the fate of Block B, which has been floating around. Block B demanded the cancellation of the exclusive contract with its agency Stardom Entertainment earlier this year. Now, Block B already has a new agency, Seven Seasons.