EXO’s Kris & SM Entertainment’s Contract Clash

I have graduated from college and now I have more time to spend on my blog. I wish I could start with a better topic though. It seems all is not well in “EXO-land” and the fans are playing the “blame game” as expected. The issue at hand is a lawsuit against SM Entertainment and fans of any group from that label will definitely know about the history of some idols and filing lawsuits against SM Entertainment (SME). Fans of Kpop in general will have heard about it before, but the fans are almost always hurt as a side effect of any fight between an celebrity and their agency. This is even more true for Kpop idols because they are often a pillar of strength for many of their fans and it is always a shame to such struggles take time out of their lives. Let’s look at two previous lawsuit cases before we discuss EXO’s Kris and his struggle. The first one we will look at is TVXQ/JYJ’s lawsuit against SME.

TVXQ is now a duo, but they had a total of five members at one point. The lawsuit by Kim Jae-joong, Micky Yoochun and Xiah Junsu made changes to the group’s numbers forever.

[Source: hancinema.net] Link: http://tinyurl.com/nl47u67

The three members of TVXQ shown above, who were also known as JYJ, went to the Seoul Central District  Court on July 21, 2009 to check details concerning their contract. This type of action usually indicates a group of people are either confused about their contract or they have found an issue with their contract and they want to gauge their legal options. It became the latter situation for TVXQ because the group found issues like unreasonably long terms under the contract, schedules formed without consent of the members and unfair pay distribution, according to their Wikipedia page entry.  The issue with early termination is the costs it takes to buy out and the costs almost always exceed the profits, which makes early termination a less than desirable option. Sometimes this option is needed, but it is usually a last resort. The court granted them temporary contacts that allowed them to operate freely as individual members, but SM Entertainment would control any TVXQ activities. This makes sense because SME owns the rights to TVXQ and any profits made off of it, which breaks off into different sections as payments are distributed. SM Entertainment decided to hold a press conference as a response and stated that the issue behind the lawsuit was the greed of the suing members. I guess that is SME’s way to doing damage control, but that is not a wise move to make for public relations. That move is saying “The entirety of the fault lies with them and we are the victims”, which is not a recommended move for any situation. This move is even recommended against when such a situation is true because it appears to be a smear campaign against the other party.  The struggle ended up coming to a close on November 28, 2012 when both parties agreed to withdraw their lawsuits. The three members of TVXQ/JYJ had continued the struggle past their contract’s expatriation date, so both parties seemed to agree it was best to let it go. The next case concern Super Junior M’s Hangeng and it shows how these cases can take a greater toll on one’s mental state than people might think.

Super Junior M member Hangeng’s case concerns he desire for rest and a break from the taxing activites his contract put him under. This caused a clash of interests with SM Entertainment and almost cost him more than some people realize. 

[Source: blog.ningin.com] Link: http://tinyurl.com/kbzdpay

It was not a very merry Christmas back in 2009 for Hangeng, Super Junior M or any of their fans when this lawsuit was revealed. The details of the lawsuit stated that Hangeng had not had proper rest in over two years, which had a negative influence on his health. Some of the resulting effects as described by Soompi.com are fatigue, chronic gastritis (swelling of the stomach lining), illnesses affecting his kidneys, lumbar disc herniation (lower back injury that can affect other areas around it) and a visible decrease in body strength. According to an article on MTVK.com, Hangeng said “It was because I was put through great stress and I even wanted to commit suicide.” This shows the extreme mental stress his contract put him under, despite his pleas for rest. According to an article on Soompi.com, other members like Lee Teuk and Donghae also filed lawsuits against SM Entertainment. It was argued that Hangeng got more attention due to his Chinese nationality. According to the same article, “In his
contract with SM, there are clauses stating that he has to pay the
company monetary damages should he be unable to fulfill the schedules
arranged for him.” This means that SM Entertainment can decide his schedule for him, over pack it and penalize him for not being able to keep up should that happen. This is an example of what some fans call the “SM Slave Contract”. This refers to the unreasonable contracts that SME idols are often placed in, which overwork them and punish them in the event they are unable to keep up. Hangeng eventually left SME and he is now focusing on acting, as well as taking care of his health. He is going to be in the new Transformers movie called “Transformers: Age of Extinction”, but the role is unspecified at the time. Now we move to the most recent clash of interests with SM Entertainment and it is with a group most people probably didn’t see coming, which is EXO. It concerns Kris (leader and rapper of EXO-M) and the dust does not seem like it is going to settle just yet. 

[Update] Kris Hired Hangeng’s Former Law Firm to File Contract Termination from SM

The issue with this lawsuit appears to be civil rights again and even more rumors are spreading around about the issue and the other members speaking out. This is likely due to EXO’s high popularity and widespread influence.

{Source: soompi.com] Link: http://tinyurl.com/ohtqcpt

The news of Kris’ lawsuit came out on May 15, 2014 and it was revealed by the Chinese media outlet known as “Sina”. The Seoul Central District Court is reported to have confirmed this, but legal procedures are still being worked out. Kris has chosen the same law firm that represented Hangeng back in 2009 with his lawsuit. Reports are coming out that SME treated Kris “like an object” and that decisions concerning the group were made without EXO’s input. A statement from Kris’ representatives says “This exclusive contract was a result of SM abusing its power over a trainee. Putting unjust pressure onto the plaintiff, they violated his basic civil rights, restricting his freedom in choosing his manner of employment and financial activity, making the contract invalid.” The exclusive nature of the contract means SM Entertainment can force Kris to perform where they want and work to prevent him from establishing any solid, individual projects. There are many theories as to why a company would do this, such as preventing the artist from becoming wealthy enough to break from the company or placing the artist in areas that are connected to them to maximize profits. All of these theories come back to one main point and that is company profits. The music industry is a business and they want to make money, which they do by marketing their artists. This does not always mean the artists are treated like objects, but it does happen more often than people realize. The details of the case are likely to remain private due to the Kris’ representatives stating so. 

EXO Kris lawsuit.

The issue with Kris’ lawsuit is not only the fact that he is filing one against his agency, but his fellow group members are [apparently] speaking out against his move and the feelings range from betrayed to confused.

[Source: kpopstarz.com] Link: http://tinyurl.com/mk885gj

The member reactions started with a post by EXO member Tao on his Instagram, which was followed by other members who reportedly expressed feelings of betrayal by this lawsuit. This is because the lawsuit is for early termination, which many people translate to “leaving the group permanently”. Suspicions will always arise in these situations, but it is best not to dismiss them as delusions by obsessed fans or anything of the sort. Some fans say that the staff and managers of EXO have control of their phones and are posing as the idols when posting on their social media accounts. Some fans try to apply their own logic to the situation to prove this point. A fan in an Kpopstarz article (link above) stated “Tao was at Seoul when this was occurring. Saesang fans looked into it and found that the phones locators were one and didn’t match Tao. They were at completely different locations.”, while another fan drew suspicion to the Chinese proverb Chanyeol posted due to him being a Korean-born star. Some people on Twitter are naming artists who unfollowed SMTownGlobal on the micro-blogging site, but others are quick to point on some SME artists never followed the account at any time. JYJ’s lawyer, Im Sang Hyuk, stated that both sides would be wise to settle soon. Both sides will suffer from a prolonged legal battle and EXO is likely to suffer in the long run. Im Sang Hyuk also stated that it is likely Kris will receive a new contract, but that is uncertain at this time. If Kris is firm on his stance to terminate his contract, then it is likely he will not get a new contract at all.

SM Entertainment has a reputation in the fan community of having more “slave contracts” with their idols than most companies. This is not widespread enough to ruin the company’s reputation in the industry, but it comes as no surprise when lawsuits show up.

[Source: jpopasia.com] Link: http://tinyurl.com/nmh547k

My take on the situation is I believe a civil lawsuit is in the system against SM Entertainment by EXO’s Kris due to many reputable sites reporting the court’s confirmation. I am not as certain for the members speaking out and seemingly siding with SM Entertainment. I would believe the members would remain quiet because it is a personal matter for Kris and it is usually advised by a label for other artists in the label to stay out of any legal trouble, especially if it does not concern them. I do not want to jump on the “SME is posting for them” train just yet, but I will say it is not an impossible situation. I have sat through a presentation from a former Miss America winner and she spoke about her social media situation. There was always someone who tweeted for her, updated her profile and basically controlled her social media presence. This means the suspcious claims by fans can be true, but SME going on a smear campaign against Kris is a childish tactic. It is not like when they held a press conference to address the JYJ lawsuit, which is seen as a more professional option. This would be manipulating their artists to fool the public into siding with SM Entertainment. This is why I am uncertain where to stand on that aspect, but I am not dismissing the possibility. The law firm representing Kris might want to keep the case private, but I suspect more details will come out as fans (sasaeng or otherwise) look for them. I am sure everyone is hoping for the most peaceful resolution possible.

The hashtag We BeliveInYouKris (#WeBeliveInYouKris) is trending on Twitter in support of Kris and there is also a Change.org petition (linked) to get SM Entertainment to change their contract terms concerning their artists’ rights. The petition has 1,049 signatures at this time (2:34am EST on 5/16/2014).

EXO recently came back with “Overdose”and here is EXO-M’s MV for the song.

So, what do you think about this situation? Leave a comment below and vote in the polls.Let’s hope for the best.




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