There is only three top leading recording companies in South Korea that dwell in the nation’s largest city Seoul.
- YG Entertainment:specialize in hip hop/pop/dance/occasionally r&b
- JYP Entertainment: specialize in pop/dance/r&b/ballad
- SM Entertainment: specialize in commercial pop/dance/ballad/occasionally r&b
All three companies this year has made headlines with YG rumor of plagiarism warning from Japanese label Sony.JYP with the lost of ex 2pm leader Jaebeom(Jay park) over Myspace comments made a few years back.The label to receive the most damaging controversy this year is SM. Having lawsuits file against them from their top leading male groups Dong Bang Shin Ki(DBSK/TVXQ/Tohoshinki) and Super Junior.Although South Korea’s economic wise is blooming in tourism,farming, and manufacturing goods.Their legal judicial system is falling behind in the constant changing business world of the entertainment industry.Allowing companies like SM to get away with unethical contracts that result to unfair wages and labor law violations.Forcing artist themselves to take a stand even though it may be the death of their promising careers.Why the sudden bravery by these Korean pop stars?Didn’t they know what they were getting into or is this an evil corporation preying on the desperate nature of naive teenagers.
Fool Me Once Shame on You,Fool me Twice a Lawsuit
SM started in the mid 90’s and housing acts like Shinhwa(Lee Min Woo),H.O.T(Kangta) and SES(Bada,Eugene).All either has left the label or suffer disbandment moving onto to solo singing/acting careers.Since then the label dominates a large proportion of the Korean pop music scene.Groups like Girls’ Generation(SNSD),SHINee and rookie female act F(x) will be the next generation under the label.SM has expanded their horizons by entering overseas music markets like China and Japan with Boa,DBSK,and Super Junior.Developing a mass following and fandom that has cash in profits worth 9 billion won or more depending on the artist.
In early January DBSK know also as TVXQ in China started disputing with a Chinese beauty care product called CreBeau.According to CreBeau TVXQ was seclude to endorse the product after manufactures made a deal with SM.There was a conflict over profit shares between members JaeJoon,Yoochun and Junsu.That result a division with members Changmin and Yunho. While SM was claiming more than 90% of the profits made from the endorsement.This dispute couldn’t be settle and flop under pressure.Disappointed by SM management and profit claims JaeJoong,Yoochun, and Junsu file a lawsuit in July against the company.Korean netizens were so shock by the boys action began seeking out these contract agreements.That’s when SM dirty laundry was being aired out as the contract reveal some unethical agreements.
- SM own all copyrights to image,music and distribution
- SM has total control over management and endorsement
- SM has 13 year contract agreements that are subject to change ever 6 months or new promotion period
- SM owns about 90% of all profits shares while less than 10% to 2% of profits is return back to DBSK(TVXQ) then split among the five
- SM wavers harsh financial penalties if you decide to breach of contract,leave, or disagree with management.
JaeJoong,Yoochun and Junsu main argument was a more fair percentage of wages being earn during promotion periods and from endorsements.All three are well aware of SM harsh contract agreements making it more difficult to battle in court.
To join in on the madness Super Junior Chinese member Hankyung has lawyer up against the company.Hankyung file a lawsuit under six reason all baring similarities to DBSK lawsuit.Hankyung’s lawsuit seems more focus on the abuse of labor laws deem by the nation of South Korea.Far more serious then salary wages and pity profit share disputes.
- SM has bias misconduct payroll deduction claims and fees (during training periods)
- SM unwillingly to follow labor laws which cause medical problems for Hankyung
- SM harsh penalties fees for breach of contract
- Unfair wages,profit shares and copyright agreements
Although this has been made to a six piece essay but can easy be broken down into four reasons since a few overlap.There are three things that is evident in an SM contract agreement.
- All contracts are up to 13 years,this may include contract agreements for groups like SNSD and SHINee
- Breaching a contact or ending wavers harsh financial fees deem by SM (making it bias)
- In order for SM to claim a large majority of shares they claim copyrights to your image,music,lyrics, allowing total control of management decisions and endorsement.
The message that each lawsuit is showing that if you sign to SM you may just have sign your life away.This raise an important question,”Who would agree to such harsh and bias contract agreements?” This question wont be answer until the courts make their finally decisions on all lawsuits hearings.Once you sign on those dotted lines legally you agree to what ever the agreements are in the contract and is willingly to comply.
The End For All Things To Come
Since the lawsuit DBSK/TVXQ is refraining from any shows or activities as a whole.Tohoshinki may not be so heavily effected by this since SM doesn’t own total copyright shares.This year Tohoshinki is Japan’s top-selling Asian artist with singles like “What of You.” Most recent single release “Break Out”despite if SM has anything to do with it.Even though it’s the same members under a different name DBSK has become divided on the issue.Changmin and Yunho rather phrase SM then go against them.For the moment JaeJoong,Yoocun,and Junsu seem heroic if not crazy to go against the label that made them some famous all over Asia.
In Super Junior the absence of four members is quite clear SM is no longer allowing out spoken members have face time.WBC Welfare Sharing Concert,MBC Music Bank Christmas Special and Music Core Year End Special the group only perform with nine members.Hankyung is the only member in Super Junior to officially file a lawsuit against SM.This doesn’t explain why members Kibum and Heechul were not present during the three events.SM has bias terms in regarding to contract conduct agreement. SM could fire Kibum and Heechul for supporting Hankyung during his lawsuit.This may seem cruel and down right nasty SM attitude lately has been very strict.The absence of member Kangin who is under investigation after reports that he was part of an assault.This had nothing to do with Super Junior but his conduct outside the group can also effect his career with SM.
SM is proving to be a label that not only wants full control of their artist while active during promotions but even in their personal life.There were once American record companies like Motown that once control everything an artist did while under contract.Acts like Stevie Wonder and Jackson 5 fought against them reclaiming their copyrights to their music and lively hood.This was made back during the 60’s when Black musicians had more opportunity to independently branch out on their own. This seem rather odd that South Korean record companies would display this over baring sense of control that hasn’t been present since the 40’s and 50’s.These lawsuits are showing just how far behind South Korea entertainment laws and labor laws.JaeJoong,Yoochun.Junsu and Hankyung are giving voice to artist who refuse to be control.This new attitude of independence may spread like wild fire to the rest of heavily control artist under SM plus other labels.No longer can an entertainment firm prey on the vulnerability of a young naive artist or musician.This was going to happen sooner or later.With the new year quickly approaching don’t be surprise if K-pop has a mini revolution and/or more rebellious artist speak up.