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Thursday, June 13, 2024

SM refutes claims of unfair contracts from EXO members

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Baekhyun, Xiumin and Chen from boy band EXO [SCREEN CAPTURE]
Baekhyun, Xiumin and Chen from boy band EXO [SCREEN CAPTURE]

SM Entertainment claims the contracts of three members of boy band EXO were fair and justified, refuting allegations that the members were under “slave contracts.”

“One EXO member has yet to sign an extension contract and is currently in discussions with the agency. This proves that the members have signed the contracts of free will,” SM Entertainment said through a press release on Monday.

“Making issues out of the [longer] exclusive contract lengths or falsely calling it ‘slave contracts’ is far from the truth.”

The three members of boy band EXO filed a complaint against SM Entertainment to the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) for coercing its artists to sign unfair contracts, their attorney, Lee Jae-hak, said in a press release Monday.

The three members — Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin — said last week that they were forced to agree to overly long contracts, going far beyond the seven years recommended by the government.

They argued that the exclusive contracts they signed with SM Entertainment were no different from the problematic contracts that the FTC prohibited more than a decade ago.

Lee noted that the FTC had already told the company that its contracts, which use the artists’ date of debut as the starting point of the contract, not the day of contract signing, are “extremely unfavorable […] compared to [those of] other entertainment agencies.”

The attorney added that the company had “completely ignored the official judgments made by the FTC and repeated its unfair tyranny” over contract signings, which he said shows the company’s pattern of ignoring government authorities.

The members released an excerpt from Beakhyun’s contract with the agency, which states that his contract comes into effect “after the release of his first album,” not when the contract was signed.

Baekhyun and other members also had to sign a separate agreement that added three more years to their contracts to “better prepare” for overseas activities.

Lee said such contracts would put an artist under an exclusive contract for up to 13 years, including the years of their mandatory military service.

The industry standard, as the government recommends, is a seven-year contract, which the artist can terminate if it surpasses the threshold.

Furthermore, the members claimed that an extension contract given to the artists shortly before their contract expiration had clauses of auto-extension when the artist failed to release a certain number of albums.

Lee called such contracts “blatant slave contracts,” adding “the attempt to ‘tie’ artists down by offering such long-term with no limits” contracts is unfair.

SM Entertainment refuted the claims, saying that the contracts were not “forced,” and were signed with helps from big law firms.

“EXO members have made multiple suggestions to the contract clauses […] and the last month of negation had the two parties sharing its edits, deciding on each word very specifically,” it explained.

The agency, while not denying the contract that auto-extends upon failure to release a certain amount of albums, said that the clause was necessary for the agency, and was added through discussions with the members

SM Entertainment did not address members’ filing to the FTC but agreed to release the payment data as the members requested last week.

“If the three artists and their representative agrees not to utilize [the payment data] for unfair reasons […] we will provide them with a copy of the payment data,” wrote SM Entertainment, saying that the other members of EXO had agreed to do so as well.

Despite the legal battles, the three members of EXO and SM Entertainment both seemed positive about its future group activities.

Chen, Baekhyun and Xiumin had claimed to “faithfully and diligently continue [the] group activities under the band EXO” on Friday, and the agency also said Monday it will “do its utmost not to affect EXO’s group activities.”

EXO is a nine-member boy band that debuted in 2012 under SM Entertainment and is one of the most popular third-generation K-pop boy bands, well-known for songs such as “Growl” (2013), “Overdose” (2014), “Call Me Baby” (2015) and “Monster” (2016).

The band recently released the Japanese single “Bird” and held a meet and greet in April, marking the first time in four years for members to come together after their mandatory military services. Member Kai began his service earlier this month.

It was reported last week that all seven active members — excluding Lay, who is not participating in EXO’s group activities and Kai — started filming a music video for the band’s long-awaited comeback.

BY CHO YONG-JUN [cho.yongjun1@joongang.co.kr]