This article is written by a Korean-American lawyer.
Among the Korean celebrities that I have been following with interest lately are the three members from Dong Bang Shin Ki who have since formed the group JYJ. Although they are undergoing difficulties now, their current situation when examined through the eyes of the law is piquing my interest and leaving an impression. Even if they, with their handsome faces and flashy dance moves combined with their stellar vocals, never find out.
What drew my attention the most was how these young and weak men were fighting against the organised strength of the Korean entertainment industry. Bringing up the issue of “slave contracts”, they filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment, the company that raised them, and the minute they started activities independent of that company their promotions were blocked here and there as if those doing the blocking were lurking in waiting for them. (The legal implications and meaning of those restrictions will be dealt with in further detail later)
It’s clear that SM is smarting from the incredible loss they’ve incurred through the separation of Dong Bang Shin Ki, and, claiming to avenge the honour they lost through [JYJ’s] ungratefulness, they are also at the same time sending a message to their up-and-coming idols, “if you do the same thing [as JYJ], you’re dead.” SM might as well stand for Small Mind.
It is doubtful that SM’s small-mindedness will be cured on its own. SM is a highly successful big entertainment company that undoubtedly knows the importance of image but is staining its reputation by obsessing over a prey that’s already fled; it’s a kind of behaviour I find hard to understand. But perhaps it’s because there is more at stake than simply an urge for revenge and the need to send a clear message.
The world is wide and their talents are manifold for the idol group that [SM] lost, while younger and fresher idols don’t yet measure up. In any case, the career lifespan of an idol is short and when considering that the members of JYJ are now in their mid-20s it is even more difficult to accept SM’s position. There’s more to all this than fear of setting a judicial precedent on “slave contracts.” Because already within SM the basic contract is being modified without a hitch. There’s already legal precedent regarding 13-year exclusive contracts, and even in the US, the biggest and strongest market for entertainment, the limit on contract length is clearly stipulated in the law as 7 years. It is inevitable that this shift in thinking will also come here. And not just for SM but for other similar entertainment companies…whilst the KFPCAI is attempting to paralyse JYJ and dress them in the clothes of social criminals. Why is that?