SM Entertainment attempts to consign a rebellious pop group to oblivion
The South Korean pop group JYJ came onto the country’s fevered music scene in 2004 as three fifths of the then-pop group DBSK. They were soon to become what observers call by far the most successful and best-selling pop group that SM Entertainment has ever fielded, making countless millions of dollars for the management company in just five years.
However, today singers Kim Jaejoong, Park Yuchun and Kim Junsu remain entangled in a legal system that favors the powerful after the trio attempted to break a 13-year contract they had signed as underage teenagers at the start of their career. It was a contract that worked them to near exhaustion, paid them a fraction of monies earned, gave no accounting of royalties and left little room for renegotiation despite its decade-plus tenure. The group sued to be released and the court agreed. The contract has since been declared invalid by the court as being too heavily weighted in SM’s favor. But that wasn’t the end of it.
SM Entertainment is the biggest of South Korea’s big three talent management companies. It has faced widespread criticism that it relies on slave-like contracts that indenture performers to their agencies for at least a decade with no way out. Among others it has produced the groups Girls’ Generation, Kangta, BoA, Super Junior and many others. Observers, however, charge that SM operates almost like a cult.
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