Three members of the popular K-pop boy group EXO have terminated their contracts with the group’s company, SM Entertainment, which is the same label responsible for other massive groups such as NCT, Shinee, Girls Generation, Aespa, and more.
According to reports, members Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen alleged that the company withheld payment and subjected them to “slave” contracts, per Vulture. The members are now ready to file a lawsuit and take further legal action.
“If SM had reimbursed [the three members] correctly, then there would be no reason at all for it to not send the requested documents,” the members’ lawyer, Lee Jae-Hak, said in a statement, according to the Korea Herald. “If other artists under the SM agency have also not been receiving their payment details and evidence as in the case of Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen, then this problem is not limited to only these three but affects all of SM’s artists.”
The members’ lawyer even claimed that SM Entertainment is “committing tyrannical acts” by forcing artists to sign “slave” contracts with unreasonable requirements.
“While signing a longtime deal of 12–13 years with its artists, SM made its artists sign another exclusive contract for when the initial contract term comes to its end, leading to prolonged terms of at least 17–18 years,” Lee Jae-Hak explained.
He continued, “Such long, exclusive terms excessively restrain the artists’ personal rights, which may face regulation by law as an unfair practice according to the Monopoly Regulation and Fair Trade Act.”
Many idols are forced to sign contracts before even debuting in a group, and many are in their teens when this occurs as trainees.
“We feel scared and daunted in taking this first small step to talk about the unfair treatment (we have faced) until now. … Please realize the courage it has taken us (to do this). We’re truly grateful to all the fans who have supported us for a long time,” the three members said in the statement.
SM Entertainment refuted the claims alleged by the EXO members.
“We have discovered that these outside forces are not only luring the artists to breach the valid exclusive contracts they have signed with the company but using them to get through to other artists to also violate the contract terms or sign double contracts,” they said. They then promised to pursue legal action against the “greedy” outside forces who show no “profound interest in the future or the rights of the artists.”
However, the members’ lawyer responded (per Naver), “Our artists are adults who can think for themselves and take responsibility for their own decisions.”
The members also promised to keep working with the rest of the group despite their legal turmoil, including participating in EXO’s upcoming comeback.
The company is one of the biggest music labels in K-pop, and EXO is one of the most critically acclaimed and beloved boy groups, so the news came as a shock to many fans.
“Baekhyun leaving is CRAZYYYYY he’s literally the last member I expected to do this, SM must’ve done some seriously nasty work,” one fan tweeted.
Another fan tweeted angrily, “F— YOU SM ENT. ROT IN HELL.”