Fans of EXO were shocked to discover rumors released in Korea on May 15 that EXO-M member Kris was in the process of terminating his exclusive contract with SM Entertainment. Rumors regarding the impending lawsuit began circulating early Thursday. Chinese media outlet Sino, as well as Korean news outlets OSEN were amongst the first to break the story.
Kris is the Canadian Chinese leader of the subgroup EXO-M. SM Entertainment has been the subject of prior lawsuits regarding their exclusive contracts which are often referred to as slave contracts.
In addition to lawsuits, rumors of unfair contracts and wage distribution have surrounded former artists on the label including Shinhwa, who departed from SM in 2003 upon expiration of their contract.
Contract disputes are also heavily rumored to be the primary reason behind the disbandment of the incredibly popular male group H.O.T. H.O.T was also signed to SM Entertainment but split up following the expiration of their contracts.
This news comes as both EXO-K and EXO-M are in the midst of heavy promotional activities surrounding their newest release, “Overdose”. “Overdose” has demonstrated record breaking pre-sales and has demonstrated over 670,000 sold copies on Korea’s Gaon Chart.
SM Entertainment has received allegations of unfair labor practices and contracts, in the past.
The Korean law firm Hakyul is rumored to be handling the contract termination lawsuit which was filed within the Seoul Central District Court. It has been reported that Kris specifically selected the same lawyer who was successful in terminating the exclusive contract for Hangeng, a former member of Super Junior. According to the news outlet OSEN, the Seoul District Court has confirmed the filing of the lawsuit but it has not yet been processed.
Hangeng was a Chinese member of Super Junior who became the leader of the subgroup Super Junior-M. In December 2009, Hangeng filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment in which he sited that a thirteen year exclusive contract was amongst many things, unlawful. Hangeng sited lengthy work hours and lack of timely medical treatment in his allegations against SM.
Prior to the lawsuit by Hangeng, former TVXQ members Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment. The former members made their announcement in July 2009 and a lengthy battle ensued. During the legal battle, Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu continued to promote as TVXQ, despite a legal injunction. The trio formed JYJ in 2010 under the management of C-JeS Entertainment. Hangeng and the members of JYJ faced hardship following their lawsuits which included television blackouts and difficulty with promoting their activities.
In the latest rumors, SM Entertainment is accused of clauses which do not fairly distribute the earnings of the members. In total, EXO is a twelve member group, with Kris amongst members who are Chinese and Korean nationals. Allegations also include what could best be described as objectification of the members of EXO at the monetary gain of SM Entertainment.
A catalyst for his frustration and the rumored lawsuit could be the fact that EXO-M continuously promoted throughout the month of April, while EXO-K witnessed a stop in their promotional activites due to the Sewol Ferry accident. Insiders and fans have noted that in the midst of speculation, fellow EXO members have started to unfollow Kris on social media.
SM Entertainment has yet to release a widespread response to the media other than the fact that they are investigating the claims.
This is shocking news as EXO is in the midst of preparations for their first solo concert which will be held from May 23 through May 25 at the Olympics Gymnastics Stadium.
Following the news, EXO-K went on to win in the chart program M! Countdown for “Overdose”. While EXO is known for collectively speaking during award acceptances, the only member of EXO-K to speak was Suho. Suho accepted the award in a consistent fashion while also adding the statement regarding EXO, “We are one”. Meanwhile, fans remain confused and hope that the matter is resolved soon.