Lawsuits in the Korean Entertainment Industry
Some entertainment agencies in South Korea have been sued by artists for various reasons. Reasons can vary, starting from the reason for the employment contract to sexual harassment. Unfair contracts are one of the problems often experienced by singers in the K-Pop industry. This can happen to anyone, whether they are from a large or a small agency.
In this article, Byeol Korea will introduce you to the K-Pop idols who have filed a lawsuit against their agency. So, keep reading everyone!
Hangeng (Former Member of Super Junior)
Hangeng, who was a member of Super Junior and the leader of Super Junior-M, left both groups when he sued SM Entertainment in 2009 for termination of his contract. He revealed later that he had done this because he wanted to pursue an acting career and SM Entertainment wasn’t flexible. He told a Chinese talk show: “The agency controls your image and won’t let you do the things you want. An idol must put the agency and the group ahead of himself.”
He’s been promoting as a singer and actor in China ever since and has gained international success with solo albums and movies alike. In 2014, he had a cameo role in Transformers: Age of Extinction. He also has a fixed spot on the Chinese variety show Street Dance of China.
Junsu, Yoochun, Jaejoong (Former Members of TVXQ!)
In a very well-known and publicized lawsuit, three members of the then five-member TVXQ! sued SM Entertainment for unfair contract terms in 2009. The suit was settled in 2012, but by then, the three had already moved on under C-JeS Entertainment as JYJ.
Each of their albums released between 2010 and 2013 reached number one on the charts. The three also had acting success, with Yoochun becoming the lead in dramas like Rooftop Prince and Xia (aka Kim Junsu) becoming especially popular in musical theater. Xia also became an OST legend, appearing in Scent of A Woman as himself.
Jaejoong transitioned very well into acting as he won the Top Excellence Actor Award for Triangle at the 2014 Korean Drama Awards. Meanwhile, they also had successful solo music careers, with Jaejoong releasing solo hits between 2014 and 2016. Yoochun’s rape scandal in 2016 paused his promotional activities but, after he was cleared of all charges and finished military service, he returned to promoting. Xia is on hiatus as he is currently serving in the military.
Kris Wu (Former Member of EXO)
Kris left SM Entertainment in 2014, sparking massive controversy with his lawsuit against the company, citing health and financial reasons for the termination of his contract. He headed back to his home country of China and promoted as a singer, model, and actor, achieving massive success. He is now one of the hottest Chinese actors and musicians, known around the world for his roles in Mr. Six and Journey to the West: The Demons Strike Back, which are among the highest-grossing Chinese movies of all time. He is also active in the US and Canada, having made his Hollywood debut in xXx: Return of Xander Cage in 2017. He has his own entertainment company and continues to make music in the US.
In 2017 he spoke about his decision to leave SM Entertainment, saying it was due to a lack of freedom to create his own music and the stress of being away from his family for seven years.
Luhan (Former Member of EXO)
In October 2014, Luhan filed a lawsuit to terminate his contract, following in Kris’ footsteps. He called out the continued mistreatment of EXO’s Chinese members compared to the Korean members and also cited his deteriorating health (and SM Entertainment’s lack of care) as reasons for his contract termination. He was in charge of stunts for the group and appeared on many physically-exerting variety shows at the request of SM Entertainment, frequently injuring himself while promoting and performing with EXO.
Lu Han, as he is now known in China, has acted in several films and dramas since leaving the group. He has also released a studio album and four EPs that have sold more than 5 million copies. He made a massive drama debut in 2017 with Fighter of the Destiny and Sweet Combat. He stars in the latter alongside his real-life girlfriend, Chinese actress Gabrielle Guan (Guan Xiao Tong).
Tao (Former Member of EXO)
In August 2015, Tao filed a lawsuit to terminate his contract with the agency: the third Chinese member of EXO to leave SM Entertainment. Like Kris and Luhan before him, Tao felt that SM Entertainment’s strict policies didn’t allow him to pursue his dream of branching out. Now known by his full name with a successful acting and music career in China, Huang Zitao has appeared in movies like You are my Sunshine, Railroad Tigers, and The Edge of Innocence. Zitao also starred in the just-aired romantic drama The Negotiator, which was a massive hit.
He has released a number of EPs and a studio album under the name Z.Tao. His most recent single, released in October 2018, is called “KOC.”