[★K:OP-ED] Idols vs Agencies “Battle of Money,” when will this shadow lift from K-Pop?

Controversy over profit distribution among idol groups has surfaced yet again. This controversy is ever present in K-pop among artists and their companies. Although this problem has been a headache for both the companies and artists for a long time, no one has been able to come up with a solution.

This is a Korean OP-ED written by Lee Jung Hyun of Sports Korea Media directly translated by Koreaboo. Original article can be found here.

On November 26th, B.A.P (Bang Yongguk, Himchan, Youngjae, Daehyun, Jongup, Zelo) filed for a contract nullification suit against TS Entertainment on the basis of unfair contracts and profit sharing. They are stating that since their debut in 2011, they have made 10 billion won (approximately $9 million USD) in sales, but they have only received 18 million won (approximately $16,000 USD) per person for their 40 months of work. This is the equivalent to a 500,000 won (approximately $450 USD) monthly payment. TS Entertainment has released an official statement saying that there were no unfair contracts or unfair treatment and said, “There is a third party shaking and controlling B.A.P.” The controversy is still continuing as B.A.P refuted this statement.

The controversy about TS Entertainment is starting to mention their other artists Secret and Untouchable. Jun Hyosung of Secret denied these rumors saying, “They are just wild imaginations,” but the industry is still keeping a careful eye on them.

Most entertainment industries currently follow a standard contract provided by the Fair Trade Commision of Korea (FTC) as of 2009. This was created  when TVXQ (Jaejoong, Junsu, Yoochun) was in dispute with their entertainment over profit sharing. The general consensus, however, is that it is still riddled with holes. B.A.P is not the only one currently in this dispute. Megan Lee from Birth of a Great Star has pointed a blade towards Soulshop Entertainment and EXO’s Chinese members Kris and Luhan pulled out their ace in the hole and left the group.

Dispute about profit sharing comes from the difference between sales and profit, and the lack of transparency in the calculation of profit and the rapid growth of companies in some cases. The standardized contract of the FTC serves as a guideline but it is not perfect. An anonymous group enjoying huge popularity was paid with goods instead of monetary compensations. They had been denied monthly wages in real life, when on stage they were fabulous stars.

An industry personnel said, “There are many cases where people abuse this standardized contract and people’s dreams of becoming a star. They say wait until you are at the top.” This tricks the artists to sign themselves into a slave contract and becomes the seed of many dispute. The entertainment industry, which sometimes has no standardize environment, plays a large part as well.

Entertainment companies also suffer from this dispute. Artists stay quiet when they are struggling, and as soon as the entertainment puts them on the status of stars, they begin complaining. It is like the Korean saying, “The frog does not remember its days as a tadpole,” and the public is taking the side of entertainment [agencies] in some cases and saying the artist “is making selfish decisions.”

Difference in profit among members in the same group becomes a cause for dispute as well. ZE:A’s member Moon Junyung complained, “I am not getting the reward I deserve for the amount of work that I do.” This appeared to be a dispute between artist and entertainment [agency], but there can only be a stark difference in payout when compared to Im Siwan, Park Hyungsik and Hwang Kwanghee, who are all very active outside of the music industry. The entertainment [agencies] realized this and tried to give the same opportunity to everyone, but could not avoid the partial choices of the public. Moon Joonyung and Star Empire later came to an agreement and prevented the team from falling apart.

K-pop, especially idols, is a very high risk, high return business. In order to raise idols from a young age, the entertainment [agency] must embrace many dangers. A personnel who has over 10 years of experience in this field said, “Many years of hard work is involved in creating a top idol star including time spent training. The contract system right now, however, fails to encompass all of this. This is probably the seed of all disputes right now.”

 This is a Korean OP-ED written by Lee Jung Hyun of Sports Korea Media directly translated by Koreaboo. Original article can be found here.