The Loophole Korean Entertainment Companies Use To Bully And Harass Foreigners Signed To Them

They revealed how the company targeted them.

Due to the success of K-Pop, many foreigners have traveled to Korea in the hopes of being a superstar in the entertainment world. Unfortunately, some entertainment companies choose these hopefuls to prey on with the help of a legal loophole. Seoul-based model, actress, and dancer Renée Simone was put into this position and revealed the bullying and harassment she faced.

Renée Simone at ‘Seoul Fashion Week.’ | @reneedreamsart/Instagram

After studying abroad in Korea as an exchange student, Renée Simone fell in love with the country and decided to stay. She quickly joined a Korean entertainment company, where she booked her own jobs and merely sent the list to her company. That all changed when she appeared on a Korean show as a performer.

Instead of signing the contract for the Korean show through her company, Renée Simone signed directly with the show. For months, her company harassed and bullied her over the incident.

They were very upset that I didn’t want to sign the document the way that the other contestants had signed from the agency, like, ‘You did something that you’re not supposed to do.’

And from there, the threats started happening towards maybe two or three months of that consistent harassment and bullying.

— Renée Simone

It reached the point where the entertainment company added new rules to Renée Simone’s contract, with a clause that she had to leave her passport in the company’s office, cutting off her only way of leaving the country. Realizing that it sounded shady, she refused to sign it and found a lawyer.

Lawyer Lee Ji Eun explained that foreigners needed to have an exclusive contract with an entertainment company. It meant they could get an E6 visa to stay in the country and work. Entertainment companies know this and use it as leverage to make foreigners do whatever they want, like they tried to do with Renée Simone.

Otherwise, your employer can simply inform the immigration office that they’ve terminated your contract, and it’s all over.

You can’t fight the decision. Talent agencies leverage this power to deport you and basically take full control over your life.

— Lee Ji Eun

Lee Ji Eun

Renée Simone’s company kept the harassment and bullying going by spreading rumors that she was challenging to work with and should be avoided. She had enough and told the company to release her from her contract. They refused and demanded “money from all the jobs [she’s] ever worked.

Lawyer Lee Ji Eun confirmed that was another way Korean entertainment companies take advantage of foreigners. They’re only allowed to join a new company if their former one signs off on two forms.

If you want to switch agencies, your previous agency not only has to terminate your contract, but also sign a letter of release. Some agencies refuse to do this.

— Lee Ji Eun

Renée Simone’s company still didn’t stop their bullying and harassment. They reported her to the police for allegedly stealing money from them. In the end, she was found not guilty after submitting proof she’d paid the company and was able to move on with her career in Korea.

Sadly, there are foreigners who weren’t as lucky as Renée Simone and are probably going through similar situations because of the loophole that Korean companies take advantage of.

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