The K-Pop Leader Who Rejected SM Entertainment’s Riches To Keep His Group Together

SM Entertainment offered him lots of money, but he didn’t give in.

SM Entertainment has consistently remained among the top K-Pop companies for decades, earning millions of dollars yearly. Despite their high earnings and abundant resources, none of that mattered to a leader of one of the company’s groups. Here’s the story of how he turned down all of SM Entertainment’s money just to keep his group together.

Inside SM Entertainment’s building. | SM Entertainment

When Shinhwa‘s contracts ended with SM Entertainment after five years together in 2003, the company planned for the group to disband and offered new exclusive contracts to a few members.

Shinhwa | @smtownstation/Instagram

The group’s leader Eric was one of them. Since he had the highest brand value at the time, SM Entertainment offered him over twice as much money to continue as a solo artist. Instead, Eric had a plan of his own.

Eric | @smtownstation/Instagram

Eric held a meeting with the Shinhwa members. He disclosed the staggering amount of money SM Entertainment offered him and his wish to reject all of it for the sake of continuing Shinhwa. Unfortunately, SM Entertainment and other companies wouldn’t make it that simple.

| @smtownstation/Instagram

Although other companies offered Eric contracts with four times the amount of money, he still rejected them all. On top of that, SM Entertainment owned the name Shinhwa and wouldn’t let the group keep it when leaving the company. Like the loyal leader he is, Eric had yet another idea to ruin SM Entertainment’s plans.

When other companies offered to pay him four times more to go solo and leave the other members, he rejected them by saying that he can’t be separated from the other members.

— Kim Dongwan

Eric found Good Entertainment where the group could continue on and even made a deal with SM Entertainment that gave the rights to the name back to the members. Unfortunately, SM Entertainment still trademarked the name in 2005, which began a twelve-year legal battle that ended in Shinhwa gaining the rights once again. The group was later able to reclaim the name Shinhwa Company for their self-started company as well.

Without Eric’s determination to keep the group together, Shinhwa wouldn’t still be going strong over twenty years later. And fans weren’t the only ones thankful for the leader’s efforts.

Lawsuits were involved, and we had to negotiate a deal. Eric was the one who struggled the most during that time. I’d like to send a special thanks to him.

— Kim Dongwan

| @ShinhwaCompany/Twitter

On more than one occasion, the members expressed how thankful they were to Eric for keeping them together.