TVXQ…leaving SM Entertainment?!

Posted in DBSK/TVXQ by nanshi on August 4, 2009

…It’s a lot less scandalous and a whole lot more closer to the truth than what everyone else has been spreading out there. But the best and most thorough (ie. public-released statement) that I’ve found so far has been at POPSEOUL… so please direct yourself to that article.

I don’t feel like going through the whole bit, so I’ll just summarize:
TVXQ’s Junsu, Jaejoong, and Yoochun want out of their SM Entertainment contract. Citing things such as unfair monetary compensation and too-stringent exclusivity rights makes for a very unhappy 3/5ths of TVXQ. A few other things are highlighted like their non-stop hectic 20hr (average) workdays and the lack of vacation or personal/sick days…

And I’m struck with how people find this… surprising.
Because I certainly don’t. I’ve belived in from the beginning and I’ve certainly highlighted it from a long long time ago.

Sure, I have sympathy. Trust me, I feel as badly for them as any other fan[girl]. But frankly, I have little more compassion than that. Why? Because this is something they signed up for. I could argue a lot of things here about ages, mental maturty, age of consent, and things like that… but it ultimately comes down to the fact that I believe that Junsu, Jaejoong, and Yoochun sincerely did not believe that their schedules would be so crazy. Somehow, they believed that even though they [probably] worked their butts off during trainee years — something would magically click when they debuted and they would become famous and well-known and it’d all be okay. There wouldn’t be persistent and tiresome work schedules. There wouldn’t be all-night rehearsals coupled with early-morning photoshoots. They wouldn’t log more frequent flier miles than a Continental Airlines’ flight attendant. Nope. None of that would happen. Because they were now part of the Korean pop-idol glitterazzi and were happy, successful, and rich.


In case you didn’t pick up on all that passive-aggressiva… Junsu, Jaejoong, and Yoochun were probably really really naive and all-too-eager to sign away their lives for a shot at fame. Probably because they didn’t have much else going for them.

I will address a few things specifically though…
a) A 13-year contract?!
Yes, it is ridiculous. And even I will stop and take pause and simply exclaim, “WHAT THE !#$$% WERE YOU THINKING WHEN YOU SIGNED THAT?!” Did they not think to negotiate terms? Unfortunately, it’s all to plausible. These boys joined SM at their ripe teenage years. It is not entirely unimaginable for SM to feed them the, “If you don’t join us, you’ll never succeed anywhere” line. “We’re the ones that are giving you the hand-up because of our kindness and goodness. You should accept if you know what’s good for you. You suck. But we’re willing to take you anyway because that’s the kind of company we are.” Bull. But it’s a line easily fed to hungry (and desperate) fish. Plus, 13 years doesn’t seem all that long? Right? People often sustain careers for much longer. Guess no one ever really wants to be an idol after all. Yes. TVXQ are idols. Not singers, not dancers. Idols. That’s what SM Entertainment creates — entertainers, not actual artists.

b) Exhausting schedules
Sorry, but I have little sympathy for them there. I’m going to law school this fall. I have read countless accounts and have also been informed by many people that it is a lot of hard work. Needless to say, I’m well-aware of this fact by now. So does that mean I’m going to turn around and sue my law school a few semesters in because of my “exhausting and demanding” schedule? Sure, I’ll probably end up going to bed at 4am and be up all night writing briefs and a million other things that need to get done in order to pass law school successfully. I’m sure being a trainee isn’t easy. In fact, from accounts I heard (of DBSK’s trainee years), it was downright miserable most of the time. And yet they persisted. Someone along the way must’ve told them that “Becoming a singer is hard work. You’re going to have to work very hard.” And I’m sure they heard it and believed it… to a certain extent. So why the sudden change in heart now? Sure. Law school is only three years compared to SM’s contract of 10+ years. And sure, there’s the tried-and-true rebuttal of, “You can always choose not to do the work. It’s your grade that suffers, but whatever. It’s your life, after all” and that idols can’t just “refuse” their schedule. Well, technically they can. As someone who is notoriously bad and hide-and-go-seek and defiantly lazy (not to mention unabashedly non-confrontational)… it is very possible to just go and hide somewhere and not do something. Sure there’s a huge threat of penalties held above them — but I have penalties too. $300,000 in student loans enough for you? So what’s their excuse?

I hate quitters.

Seriously. This is the lifestyle that they chose for themselves. If it was somehow thrusted upon them, then fine. They have all the more sympathy from me. But the truth of the situation was that Junsu, Jaejoong, and Yoochun fully agreed and complied to the terms of these contracts when they initially signed them.

In Junsu, Jaejoong, and Yoochun’s defense… I will say that SM Entertainment is entirely too corrupt, abusive, and shady to be taken decently. After all, these were minors. Severely underage folk — by US standards, where age of maturity is 18 or even Korean standards, where age of maturity is 20. I can altogether completely believe that SM Entertainment only had the trainees sign the contracts and didn’t even consult in their legal guardians. Yes, that is a big deal folks. You can’t expect kids to read through a whole contract… and then comprehend it. You can barely expect most adults to read through a whole contract and comprehend it. But for the sake of grabbing these young, attractive, and easily-manipulated youths… SM Entertainment read them a few lines, fed them a few words and then was all, “Sign this and we’ll make all your dreams come true….”

Although something is to be said for SM Entertainment: They do pay for just about everything “big” (flights, hotel suites, rides, etc). They even provide the boys with lodging (permanent lodging in Japan & Korea, I believe). And for those of you who scoff at it, apartments (especially two-bedrooms!) do not come cheap. Especially when they’re in downtown Tokyo (I believe SM probably owns several housing-buildings exclusively for their clientele, but in Japan I’m pretty sure that they don’t have such a luxury). I know there are instances of the boys paying for things themselves, but… well, they do earn money. Somewhere.

Now I’m going to do something a little unique that no other site has done so far…

My predictions?
This is tricky. For SM Entertainment to concede opens a whole ‘nother bag of snakes and openings for its other clients to retaliate. I do believe, though, that TVXQ is the last generation of “abused” clients and that subsequent artists under the SM Entertainment label have had much easier goings than them.

I think that SM Entertainment is going to concede with stipulations. The contract will be revised, but they will not lose their cash-cow of TVXQ. Not to mention, SM Entertainment has a signed contract with Avex in Japan. I don’t know the terms of that contract, BUT I believe that Avex would be more than happy to drop SM and sign TVXQ directly (if that was necessary). I hope the terms are to be revised in a way that be acceptable (and truly acceptable, not “Well, I have to take these terms…”) to both parties. Considering the time & money that SM Entertainment invested in TVXQ initially (all startup costs), it’s not unexpected that they would want a high amount of return. It has been over 5 years since TVXQ has debuted and on such unequal terms that it’s time for things to shift in their favor a bit. Presently, I believe the sales are split something like 70-SM/30-TVXQ (maximum). 50-SM/50-TVXQ is a bit more fair, but I’d like to see the balance tipped a little bit more for TVXQ in lieu of around 40-SM/60-TVXQ. 50/50 would be ideal & in addition to strict contract terms that capped off work-days at 18hrs (that’s about how much even the craziest investment banker does in one day) and gave them actual “unionized” or union-type vacation days (more than 7 days for every 365, that’s for sure).

I’d like to see SM Entertainment keep exclusive rights to TVXQ’s name though; therefore, they can’t go off and begin independent projects of sell their personal rights to an advertising gig (that’s just rude).

I think TVXQ’s old contract(s) should be declared null & void and a new one rewritten with terms that are more… current with international labor ethics and humanizing in terms of entertainment law. A 13 year contract is not completely unheard of, but in the passing fancy that is entertainment it is… somewhat of an anomaly.



6 Responses to 'TVXQ…leaving SM Entertainment?!'

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  1. loopyloop said,

    I agree with everything you’ve said in relation to the revised terms you hope for, but not the splitting of the profits. I think 70-SM/30-TVXQ is actually a fair division, given that they are idols, not artists. Now if they actually composed their own music and wrote their own lyrics, then there’s something to be said for a majority share in their sales. But the fact is TVXQ don’t create their own music – all that credit goes to SM and its employees. Even their image is to SM’s credit. So I don’t get why fans are crying murder over the current division of profits.

    I think you’re spot on about everything else, though. 13-year contracts are ridiculous. So are the daily working hours.

    And law school is hard and demanding, but at the same time rewarding. Good luck with it! I’ve been slaving away for my law degree for 5.5 years (I’m in Australia) and finally I get to graduate at year end!

  2. soojin08 said,

    atlast i read a very intellectual writing about this issue.articles from other sites tend to dwell more into words.
    i want numbers to make the issue clearer for me.

  3. Hideko said,

    Nice to read a real article with an actual opinion rather than just one that is straight out bashing everyone. I’m on both sides for DBSK and SM at the same time.
    The entertainment industry is a tough one. You can’t expect it to be all fame and luxury. Highly recognized entertainers and business people work their asses off.

  4. Judy said,

    Thank you so much for this article. I’ve read so many articles that scew SM into a merciless slave driver, but from what I’ve seen and heard in SM artist interviews, this could not be possible. This presents a different point of view and brings the debate back down to a fight between humans, not angels and devils.

  5. Soojee said,

    What is the legal age to sign a SM entertainment trainee contract? (hypothetically speaking of course)I live in america. Would it go by 18 or 20?? 18 = us adult age and 20 = korean adult age

    Thanks ^^

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