As of June 1, 2023, EXO's Beakhyun, Xiumin, and Chen, filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment regarding the termination of their exclusive contract tied with the agency. The lawsuit's basis, as revealed by the members' legal representative, Lee Jae-hak, is that they've not been given transparent records of their earnings and profits.
Despite the three members filing seven requests that reveal the documents pertaining to their earnings from March to May, the same hasn't been fulfilled. The legal representative also added that SM Entertainment failed to be transparent in revealing the records that displayed the profits that they earned through the artist. Lee Jae-hak noted that this was a fundamental right of an artist.
Fans react to EXO's Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen suing SM Entertainment for mistreatment of their artists
Fans were excited for the EXO comeback that's expected to roll out after quite a lengthy break. However, they were shocked when the news of the three vocalists, Baekhyun, Xiuimin, and Chen, filing to terminate their contract surfaced on the internet. Fans were disappointed to learn that the agency hasn't been properly or rightfully paying their artists.
By choosing not to reveal the documents that showcase the company's earning calculations, it is clear that SM Entertainment's artists have been paid less than what is expected. Additionally, Lee Jae-hak also put forth the fact that the agency has been forcing its artists to sign contracts with excrement longevity, which is currently illegal.
While lengthy contracts used to be prevalent in the K-pop industry, contracts between an entertainment agency and an artist can't be longer than seven years. The change was brought about due to awareness brought about by the negative effects it may have on the artists.
However, the previous K-pop contracts, otherwise termed slave contracts, were found to be practiced again by SM Entertainment. The contracts kept artists linked to the company for twelve to thirteen years.
Lee Jae-hak said that SM Entertainment signed "long-term contracts" of nearly 12 to 13 years with artists. The representative added that as this period wasn't enough, the agency had artists sign a follow-up exclusive contract as well. This resulted in contracts of nearly 17 or 18 years. The representative said:
"They are repeatedly committing extremely unfair tyranny, such as insisting on a period of time."
He even went on to say:
"If you include the period of being trainees, artists feel that SM is forcing artists to sign so-called slave contracts based on their superior position for a period of about 20 years."
The statement put forth by the EXO members' legal representative revealed that the agency has currently been forcing its artists to sign contracts that demand a tie of 17 to 18 years.
Fans also point out the fact that all the K-pop contracts in the industry were being revised and reduced with respect to their tenure. They said that despite this, EXO is one of the K-pop groups that didn't undergo a revision of their contracts.
Fans believe that SM Entertainment has been using its position as one of the major agencies in the K-pop industry against its artists by denying them many fundamental rights. Things such as rightful pay and contracts with legal terms have not been availed to its artists. Given that EXO is one of the major artists housed under SM Entertainment, fans are naturally worried about the condition of other smaller artists under the agency.
The legal representative states that it's hard to win against a company as powerful as SM Entertainment. He said that since the issue raises concerns about not just the EXO members but also other SM artists, their lawsuit is expected to take serious action against the agency.
Regardless, given the vagueness and ambiguity of the issue, fans still await official statements from the company to further clarify the details of the same.