So, the biggest bit of entertainment news in Korea now is the so-called "slave contracts" that entertainers are forced to sign when entering an entertainment agency.
For those not in the know, three members from DBSK have decided to take legal against SM Entertainment, saying their contracts are unfair. The contracts are rumored to last for 13 years, require attending all performances and events that the agency says to (um...duh?) and limited say from the artists in their future career paths. Oh, and that 13 years...doesn't include military service so it is essentially a 15-year contract.
The members also claim that they are being overworked, are not allowed to rest AND that they don't receive an equal percentage of profits. (Though from what I hear, this could be a bit unreasonable because it's said these guys make a lot of money...)
While I'm a bit skeptical about how legit some of their arguments are (money and the amount of time they work...granted they are very busy boys...but they are international stars, what did they expect?) I do think that the authority of agencies over stars in Korea does need to be questioned. Course, not only here, but perhaps in other Asian countries as well. (That's right, Johnny's, you're next!)
Being locked into one company for 13 years is a bit much. Five years would be more understandable. And I do believe that the agencies often don't let their stars have some semblance of a normal life or a say in what jobs they do or don't take. Pop groups are often forced to live together in one apartment (nice apartments from what I've seen) and are monitored pretty much 24/7 by the agency. These monitorings are marketed as reality TV shows, in order to make more money for the agency.
Yea, the stars look all bright and happy to have the cameras there while they're sleeping, eating and practicing, but think about it... would you seriously want to have a camera in your face ALL THE TIME? I'm thinking no...
A lot of agencies don't allow dating and require that the stars tell them where they are at all times. (Which is not such a bad idea for the kiddie stars...but would be annoying for a 20 and up.) Not to mention all the "hush-hush", between-the-lines stuff that the agencies make them do. (Remember Jang Ja Yeon and the "sexual favors"?) Basically, they own these celebs. When the agency says jump, the celebs say "how high?"
I can understand that a lot of the stars are young and do need a short leash, but what happens when they get older? Are they suppose to just let their agencies continue to own them until they are in their 30s and so on? And are they never to be allowed to make their own decisions in their careers, but have some fat, old man who stinks of soju and money tell them what to do? (Okay, so not all agents are old, fat or smell like soju...)
And in regards to the argument that they sign the contract, they are fully aware of what they are getting into...again, most of these guys are quite young when the contracts are made, and have the contract signed by their parents, who we all know don't always think straight when large amounts of money is involved. Even if the guys sign themselves, they are often coming from a pretty tough background where the chance of stardom seem like a miracle.
Heck, if someone offered me a slave contract with SM or JYP right now, I'd probably accept out of desperation (and a secret desire to be famous).
Either way you argue, changes need to be made to prevent these companies from taking further advantages of stars. The agencies seemed to have had free reign for a long time and it's time that someone held them accountable. Granted most stars are okay and most likely are not abused, but I'm sure they would sleep better at night in their over-priced beds knowing that someone out there has their back.