EXO’s Xiumin, Baekhyun, and Chen End Contracts With SM Entertainment

EXO perform at Hong Kong’s AsiaWorld-Expo in 2019. Photo: VCG/Visual China Group via Getty Images

Xiumin, Baekhyun, and Chen of the K-pop group EXO terminated their exclusive contract with longtime agency SM Entertainment on June 1, alleging the company withheld payments and forced them to sign “slave” contracts. Attorneys for the artists, who debuted in the critically and commercially successful eight-piece in 2012, stated that they will file a lawsuit against SM over the outstanding payments and are prepared to take further legal action if necessary. Lee Jae-hak, the attorney representing the artists, wrote a statement claiming the company — one of the largest music labels in Korea — failed to provide proper settlement records and documentation over the past 12–13 years and did not turn over the documents since his first request on March 21. “If SM had reimbursed [the three members] correctly, then there would be no reason at all for it to not send the requested documents,” the statement read, according to the Korea Herald. “If other artists under the SM agency have also not been receiving their payment details and evidence as in the case of Baekhyun, Xiumin and Chen, then this problem is not limited to only these three, but affects all of SM’s artists.”

Lawyers for the members also claim SM is “committing tyrannical acts” by forcing them to sign outrageous, so-called “slave” contracts. “While signing a longtime deal of 12–13 years with its artists, SM made its artists sign another exclusive contract for when the initial contract term comes to its end, leading to prolonged terms of at least 17–18 years,” the statement read. They argue the artists could sign away around 20 years of labor to the company when including the trainee period. SM refuted the claims in a statement, promising to pursue legal action against the “outside forces” that are “luring the artists to breach the valid exclusive contracts they have signed with the company, but using them to get through to other artists to also violate the contract terms or sign double-contracts.”

“We feel scared and daunted in taking this first small step to talk about the unfair treatment [we have faced] until now,” Xiumin, Baekhyun, and Chen said in a message. “Please realize the courage it has taken us (to do this). We’re truly grateful to all the fans who have supported us for a long time.”

EXO’s Xiumin, Baekhyun, and Chen Terminate Contracts With SM