Kpop Idol Star's Terms of Contract: Is It a Slave Contract?


All the k-pop idols should make a contract with k-pop agencies before making a debut. And of course, the idols have to share their profits with the agencies under the terms of contracts. However, the idols and agencies sometimes have dispute over money, and some of them face a messy public legal war too.


K-pop idols have to go through rigorous training programs before debut, while it usually takes more than 2 years for the idols to be fully ready for debut. During the training period, k-pop agencies feed them, house them and educate them. The problem is that it’s not free. After debuting, idols should pay it off, and they can have money in their hands only after clearing their debt.

By the way, there could be a definite difference of opinion between the idols and agencies in the process. K-pop agencies invest enormous capital in their idols, and what they want is to retrieve their investment as soon as possible. That’s why they sometimes force their idols to work harder. However, it’s difficult for the idols to accept that. As I mentioned above, they must discharge their debt to their agencies, and for this reason, they have to work for months or even years without an adequate income. That’s why many idols except for super stars are paid much less than you might think.


Then, do you think k-pop agencies trap idols with a slave contract? Well, let’s see. In 2009, 3 members of TVXQ, Kim Junsu, Park Yoochun and Kim Jaejoong filed a suit against SM Entertainment, insisting that there were big problems regarding their contract year and profit sharing. Well, even though the real reason why the three members filed a suit against SM was that they started their own cosmetics business without the agency’s permission and the agency tried to prevent them from doing it later, it’s true that there was a problem regarding the terms of contract between them. They’ve made a 13-year contract and it was no better than a slave contract. That’s why the Fair Trade Commission ordered SM to correct the unfair contract.

After the incident, the Fair Trade Commission made it mandatory for k-pop agencies to use the standard form of contract. According to the standard form of contract, the contract year should be less than 7 years, while k-pop idols and agencies should conduct talks about their profit sharing. They share their profits by the ratio of 5 to 5, 4 to 6, 3 to 7, or 2 to 8. It differs from idol to idol and agency to agency. However, even after using the standard form of contract became mandatory in the k-pop world, most of the contracts between idols and their agencies are favorable to the agencies. There are even some k-pop agencies which make an illegal contract with their trainees to keep the trainees from moving to another k-pop agency.

And there’s another problem about idols’ contracts with their agencies. There sometimes is an idol who is much more popular than his or her team mates. The notable example is Miss A's Suzy. Since her debut, she has been gaining great popularity, and as a female K-pop idol star, she is without equal now. She earns a lot of money. But, you know, she is still a member of her group, Miss A. Then, do you think all the Miss A members are paid the same even though Suzy makes the biggest profit?


During the rookie season, k-pop idol group members divide profits equally even though a certain member earns much more than the others. Some of you might say it’s unfair, but famous idol stars such as CNBLUE's Jung Yong Hwa, Kara's Han Seung Yeon, Girl's Day's Minah and more shared their profits with their team mates early in their careers even though they made larger profit. However, years after their debut, idols don’t do this kind of thing. Of course, they still divide profits from their group activities evenly, but about profits from their individual activities such as TV drama appearance and advertisement appearance, they don’t share profits. So, top stars like Suzy who appear in various dramas and commercial films are rolling in money.