Korea Fair Trade Commission Clamps Down on Entertainment Companies “Slavery” Contract Terms

It was announced yesterday that the Korea Fair Trade Commission had sent notice to 10 major entertainment companies recently, asking them to modify some contract terms that was judged to be unfair to their artistes.

Fair Trade Commission

The “slavery” contracts were uncovered when the Korea Fair Trade Commission ran a check on the contracts of 354 artistes belonging to 10 major entertainment companies (see list below). Apart from a few elite artistes, most of the artistes had signed contracts that weren’t beneficial to them.

The entertainment companies have since made changes or abolished the 46 terms and conditions classified under ten categories with 204 artistes affected by this change. This has created an uproar in Korea after the unfair contract terms was made known to the public and the “slavery” contract between companies and their artistes has once again come under the spotlight.

The 10 biggest entertainment companies named by the Korea Fair Trade Commission to change their artistes contracts include iHQ, JYP Entertainment, SM Entertainment, Yedang Entertainment, BOF, Olive9, wellmade Star, Namoo Actors, Fantom Stars and M.net. The spotlight is on the contract terms that mainly interferes with the personal life of their artistes. For example, an artiste has to first seek approval from their company before being able to go overseas (iHQ). An artiste must notify their company their present location at anytime of asking (Olive9, Fantom). An artiste lifestyle including companionship, schooling, citizenship, military enlistment, making friends, economic activities, socializing events, transportation will have to be consulted with the company (JYP Entertainment) in advance which means interfering with their personal life.


According to one Korea Fair Trade Commission representative, it’s a characteristic of the entertainment industry that artistes follow orders. But companies should not have the right to interfere with their personal life. Under the request of the Korea Fair Trade Commission, the 10 entertainment companies have either modified or abolished the unfair terms and conditions stated. iHQ for example has now changed their ruling to that their artistes need only to notify them a week before they are leaving the country.

Before this, M.net Entertainment had a ruling whereby if it’s artiste terminates their contract before it ends, they would not be able to sign on with other companies. This continues even after the contract has lapse, otherwise the artiste is liable to be sued. Artistes belonging to SM Entertainment have to appear on internet broadcasting belonging to the company for free. But these rulings will now be modified thanks to the Korea Fair Trade Commission.

Other notable terms which include companies being able to ask artistes to perform for free as and when they like, using their artistes song compositions in anyway they want to, etc have since been modified or abolished.

The representative expressed they will maintain even more stringent checks on companies in order to prevent “slavery” contracts from appearing again. For companies that do not or refuse to exercise fair contracts, they would be hauled up to court for a hearing and also slapped with a hefty fine.

94 thoughts on “Korea Fair Trade Commission Clamps Down on Entertainment Companies “Slavery” Contract Terms

  1. Woah JYP o.O That’s def. a lot to keep on lock down for their artists. Olive9 and Fantom is scary, and iHQ is weird.

  2. Interesting terms & conditions in the contracts. In Asia I understand that image is everything. Who you hang with can effect everything about your career. But, these contracts are insane. This is way they are starting singers and groups out younger and younger. That way you can mold them to be the perfect star. Without a will or mind of their own.

    The fact music you make under them is theirs is insane. I feel for every singer who is dealing with this.

  3. I’m glad that this has been done.
    Artists deserve a life other then their careers.
    Plus their human rights have been gained (?).

  4. JYP on the list? Oh no! YG must be good or lucky. haha. “Yes we can”… make changes!.. sorry OBAMA speech here..lol.

  5. wow, YG is one cool company because it is not listed above! The contract conditions that these company have are insane,,, maybe Korea Fair Trade people that many artists are having problems or had problems because of these conditions (example: Lee Jun Ki, Yoon Eun Hye)

    Thanks for the article!

  6. thanks for the article coolsmurf! 🙂 its really heartening to hear all this improvements in the rights and lives of the Korean artists we respect and love:)

  7. About time. “Making friends will have to be consulted with the company” isn’t that a bit too much?
    GJ Korea Fair Trade Commission. XD

  8. can anyone tell me what association YG has with Yedang entertainment? Yedang entertainment’s logos appear on YG artists’ cds and stuff.

  9. OMG the first thing i noticed was that YG wasn’t on there. then i noticed you all noticed the same thing. WOOOO

    thank god, I LOVE BIG BANG!

  10. that’s cool that they did that!!!
    i didn’t know they interfered THAT much though!
    must’ve been hard for WG and SUJU…etc

  11. Oh wow some of the terms really are so strange. ;_; I’m so glad about this! :DDD Artistes are human too mannn! 😀

    And Star Empire isn’t listed! As well as YG! And Good!~HAHA. XD

  12. I knew YG wouldn’t be one of the targeted companies, because you see the Big Bang boys living their lives all the time. They go places, do things, wear risqué clothes, etc. They seem… free. SM Ent artists (for example) don’t go that, you never see them wearing anything their stylists didn’t pick beforehand, or popping up at a party or something like that. I’m glad this is changing for the better! I love my SM boys and want them to be free and happy ^_^

  13. Congrats to YG, except I think they are connected with Mnet on some artists’ contracts. YG is special case too because YG was an artist himself so he propbably didnt want to impose the same crazy rules he had on others.

  14. omigoodness. JYP is crazy. what kind of rule is that? duh~ stupid jyp. just adopt them as your sons and daughters as weel! duh~

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  16. “An artiste lifestyle including companionship, schooling, citizenship, military enlistment, making friends, economic activities, socializing events, transportation will have to be consulted with the company (JYP Entertainment) in advance which interferes with a person’s personal life.”

    JYP was an artist himself and yet he does this to his own artists. This is just too sad.

  17. selling their ‘souls’ for fame, glory, and money. man that really sucks. it takes $ to get place, after all.

    but i guess that’s how popular artists get popular in asia. and the US. you literally sell your self/body to the company, though i think this is practiced at a more harsh level in korea than in the US.

    it’s just sad to hear about it.

  18. Oh my god. JYP’s ridiculous.

    It’s pretty much once you sign JYP’s contract, you’re his little bitch for life.

    Thank god this Fair Trade Commission came in there.

  19. lol and i hear all this praising of how good JYP is hmmp maybe producer but lol what’s with his strict regulations about his idols no wonder why Rain left him >.< newayz @ ris about yedang to yg entertainment ..basically yedang is their distribution management for their albums, dvds, etc…i think correct me if i’m wrong lol but yeah yg ent. is no longer with yedang they are now with mnet media.

  20. lol… JYP…i’m pretty sure he does not care that much… plus he can’t seem to be able to say no to WG..

  21. Wonder if this will affect the outcome of the Lee Jun Ki lawsuit? (since his company (Mentor) wasn’t named… or was it not influential enough to be named?) Hope all the best for him

    Slavery and child labor is wrong… get that SM and JYP!

  22. @ vertigo
    say no to wondergirls?? what the hell have they done without him?? everything from songwriting to production was done through him.. whats to stop him from using that as leverage against them??

    JYP has always controlled his artists and sometimes he seems much stricter and scarier than big daddy SM himself… maybe thats why he can’t have more than 1 big artist at a time… he can’t controll all of them

  23. i know that’s what i thought.
    so does anyone know if dsp is included on this or not?
    noooo…….not ss501!
    kyu jong oppa!

  24. not surprise about Sm. Half of those companies I’ve never even heard of.

    YES DSP isn’t on the list..but it’s that three of it’s member right there? I think it’s Young Saeng, Kyu Jong and Jung Min?

  25. wow thank God for the good changes! I never knew it was so oppressive. Hope it has some good effect on the Lee Joon Ki case too… cos I think this problem doesn’t only affect the singers, many actors also had problems with their companies and left… now we know why.

  26. haha kind of guessed that YG wouldn’t be on the list. After watching FO and seeing Daesung talk about how the big boss specifically told him not to appear dumb but he does it anyways AND isn’t afraid to reveal it, makes me think that the boys are pretty happy working and free to do their thang in the yg family. I suppose they all have a certain image but I still get the impression that they have quite a lot of freedom. To dress as they like anyways (looks at Gdragon).

  27. Just from what I read in the article, it doesn’t necessarily say that YG was declared ‘clean’; YG just wasn’t covered in the contract reviews.

    I have read stories about JYP’s treatment of his trainees, but I’m still pretty shocked.

  28. @madds Yeah I also remember gummy saying that one time after her contract with YG expired another company offered her a ridiculous amount of money to jump ship but she said she still chose yg.

  29. so does this mean that all those SM artists will no longer be starved and deprived of socialization??? YAY!!!

    a shame to see JYP listed there… poor wonder girls T___T

    but woohoo for YG not being mentioned!

  30. No wonder Rain left JYP. lol. Come on. Without JYP there is no Rain. No other co want to take Rain until JYP met him. I think the thing about JYP also same goes to SM but it even worse. No wonder DongHa left M.net.

  31. i always knew jyp was like hitler. his conditions are just too much. and i have always called being a trainiee being a slave in korea. they should start to fix the age requirements! some trainiees start at the age 10!! thats child labor!

  32. I think there must be a reason why contracts are so strict. I mean hello! they are representing the company and if they dont behave good or have a clean image you really think they’ll have that much fans?
    Fame is hard. When you get famous obviously something must be returned.

    And i disagree with how JYP is worst then SM. SME BEATS PEOPLE.

  33. Finally something is being done with unfair contracts! When I read some of the contract terms of SUJU I seriously thought there’s no way this would fly in America. I mean most of the SUJU boys have a 13 year contract…. 13 years and thats starting from their debut! So they are at the mercy of SM. I read that Nickhun of 2PM has a similar contract, its like 10-13 years as well. A contract lasting that long only benefits the entertainment company because should problems arise the company can ‘freeze’ the artists career, like how Lee Jun Ki’s company is trying do to him. They’re trying to freeze his career (ie not have him work) til 2013! CRAZY!

  34. Man, I would love to read all the contract terms of all the companies, especially SM Entertainment. Surprisingly, none of the SM Entertainment terms were mentioned in the article. I wonder is it cause it was really overboard or too many to list -_-”’

  35. “I read that Nickhun of 2PM has a similar contract, its like 10-13 years as well. A contract lasting that long only benefits the entertainment company because should problems arise the company can ‘freeze’ the artists career, like how Lee Jun Ki’s company is trying do to him.”

    Anna are you serious 10-13 years for a contract? I always wondered why Korean singers work so darn hard and have little to show for it. However props up to the elite celebrities like RAIN, Kim Rae Won, BYJ who took their careers into their own hands and managed their own lifestyle.


    Yup that’s what I read and its from the time of debut that the contract starts so he’s locked into JYP til like 2018 – 2021. Same goes for the SUJU boys they still have like 10 years left on their contracts. Yoon Eun Hye signed a 3 year contract with her entertainment company and after 1 year she hated them and took them to court to get out of her remaining 2 years. I think that’s why entertainment companies sign kids up so young 1. to mold them and 2. because they are easily manipulated into signing an unfair contract.

  37. YG isn’t on there
    because the great Mr. YG treat his artists like family
    which is amazing
    I love him.

    Yedang use to be partner with YG but after the year 2007 YG switch to Mnet.
    so now if you look at recent Big Bang CDs, you’ll see the Mnet logo instead of yedang

  38. @skyscope,if YG was on their which is pretty much impossible then it would have been mentioned because its one of the BIG companies.they just didnt mention some of the smaller companies.Bigbang are pretty much free,YG is freedom.they get to create their own music,wear whatever they like and dont have to suck up to people. they even get to have their own solo albums.they have freedom.

  39. @ lovemeleaveme: You are correct. Yedang Entertainment manages mostly actors/actresses, but also publish media as well.

    And I agree with Lisa YG must be a special case. lol

  40. YG Entertainment even hired personal trainer for each of the artistes in the company, that’s how cool and care they are for these idols..

    SMe on the other hands.., well I guess most of us already knew how they treat their artistes… -_-* it’s about time for this kind of thing to take place in Korea’s entertainment industry.

  41. whoa… i didn’t think it would go to that extreme… like i know there’s control from entertainment companies on their artistes but didn’t think it would be that crazy… SCARY!!!

    but it’s good that these changes are in effect…cuz artistes are just humans like all of us and they should have freedom in their personal lives… if it affects their job… let it be… just like the rest of us… hopefully…things will be better for artistes and entertainers in korea…

  42. YG is the man!

    he gives his artists freedom, and yet STILL manages to have one of the most successful management companies!
    (jyp and sm being the other 2)

    jyp and sm should recognize that success can still be achieved without strict artist monitoring policies..
    and your artists would also be a lot happier and more loyal

  43. ive been waiting for this day to happen for like years. -0- seriously. these contracts are wack. -_____- finally some changes are happening in the kpop industry.

    to WGLuver & people with the same thought: how do you know? by rumors? rumors are just rumors. sm beats their artists? -_____-^ you need good, solid proof not fabricated rumors. ive heard about this before many times and i choose not to believe in it. dont degrade on sm entertainment please. i can see why sm has been on this list because i believe that their contracts can be unfair, but that doesnt make jyp any better. jyp was on the list too, you know.

  44. i recognize the 5 blurred out girls are WG also cause they are 5 & are carrying cakes for Wonder Bakery. i knew JYP was controlling cause i heard that he has a hand in what they wear, sing, dance. but i had no idea it was that controlling. also i saw that Come To Play ep with past idol groups & they said they weren’t allowed to even go out or date or decide what to wear or how to do their hair cause of their company.

  45. @critic: I don’t know how others got their news/rumors, but it’s a well known fact that SME beats their artists. Everyone in the industry knows about it (just fyi, I used to work in a fashion magazine in Seoul and dealt with artists/managements on a daily basis so I’m sure my knowledge is valid :)).

  46. Honestly i don’t think these regulations are THAT extreme. I mean, for JYP, i know it might seem like a lot but all it says is that the artists needs to consult with the company. It’s not like their forbidding the artists of all these things. However, i do understand that some may want to argue that the company should not have the right to know about absolutely everything about their lives. But i also understand that this is the entertainment industry and of course companies want to make sure their artists are not doing anything that is going to ruin their image, thus wanting their artists to report everything to them. But i still don’t think that it’s that extreme, even for JYP.

  47. It’s definitely a trade off. These companies invest so much in their proteges that they need to see a return of somekind. I do realize at the height of the artist’s fame, things need to be regulated and controled for protection, PR etc. But from what I’ve read most of these contracts are indeed severely unfair and borderline slavery. Most of these people start so young, they have no idea what they are getting themselves into. There was a cover story about this on Time Asia. If you google it, you should be able to find it. The last time the Fair Trade Commission brought the smack down on the industry most of the big name CEOs went MIA for a while. I think it was back in like 02. Anyway, I hope all our artists get a little more breathing room and get to lead somewhat normal personal lives.

  48. @ Vicky & Ciy

    do you guys know what kind of partnership mnet has with YG then? does mnet just publish YG’s cds, etc?

    just curious because they’re on the list and YG isn’t.

  49. yeah mnet just publish the cds and stuff (just like yedang). mnet and yg both have different artists and different contracts.

  50. well thank goodness ^^ they fair trade comission was able to make ends meet and protect artists from literally being owned by lucrative music industries.

  51. YEAHHH~~~~

    the artists get all the fame .. but they suffer like hell and treated like slaves. -.-

    I hope the artists will be treated better.
    Korea entertainment is scary indeed.

  52. SM can’t be all bad. When Jaejoong (DBSK) hurt his knee in 06 he had two options for surgery… one he would be fine the next day, but later (10 yrs or more) his knee could be bad again. The other option he would need to recover for 6 months or so. If SM was all about the money, they would have required him to have the quick fix surgery. Not something where it was an inconvenience to everyone for half a year.

    My sister in law had the quick fix surgery as a teen because of a sports injury, and now 20 years later needs her knee to be replaced because it is in such bad shape.

    Also, just because something is in a contract, doesn’t guarantee that they will enforce it. Sort of covering your butts in case of any problems that arise later. Anyone else thinking of Edison Chen?

  53. “M.net Entertainment had a ruling whereby if it’s artiste terminates their contract before it ends, they would not be able to sign on with other companies. This continues even after the contract has lapse, otherwise the artiste is liable to be sued.”

    i’ve seen this before… not good business practices though.

  54. Michael J.K. Choi and Robert Lee Taylor are signing Korean and international artists. Michael J.K. Choi, himself, is a Korean American R&B artist, singer, songwriter and business owner. With regard to the Korean Fair Trade Commissions actions, Michael J.K. Choi and I are willing to negotiate with various Korean artists who want to join our label. If you have been under a “slavery contract” and want to be free on our label, here is some information:

    myspace dot com/michaeljkchoi

    soundclick dot com/mikechoi

    myspace dot com/langleyvirginia

  55. I’m so happy that I didn’t find YG on there – after I read SM and JYP on the list, I was like oh dammnn. But I’m proud I YG isn’t on there 🙂 Woop!

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