JYJ and the Law on the American Agency, Part II
It appears that my first piece on ‘JYJ and the Law on the American Agency’ has been circulating here and there and so, while I still have time, I would like to clear up any misunderstandings that might arise from it.
Of course, the prime motivation for JYJ’s use of the American agency model is for their personal activities in entertainment rather than a conscientious desire to lead Korean society by example. I am aware that there are already Korean celebrities utilising the agency model and accepted as equal partners by their agencies even before this concept was raised here. Of course I am aware this is the not the first time. (Translator’s note: she is referring here to the Korean film industry, which has been using the American agency system since the late 90s). However, what I wanted to stress is that because [JYJ] are idols the impact they bring by openly using the agency model will be much bigger.
When I was young, the concept of the idol did not exist in Korean society. The concept of the idol is the following: the entertainer is not engaged in an equal relationship with his or her management but is transformed into the status of a weak child that doesn’t know the ways of the world, is incapable of independence, and must thus depend on, obey and “belong” to their management company as if to a parent. In SM’s case, we are all familiar with the manifestations of this restrictive relationship—13 year long-term contracts, burdensome penalties for breach of contract, etc.—but what horrified me the most is the ideological position of these management companies. Korean management companies publicly announce that they have made children/youths who were “absolutely nothing” into stars with their big-scale capital and know-how. Essentially, their position is that if it weren’t for companies like them it would be impossible for these idol stars to make it on their own. This is why SM often says, “Even if idols leave [our] management company, they always go to another management company [just like ours].” Effectively, they are belittling and condescending the very talent and potential they themselves discovered, but those who habitually lie one day find themselves believing their own lies. In the eyes [of these management companies], idols are not capable of convictions or professional desires but exist simply to eat what’s served to them without any thought, judgment or the artistic ambition that comes with talent. Maybe this is why even the larger public doesn’t really acknowledge or accept idols [as talented people].
In this manner, thus far, [idol management companies] present [idols] as mere products perfected and refined from head to toe, and yet suddenly become the betrayed and hurt sunbae or parent—a corporation taking on human characteristics (Translator’s note: In law, the distinction between a corporate body and a physical body is absolute and without question)—the minute the idol star craves independence; such a sin is blasted as “an offense against the gods” and “ungratefulness.” This is the same logic as saying, because I raised the dog it has no right to bite me even if I decide to make stew out of it.
In this situation JYJ has become the dog that bit its owner or the dog that ran away the day its owner wanted it for stew, rather than artists seeking freedom. What’s more ‘shocking’ is that instead of seeking a new owner that would protect them and take responsibility for them much like the old, [JYJ] sought an agency that would facilitate their activities and let them stand on their own. The fact that they chose to engage with an American-style agency as opposed to a classic Korean management company means that they not only turned down being a slave by contract but also, on the mental level, they have escaped altogether the category of slave in every sense of the word.
In truth, no matter how vigilant one is, if you keep eating the food served to you by others you get used to the taste. SM’s assurance in its modus operandi is this “slave-like spirit” that is universal in human nature, especially when survival or fame is at stake. This is to say, even if slavery is abolished, if one doesn’t grasp at freedom against the temptations of slavery’s comforts and perks, one cannot escape the slave-like mentality. However, if JYJ were slaves in the past, they have now thrown aside their slave-like spirit and are running away from it with all their might.
If JYJ succeeds, it would shatter to pieces the “if not through us it’s impossible” ideology espoused by management companies. Existing idols and even newbie trainees will have grounds to not tolerate the belittling of their talent in a way that bullies them into unequal relations by categorising them as servile weaklings incapable of doing anything on their own. In that case, these restrictive, dependent relationships that form the basis of the idol-producing industry’s success and occupies the core of the system operated by management companies will most likely collapse, no? I at least hope so.
Written by: Junebug of Junebug36
Translation by: Jimmie of TheJYJFiles
~Please do not re-post without proper credits~
Editor’s note: This is a continuation of JYJ and the Law on the American Agency, Part I. The writer is a Korean-American lawyer.