[DISCUSSION] Contractual Obligations v. The Meaning of Justice

Editor’s Note: Professor Sandel teaches a course on Justice at Harvard University and his popular course is available for viewing online in a 12-part series at this link: http://tinyurl.com/OnJustice. For more information on Michael J. Sandel and his works, please visit http://www.justiceharvard.org.

Contractual Obligations v. The Meaning of Justice

An excerpt from Harvard Professor Michael J. Sandel’s Justice: What’s the Right Thing to Do? (Farr, Straus and Giroux, New York: 2009, pp. 140-150)

Most of us Americans never signed a social contract. In fact, the only people in the United States who have actually agreed to abide by the Constitution (public officials aside) are naturalized citizens—immigrants who have taken an oath of allegiance as a condition of their citizenship. The rest of us are never required, or even asked, to give our consent. So why are we obligated to obey the law? And how can we say that our government rests on the consent of the governed?

John Locke says we’ve given tacit consent. Anyone who enjoys the benefits of a government, even by travelling on the highway, implicitly consents to the law, and is bound by it. But tacit consent is a pale form of the real thing. It is hard to see how just passing through town is morally akin to ratifying the Constitution.

Immanuel Kant appeals to hypothetical consent. A law is just if it could have been agreed to by the public as a whole. But this, too, is a puzzling alternative to an actual social contract. How can a hypothetical agreement do the moral work of a real one?

John Rawls (1921-2002), an American political philosopher, offers an illuminating answer to this question. In A Theory of Justice (1971), he argues that the way to think about justice is to ask what principles we would agree to in an initial situation of equality.

Rawls reasons as follows: Suppose we gathered, just as we are, to choose the principles to govern our collective life—to write a social contract. What principles would we choose? […]

The Moral Limits of Contracts

To appreciate the moral force of Rawl’s hypothetical contract, it helps to notice the moral limits of actual contracts. We sometimes assume that, when two people make a deal, the terms of their agreement must be fair. We assume, in other words, that contracts justify the terms that they produce. But they don’t—at least not on their own. The mere fact that you and I make a deal is not enough to make it fair. Of any actual contract, it can always be asked, “Is it fair, what they agreed to?” To answer this question, we can’t simply point to the agreement itself; we need some independent standard of fairness. […]

To those who believe that morality begins and ends with consent, this may seem a jarring claim. But it is not all that controversial. We often question the fairness of the deals people make. And we are familiar with the contingencies that can lead to bad deals: one of the parties may be a better negotiator, or have a stronger bargaining position, or know more about the value of the things being exchanged. The famous words of Don Corleone in The Godfather, “I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse,” suggest (in extreme form) the pressure that hovers, to some degree, over most negotiations.

To recognize that contracts do not confer fairness on the terms they produce doesn’t mean we should violate our agreements whenever we please. We may be obligated to fulfil even an unfair bargain, at least up to a point. Consent matters, even if it’s not all there is to justice. But it is less decisive than we sometimes think. We often confuse the moral work of consent with other sources of obligation.

Suppose we make a deal: You will bring me a hundred lobsters, and I will pay you $1,000. You harvest and deliver the lobsters, I eat them and enjoy them, but refuse to pay. You say I owe you the money. Why, I ask? You might point to our agreement, but you might also point to the benefit I’ve enjoyed. You could very well say that I have an obligation to repay the benefit that, thanks to you, I’ve enjoyed.

Now suppose we make the same deal, but this time, after you’ve gone to the work of catching the lobsters and bringing them to my doorstep, I change my mind. I don’t want them after all. You still try to collect. I say, “I don’t owe you anything. This time, I haven’t benefited.” At this point, you might point to our agreement, but you might also point to the hard work you’ve done to trap the lobsters while relying on the expectation that I would buy them. You could say that I’m obligated to pay by virtue of the efforts you’ve made on my behalf.

Now let’s see if we can imagine a case where the obligation rests on consent alone—without the added moral weight of repaying a benefit or compensating you for the work you did on my behalf. This time, we make the same deal, but moments later, before you’ve spent any time gathering lobsters, I call you back and say, “I’ve changed my mind. I don’t want any lobsters.” Do I still owe you the $1,000? Do you say, “A deal is a deal,” and insist that my act of consent creates an obligation even without benefit or reliance?

Legal thinkers have debated this question for a long time. Can consent create an obligation on its own, or is some element of benefit or reliance also required? This debate tells us something about the morality of contracts that we often overlook: actual contracts carry moral weight insofar as they realize two ideals—autonomy and reciprocity.

As voluntary acts, contracts express our autonomy; the obligations they create carry weight because they are self-imposed—we take them freely upon ourselves. As instruments of mutual benefit, contracts draw on the ideal of reciprocity; the obligation to fulfil them arises from the obligation to repay others for the benefits they provide us.

In practice, these ideals—autonomy and reciprocity—are imperfectly realized. Some agreements, though voluntary, are not mutually beneficial. And sometimes we can be obligated to repay a benefit simply on grounds of reciprocity, even in the absence of a contract. This points to the moral limits of consent: In some cases, consent may not be enough to create a morally binding obligation; in others, it may not be necessary.

When Consent is Not Enough: Baseball Cards and the Leaky Toilet

[…]

Some years ago, I read a newspaper article about a more extreme case: An elderly widow in Chicago had a leaky toilet in her apartment. She hired a contractor to fix it—for $50,000. She signed a contract that required her to pay $25,000 as a down payment, and the remainder in instalments. The scheme was discovered when she went to the bank to withdraw $25,000. The teller asked why she needed such a large withdrawal, and the woman replied that she had to pay the plumber. The teller contacted the police, who arrested the unscrupulous contractor for fraud.

All but the most ardent contractarians would concede that the $50,000 toilet repair was egregiously unfair—despite the fact that two willing parties agreed to it. This case illustrates two points about the moral limits of contracts: First, the fact of an agreement does not guarantee the fairness of the agreement. Second, consent is not enough to create a binding moral claim. Far from an instrument of mutual benefit, this contract mocks the ideal of reciprocity. This explains, I think, why few people would say that the elderly woman was morally obliged to pay the outrageous sum.

[…]

I’ve argued so far that consent is not a sufficient condition of moral obligation; a lopsided deal may fall so far short of mutual benefit that even its voluntary character can’t redeem it. I’d now like to offer a further, more provocative claim: Consent is not a necessary condition of moral obligation. If the mutual benefit is clear enough, the moral claims of reciprocity may hold even without an act of consent.

Benefit or Consent? Sam’s Mobile Auto Repair

…Many years ago, when I was a graduate student, I drove across the country with some friends. We stopped at a rest stop in Hammond, Indiana, and went into a convenience store. When we returned to our car, it wouldn’t start. None of us knew much about car repair. As we wondered what to do, a van pulled up beside us. On the side was a sign that said, “Sam’s Mobile Repair Van.” Out of the van came a man, presumably Sam.

He approached us and asked if he could help. “Here’s how I work,” he explained. “I charge fifty dollars an hour. If I fix your car in five minutes, you will owe me fifty dollars. If I work on your car for an hour and can’t fix it, you will still owe me fifty dollars.”

“What are the odds you’ll be able to fix the car?” I asked. He didn’t answer me directly, but started poking around under the steering column. I was unsure what to do. I looked to my friends to see what they thought. After a short time, the man emerged from under the steering column and said, “Well, there’s nothing wrong with the ignition system, but you still have forty-five minutes left. Do you want me to look under the hood?”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “I haven’t hired you. We haven’t made any agreement.” The man became very angry and said, “Do you mean to say that if I had fixed your car just now while I was looking under the steering column you wouldn’t have paid me?”

I said, “That’s a different question.”

I didn’t go into the distinction between consent-based and benefit-based obligations. Somehow I don’t think it would have helped. But the contretemps with Sam the repairman highlights a common confusion about consent. Sam believed that if he had fixed my car while he was poking around, I would have owed him fifty dollars. I agree. But the reason I would have owed him the money is that he could have performed a benefit—namely, fixing my car. He inferred that, because I would have owed him, I must (implicitly) have agreed to hire him. But this inference is a mistake. It wrongly assumes that wherever there is an obligation, there must have been an agreement—some act of consent. It overlooks the possibility that obligation can arise without consent. If Sam had fixed my car, I would have owed him in the name of reciprocity. Simply thanking him and driving off would have been unfair. But this doesn’t imply that I hired him.

[…]

Imagining the Perfect Contract

What do these various misadventures tell us about the morality of contracts? Contracts derive their moral force from two different ideals, autonomy and reciprocity. But most actual contracts fall short of these ideals. If I’m up against someone with a superior bargaining position, my agreement may not be wholly voluntary, but pressure or, in the extreme case, coerced. If I’m negotiating with someone with greater knowledge of the things we are exchanging, the deal may not be mutually beneficial. In the extreme case, I may be defrauded or deceived.

In real life, persons are situated differently. This means that differences in bargaining power and knowledge are always possible. And as long as this is true, the fact of an agreement does not, by itself, guarantee the fairness of an agreement. This is why actual contract are not self-sufficient moral instruments. It always makes sense to ask, “But is it fair, what they have agreed to?”

Discuss how Michael Sandel’s explanation of contractual obligation and/or John Rawl’s theory of distributive justice hypothetical social contract exercise (if you are familiar with them) relate to the JYJ v. SM lawsuit

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28 thoughts on “[DISCUSSION] Contractual Obligations v. The Meaning of Justice

  1. hehe thanks JYJFiles. exactly what I am looking for. Will join the discussion and write my opinion later 😀

  2. This, yet again is a very intelligent well put article. This however won’t be able to process for people who are still on the “do as you are told side”. Thanks JYJ files. Also people who stalk/lurk/observe this site like a hawk please check out jyjtimeline.wordpress.com

    • hehehe~ we are so kind. we even acknowledge “their” presence here & on YJ3… ^^

      Imma read this later at work so I can feed my brain cells. Thanks in advance, ladies of JYJ Files!

  3. Wow! This reminds me of my Justice Theories/Contract Law classes. Thanks for making contact law read more interesting, now that I can compare it to real life stuff I’m interested in like JYJ v SM.

  4. Hi Jimmie–

    A couple of questions. Has anyone (of us on the “outside”) ever actually seen/read the recording and management contracts the five 18 year olds signed seven years ago? Who negotiated the contract on the boys’ side at the time? Were their parents represented by each boy’s own separate attorney or one attorney for all or none?

    I can’t seem to get past that particularly nasty aspect of the company’s position after the signing and then forever after that no matter how ridiculously inequitable the terms were shown to be for these boys ever seeing any fair payment for their continuous, wildly successful labors, any type of protest by them to the company, any desire for discussion, clarification, a desire to see facts and figures was never tolerated under the old ‘Stern and Powerful Father may not be gainsaid’ rule and cultural tradition.

    It was a 13 year contract, if I’m not mistaken. Would this not in itself be illegal? (this makes me think the boys were not represented by an attorney.) Clearly SM had the vastly superior negotiating position–this almost goes without saying. I shall surmise that SM conducted a short “take it or leave it” maximum position negotiation with the parents, the 5 excited 18 year olds figeting in the background. Here in the U.S. signing with one company for recording, management and publishing would immediately constitute a conflict of interest–not sure in S.Korea.

    It occurs to me that 13 years of hard labor for SM would put the members of TVXQ at about 31 years of age. Hardly a good age for teen idols. After no royalties to speak of and no discussion possible for any other grievances for all those years it seems rather likely that at that point SM had every intention of dumping them out the back door, broke and exhausted, onto the street whence they came.

    Oh, third question: do we know exactly what Jaejoong and Yuchun asked for when they had the final showdown with SM about their grievances? What exactly they requested to be changed? That would be kind of important to know.

    • As far as I know, some of the boys’ parents were present for the initial signing of the contract but no legal representative or Government-appointed auditor (as is sometimes the practice in the US). In other words, there was no one present on the boys’ side who knew anything about contracts, Korean law or even of the right to have legal representation at such events (speculations of any of the DBSK parents being lawyers or having studied law turn out to be false).

    • As for your third question…if you look at the actual contract, there is a lengthy footnote at the bottom of one of the provisions that explains that before the lawsuit was filed, JYJ and SM went through 5 rounds of negotiations. One gets a general sense that very little changed even after 5 rounds of negotiations…the only major change being that SM changed the terms of the profits from album sales. In the original contract, DBSK members were to receive 2% of the entirety of their album sales. After 5 rounds of negotiations, that was changed to the now infamous conditional profit scheme, whereby DBSK members would receive a set sum after selling at least 500,000 units, so on and so forth. One can infer from this that the demands of the trio most likely centred around profits from the albums produced under their name (which is more than fair that the profit distribution here should be favourable to the artist) as well as copyright (once again, more than fair in light of international intellectual property law even at the most general level, the international level).

      I hope this sheds light on your questions. Though, it’s good to keep in mind no one but the participants of these negotiations will know 100% what was asked and exchanged between the parties.

      • @Jimmie –
        you said”After 5 rounds of negotiations, that was changed to the now infamous conditional profit scheme, whereby DBSK members would receive a set sum after selling at least 500,000 units, so on and so forth. One can infer from this that the demands of the trio most likely centred around profits from the albums produced under their name (which is more than fair that the profit distribution here should be favourable to the artist) as well as copyright (once again, more than fair in light of international intellectual property law even at the most general level, the international level). >

        Fair? What has taken place there in Korea at SM’s cynical behest regarding this contract seems a textbook definition of UNfair. Here in the U.S., every time an artist produces a hit album that sells exceptionally well that artist AUTOMATICALLY re-negotiates his contract with the label for a larger percentage of profits. This is a given: that in the beginning an untried artist may sign a contract with relatively unattractive terms but that upon success/album sales, things change and they see more profits and other benefits.
        But I’m getting way ahead of myself because it just seems to me that all of these later points of contention become moot once you know that there was no legal counsel or representation whatsoever at the signing of a 13 year contract. And did I hear rightly yesterday that the parents were not even permitted to read (or I assume retain copies) of the contract they signed? I think it was here–maybe not.

        Good Lord! The more you know about this case, the more your head spins!

      • Just to avoid confusion, when I say “fair” I mean fair in favour of JYJ, not SM. There appears to have been some confusion there…

        The idea that profit distributions from albums bearing their name would benefit the artist and that the proceeds from copyright also would benefit the artist are only fair. The results of the negotiations are clearly NOT fair…in fact, there is grave injustice in the very fact that JYJ had to even push for such negotiations in the first place, in my view.

      • @jimmie
        you said “After 5 rounds of negotiations, that was changed to the now infamous conditional profit scheme, whereby DBSK members would receive a set sum after selling at least 500,000 units, so on and so forth. One can infer from this that the demands of the trio most likely centred around profits from the albums produced under their name (which is more than fair that the profit distribution here should be favourable to the artist) as well as copyright (once again, more than fair in light of international intellectual property law even at the most general level, the international level).”

        So, summarizing, after X number of smash hit CDs over a 7 year span(not to mention all of the re-packaging of earlier CDs that were also selling well) there had NEVER been a renegotiation of terms, profits and copyrights. Not one. And after 5 rounds of discussions at the end, the only thing SM would agree to was a provision they KNEW they could get around by ‘creative accounting’ and stone-walling any attempts at a legitimate audit.

        I don’t think they’ve allowed their books to be audited by an outside 3rd party to this day, have they? So… autonomy and reciprocity?? No signs of either one anywhere here, folks.

        But I still say, all of it pales by comparison to the circumstances of how these children were signed to a 13 year contract in the first place. Here in the U.S. that would be the end of the discussion and I might add it certainly never would have gone to trial, either. Legitimate contract disputes are supposed to be painstakingly ~negotiated~ and resolved by reasonable people. We can only hope that SM’s supreme arrogance and thuggish criminality will cost them dearly in the end.

  5. Hi, Jimmie. As always, you’ve amazed me. Thank you for this excellent article. It has EVERYTHING to do with JYJ’s case. Professor Sandel said that “Contracts derive their moral force from two different ideals, autonomy and reciprocity”. I wonder; ¿Where and when were autonomy and reciprocity being excercized practically, in day by day life, in the contract between SME and DBSK boys? The autonomy was exercized by SME alone, and there’s no such thing as reciprocity between the parts. ¿What kinf of “moral force” could be derived from such a contract?

    And more important; in the beginning, the article states that “contracts must be based on fair agreements, but we need some independent standards of fairness to guarantee that”, and here lies the problem. Not all agreements are fair because there are different ways in which one of the parts can be coerced to agree, or became a victim because the other part has the knowledge or is somehow in an advantageous position to bargain. This precisely was the position of DBSK boys and their parents; victims of the dominating part because they lacked both the knowledge and the experience to negotiate such an agreement. Besides, they could’ve been coerced by the fact that they didn’t wanted to lose the oportunity to became music stars. So, they were in a position they couldn’t refuse any kind of agreement, although I know they never had access to any documents at all. At this point, I have to confess that I’ve been wondering why their parents never went through negotiations with SME, having a law counselor by their sides. It’s outrageous that none of them had never been allowed to read the contract terms documents.

    The third thing I want to comment is benefit and obligation. DBSK made an agreement with SME. The boys agreed to work under SME’s management, to improve their talents in order to sing and dance to please the public; those were their obligations towards the agreement. Their benefit were going to be very good money for each one, among other non-measurable things. SME’s obligations were to care for the boys and to provide everything they needed to accomplish their part of the agreement. SME’s benefit were going to be prestige among the artistic media, and tons of money. Unfortunately, as we all know, obligations towards DBSK boys never were accomplished, because the boys were monetary charged even for breathe, and they received insignificant monetary benefits from the hard work they’ve agreed to do.

    To conclude, I have to ask; ¿To what kind of agreement were DBSK boys coerced to agree? ¿Where are the moral standards within this contract?

    • Ok. I’ve written about the contract between SME and DBSK, but, for what is in our interest, we can change the name “DBSK” by “JYJ”.

      • The contract up for discussion and circumstances surrounding it are supposedly the same for all members of TVXQ so using TVXQ (or DBSK) is valid.

    • If your dream was a signature away, would you sign on the dotted line? At that time, the boys were just hopefuls. I think they would have signed anything. Their parents as well – if only to help their kids’ dreams come true. I’m sure SM realised and exploited this with each and every one of their artistes.

      I’d also think that SM’s status as a major player in the Korean entertainment industry had something to do with it. At least, I’d have thoughts like ‘a reputable company won’t cheat us’, or ‘if SM offers these terms, this must be the industry norm/standard’.

      • @Closet
        “At that time, the boys were just hopefuls. I think they would have signed anything. Their parents as well – if only to help their kids’ dreams come true. I’m sure SM realised and exploited this with each and every one of their artistes. I’d also think that SM’s status as a major player in the Korean entertainment industry had something to do with it. At least, I’d have thoughts like ‘a reputable company won’t cheat us’, or ‘if SM offers these terms, this must be the industry norm/standard’. ”

        It is indeed most distressing that the parents of these incredibly talented and vulnerable kids could be so ill-informed and easily led, living in the 21st century as they were. If they’d thought to do any research whatsoever on the business their 18 year olds were getting ready to enter they may have gotten an early hint that the music business is rather notorious (in all countries of the world) for it’s rough ways on the uninitiated and the powerless.

        And since they were going to be signing away the next 13 years of their children’s lives, maybe they could have run a quick Google search on SME and Lee Soo Man just to see if they were in fact a reputable company whose contract was an industry standard. Just the idea that they might have thought in those terms proves to me anyway that they were being negligent in their duties as parents to protect their kids.

        The first contract any record company or management company will hand you is their “maximum position” everything-for-me-nothing-for-you agreement. It’s then up to the artist and his team to negotiate better terms for himself.

        Without legal representation, these parents were at sea–totally at a disadvantage with a company like SM. Hopeful imaginings they may have had about the legitimacy of SM’s terms just sound like weak excuses to not do their due diligence and thoroughly check the company out (not to mention the music business in general!) before they handed over their children.

  6. Some things the author exposed are so logical and obvious is painful to see how we need constant reminder about it.
    “We assume, in other words, that contracts justify the terms that they produce. But they don’t—at least not on their own. The mere fact that you and I make a deal is not enough to make it fair”
    This, to start, is obvious, yet some people seem to have a hard time understanding it.
    Morality, at least for me, does not start and end with consent.
    As the author explains, there is always a power game when one who holds more power over situations easily can lead the other party to an unfair condition but the weaker part doesn’t have other option but to agree.
    Just like the members and SM. The members before join SM as trainee, and even after finishing training had a weaker position to negotiate.
    They can say “hey I don’t like this part of the contract” because SM has 100 other trainies behind who would probably agree to anything.
    Even worse, the more time and effort the trainee invest, the more he is whiling to sacrifice.
    If they didn’t give up the first year of training, the less possible they will turn down any deal after 2 years (or more) of training.
    So SM (as all big companies) have the power and the knowledge (even if the members have an attorney, SM still has the upper hand)
    Does this rings any bells?
    “It overlooks the possibility that obligation can arise without consent.”
    “First, the fact of an agreement does not guarantee the fairness of the agreement. Second, consent is not enough to create a binding moral claim.”
    About SM and JYJ situation, we can say the contract is by all means unfair. Autonomy and reciprocity? None of those things are in the contract, quite the contrary.
    Moving on, this in an amazing article. Thank you so much for posting it.

    • Carmila, I think you’ve just hit the bulls-eye with your follow-up comment here. The TVXQ case study definitely lays outs concerns regarding the moral limits of the contract. It brings up the issue where contractual consent between two parties does not necessary make contracts moral. Of course, this notion in itself becomes an abstract argument because the “ideals of morality” are not absolute and is subject to debate and personal/biased observations. However, in the TVXQ case study, it is becoming increasingly apparent that the boys obtained neither “benefit” nor “consent” via the SM’s “slave contract.” That is to say, in all the years TVXQ have ran activities through SM, they were neither provided with the appropriate investments nor support from SM without money taken out of their own pockets –and this reality was not applied through the consent of the boys.

      Many in this thread have questioned the legitimacy of ‘how’ the contracts were signed -in the absence of a legal representative. Personally, I don’t imagine these “slave contracts” to have changed much in the in presence of a legal representative on TVXQ’s side. This is predominantly due to the ridiculously gregarious uneven bargaining power between the idols and the entertainment agency. As quoted from one of above articles:

      Contracts derive their moral force from two different ideals, autonomy and reciprocity. But most actual contracts fall short of these ideals. If I’m up against someone with a superior bargaining position, my agreement may not be wholly voluntary, but pressure or, in the extreme case, coerced.

      The playing field between the two parties were never flat to begin with. While SM had the power to debut hundreds of other trainees, for all TVXQ knew, it was probably their only chance to live their dream. Hence entertainment industries (not just SM) are capable of exploiting their artists under the forged façade of being a “family” or “father” that will always be there for the boys. Once a more “personal” bond has been made, idols would more willingly sacrifice and succumb to the unfair demands of their “entertainment fathers.” Unfortunately, this submission would often be offered voluntarily by the artists themselves, in fear of being labelled as a “betrayer” to the “hands that raised them.” (Which of course, in the eyes of many onlooker like ourselves, this is nothing but a load of bull-dung). It is amazing how this “deeper” and “fake” family connection works. In the JYJ and Homin case, where JYJ saw the injustice of the system, Homin held on to their belief that SM is more than an entertainment agency that they work for, but “family” with whom that they’ve overcome battles and hardship. I think what Homin is not seeing is that JYJ isn’t fighting their “family” and definitely not each other (Homin). What JYJ is fighting is simply the system.

      In essence, JYJ dispatched a legal dispute regarding their contract with SM to fight against the injustice of the “idol raising” system in Korea’s entertainment industry. That is all there is to it. There is no betrayal. There is no hate or ill-intent towards the rising of TVXQ or Homin. Correct me if I’m wrong, but throughout this court-case in this past two years, I have never heard of JYJ accusing Homin’s betrayal or releasing any ‘official’ words of contempt regarding Homin’s choice to stay with SME. For as far as the public is concerned, JYJ have not blatantly poken one bad word about and to these two boys.

      • @soulmelody

        Nicely thought out and expressed. I appreciate your comments.
        🙂

  7. I am not a legally trained person. My only qualification here is – I am an ardent JYJ fan. But you have made this not only a place for JYJ fans to gather but a great place to learn new things.

    Your case study of JYJ is interesting to a lay person like me. At the risk of being chided, this is like an introductory class to law school, made more riveting because the subject (JYJ) under discussion interests me.

    Thank you , creator of JYJ files . And also, Jimmie for all your excellent translations in the other postings. It means a lot to non Korean speaking fans like me.

    It’s not easy to find a blog this stimulating . Yet one senses the meeting of minds here is coupled with the meeting of hearts. Hearts that support and encourage the three young men to achieve their dreams. And in the process , their giving happiness to those who appreciate their talent and music – us , the fans.

    • “It’s not easy to find a blog this stimulating . Yet one senses the meeting of minds here is coupled with the meeting of hearts.”

      I agree with you!

      • @stacey –

        And I agree with YOU!

        Unlike so many of the “screamer sites,” we think, we strive to understand, we wish to communicate carefully and then… we ALSO love.

        🙂

  8. Wow. I actually read and understood this. My head isn’t really made for this kind of stuff but I’m glad I stuck it out. Yes, this might be a great defense against people who think, “A deal is a deal even with a dirty dealer.”

    What would be great is to find out the actual conditions under which all five DBSK members signed their contracts. Did they have a legal representative there or just their parents or worse, were they alone?

    • Alot of fans are relating that the boys were with their parents at the time of signing. But I’m not sure that Yoochun’s parents would have been there, given the family was still living in the US at that time.

      • Yep, I was wondering the same thing too, since Yoochun’s parents were still in the US at that time, does it mean he was alone ? Unless his parents travelled to Korea in order to sign the contract, or maybe one of his relatives in Korea came with him that day (I heard he was staying with his aunt when he first came to Korea so maybe it was her).
        Also, if I remember well (feel free to correct me if I’m wrong ^^), the members actually signed their contracts at different times so it means that their parents (and the boys themselves) didn’t necessarily discuss the contract with each other and, it also could mean that their contracts could slightly differ from each other (at least for HoMin’s contracts since it seems that JYJ’s contracts are the same). After all I read that in Kara, Guyri’s mom (who works in the entertainment business) asked for better conditions for her daughter so, who knows about HoMin. That’s could also explain why they stayed, if their contracts are indeed better (since they affirm the contracts are fair and all) then there were no reasons for them to leave. We know for sure that JYJ’s contracts weren’t fair at all but, are there any proofs that HoMin’s contracts are the same as JYJ ? Does anyone know something about it ?

      • @Closet

        Hi Closet,
        Even if all the parents were there, they had no legal representation, no one who specialized in entertainment law to read through this draconian contract and advise them. It has been said elsewhere that the parents were not even allowed to read this contract! And yet, they signed away the next 13 years of their children’s lives, every waking minute, to a slavish work schedule that has been well-documented.
        If you haven’t tried to actually read through one of these contracts by the way, well….they’re not for the mentally lazy. They go on for pages and PAGES and they are written in near incomprehensible legalize. Laypeople for the most part cannot make heads nor tails of them, an entertainment attorney is mandatory to really have a clue as to what you are signing.

        Even if the parents had the 100% best possible intentions for their boys, the situation they were lead to participate in by SM was wrong, signing without benefit of legal council was wrong and the parents were wrong to do what they did. I’m hoping that the Korean courts will invalidate the contract from this basic starting point.

  9. Sounds like a Korean Law system can’t believe. Politics’d connection with Entertainment business’n Law system’d obligation system. Where’s freedom in Korea?
    I fell like a all this to flush the toilet…sorry to say. Ty

  10. Wow I kinda understood that *proud*

    I share everyone’s frustration and disbelief over the situation itself. It’ll never happen in the US; it’ll never happen in Singapore (where I’m from) either. But it’ll serve us well to rem this is Korea we’re talking abt.

    One of the quirks abt doing business in Korea that I hear alot abt is how Koreans “naturally” interpret contracts or agreements to their own benefit. I’m told this isn’t them wheeling or dealing, it’s just part of their culture. Like, ‘this agreement isn’t valid anymore bcos my circumstances have changed’.

    Perhaps someone who has experienced corporate Korea can shed more light?

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