Letter of (Almost) Resignation: Final Confessions, Part II

Letter of (Almost) Resignation: Final Confessions, Part II


For almost 7 years, under contract, the members of JYJ suffered injustices and indignities, of which the lawsuit hearings barely scratched the surface most likely. However, if the status quo in the Korean pop music industry is allowed to continue, the greatest victims will be Korean citizens and Korean law…and, by extension, the Korean State and Government.

If the 20th century was the century of economic development, the 21st is rapidly shaping up to be that of human development. In the present century, countries will not be competing with simple capital but with human capital. Invariably, the States and economies that thrive will be those that manage to attract the brightest and most creative minds and manage to cultivate people’s innovation, ideas and youthful energies. The goal will no longer be to make a quick buck, but to achieve sustainability (ie, to keep consistently making a quick buck) whilst maintaining competitiveness. The Korean Government is well aware of this, and has been promoting the rhetoric of “global leader” and ‘Korea’s global leadership’ ever since its hosting of the G20 Summit. Yet, the current Korean pop industry model runs on a system that exploits Korea’s young and promising talents, throwing them to the curb in 5-6 year cycles before they’re able to fulfil their creative potential (or after draining them of their youth, vitality and earnings). It is a system that uses them as bargaining chips instead of acknowledging them as creative agents. How is Korea going to compete in the new economic world order if we allow our most competitive assets to be killed off like this? We are already facing the loss of our youth through population decline and suicide. We can’t afford to further lose them through such a ridiculous, anti-competition and anti-free market arrangement as well.

The entertainment cartels, KFPCAI, KEPA and now the recently formed United Asia Management (UAM) included, that SM prefers to work through (for fear of being caught red-handed by the Korean court in violating court orders, it seems), are ticking time bombs for Korean free market capitalism and threaten the Republic of Korea’s credibility as a modern capitalist democracy. Using public (citizen taxpayers’) money, these cartels work to directly destroy free competition in the music market. Basic economics dictates that the compromise of free competition triggers a domino effect that ultimately leads to a lack of innovation and the collapse of the system. Moreover, unlike the indie and folk music scenes, whose sounds and business models are built on an appeal to authenticity that hasn’t really changed since the 1960s, the charm of pop music is in its rapid reinventions. Isn’t this at least half the fun of following pop music…to witness how and how quickly artists incorporate different musical and aesthetic influences? What will become of K pop if the economic incentives to innovate erode away thanks to established oligopolies and the Korean Government’s short-sighted mercantilist support of them? (Such mercantilist policies may be justified where the market is not fully developed and its main players are in a position where they are forced to do more catch-up than innovation, as was the case for Korea just after the Korean War, but in a fully developed country and a market like Korea’s pop music market such policies can only have detrimental consequences.)

In the long run, these cartels will be devastating to Korea’s arts and culture industry and may very well spell the death of the Korean Wave.

Not that they care. SM and its cartel cronies have essentially set up a kingdom of their own behind everyone’s back and are more than happy to sit smugly on the throne as Emperor and Overlord in flagrant disregard of the authority of the Korean State and Justice System. This is being clearly and willingly demonstrated by SM itself in its ruthless pursuit of JYJ. It was also demonstrated by the outrageous statement of the KFPCAI that it “forgives/pardons” Jay Park and authorises his media appearances, as if it had a power over Jay Park that only the Korean State has the authority to claim[i]! Korean citizens haven’t seen such an ugly face since the last military dictatorship.

Through JYJ, Korean citizens are finally waking up to see that despite the fact that Korean public media runs happily on Koreans’ tax contributions, it actually answers instead to a coterie of Scheming Morons who denigrate Art to a Slot Machine, treat young artists—Korea’s competitive assets and citizens—like Sideshow Monkeys, because their Small Minds can’t possibly conceive of a healthier working relationship, and mock the Korean State and her citizens and courts, thinking that, despite being in and taking full advantage of Korea’s jurisdiction, Korean law doesn’t apply to them in the treasonous separate kingdom they have set up. The company even takes the occasion of a charity ceremony as a golden opportunity to show off its control over its young charges and hold them like so many hostages over the Korean public’s head![ii] In all my years working in civil society, I have rarely seen such an abuse and perversion of its values, nor such disrespect toward the Korean public and our precious young talents. As such, I consider SM Entertainment to be a company that hates Korea and Koreans.

What the Korean Government must understand is that the likes of SM Entertainment, KFPCAI, KMP Holdings, UAM and KEPA are NOT its friends and should never be elevated to the level of Government partners either. These barely legitimate entities themselves have made it clear that they stand against everything that the Korean Government hopes to achieve for modern-day Korea as well as the values and ambitions it promoted at the G20 Summit. These cartels and entertainment companies even stand against our President, Lee Myeong Bak, who committed himself and his Government to a “fair and transparent society”[iii]. But most important of all, they have dared to challenge and violate a jealously guarded prerogative of the Modern State (mutatis mutandis the Republic of Korea) since its inception: the authority to enact laws and be obeyed. This translates into the Korean State’s exclusive authority to have the final say over the lot of its citizens and those in its jurisdiction (including legal persons like SM Entertainment) through its laws—laws that SM, KFPCAI, KEPA, etc. themselves have taken full advantage of and profited handsomely from.

Here then is the true meaning of ungratefulness: Taking full advantage of Korea’s laws, the freedom and privileges offered by the country’s identity as a developed democracy, and the trust and long-suffering patience of her people, only to secretly undermine it all in a way that ultimately throws Korea’s economic viability into uncertainty, compromises the quality of our cultural products and seeks to usurp the sovereignty of the Korean State…all under the lie that this is beneficial for the Korean Wave.

If the Korean Government is serious in its commitment and duty to serve the Korean State and if it doesn’t want to see our national sovereignty become discredited in the eyes of the vast international audience that follows the JYJ v. SM lawsuit, it will discipline SM…and it will discipline SM hard, preferably making an example out of it for all who dare to usurp the Korean State’s authority and abuse her citizens with impunity.

Considering that I myself voted for this Government and look forward to voting for its able members again the next time round too, I look forward to NOT being disappointed.

If the company’s insidious violations of the court’s orders weren’t enough, what is the Korean public to make of SM’s suspicious behaviour in court, namely its continued failure, in spite of official orders, to disclose all relevant accounting and financial documents? According to numerous accounts of the last hearing[iv], SM once again failed to produce all requested records in the courtroom, bringing only a portion of the accounting books.

Given that SM’s behaviour suggests that it is hiding something, what could it be? Given that the information the company did decide to reveal in court was most likely cherry-picked but still managed to be scandalous and horrifying, what wasn’t revealed could only be much worse.

Having established the propensity of the SM business model to “invest” capital it technically doesn’t have or qualify for into a training system with extremely high risk and high maintenance costs but relatively low likelihood of returns (not the favourite choice of words of most legitimate capital-loaning banks), the relevant question might not be Are loan sharks involved? but How many? And how many on the company’s pay(back)roll would pique the interests of at least one department of the International Criminal Police? In my line of work, where the loan sharks are, activity recognised as an international crime carrying transnational jurisdiction is never far off. Moreover, I find it interesting that the internationally reputed and respected Time Magazine came within a hair of making the same conclusions in its 2002 article around the time Korean entertainment slave contracts first became an issue[v].

It is clearly in the company’s best interests to comply with the orders of the Korean State.

And such a company dares speak on the topic of moral character! Such a company dares to assert that it is the face of the Korean Wave and even that it pioneered the Korean Wave![vi]

24 thoughts on “Letter of (Almost) Resignation: Final Confessions, Part II

  1. i have been following ur guys’ articles for a while. and for someone who majored in international relations and political science, i’m amazed at how well u guys are able incorporate ur IR theories with such a new and uprising event. being able to self-assess the situation with clarity and a structured argument instead of with emotions and common sense is not something every fan can do. kudos to ur amazing work =)

  2. That was beautifully written! It gave voice to the outrage I, as an international fan, feel every time I see all these blatant acts committed against JYJ by these companies. It doesn’t make any sense for them to be behaving this way against a group, who in all honesty, shouldn’t be a threat to them. Yet here they are, drawing attention to themselves, giving everyone a show on how powerful they’ve become, how deep their ties are, and how they are GETTING AWAY WITH IT!!

    You would think that when one wants to do something shady, that it would be in a back alley, away from all eyes, and everyone involved would be incognito… yet here they are publicly making announcements on how they will stop JYJ from appearing in any shows, in order to ‘protect the Hallyu wave’. A breathtakingly blatant show of corruption under the guise of being the protector of the Korean interest! If there had been people who swallowed these lies whole-heartedly, then I wonder what they thought when it was reported that during JYJ’s November 27-28th, Worldwide Concert in Seoul, there was an economic spike! Also, look at the response that they are receiving over seas. They are, unintentionally representing Korea to these nations and as it has been reported, there has been resentment building against this Hallyu Wave because of how entertainment companies are mercilessly promoting their idols without taking real consideration for the country they are in. But here JYJ came to Thailand, respected their culture, Jaejoong most notably, and are being lauded for their courteous nature and yet they are being considered bad for the Hallyu Wave?!

    … … … Yes, ok, I see it now….

    I’m glad that you brought up the UAM. When I first heard about it dread had set in immediately. The responses that I’ve seen were along the lines of ‘Great, now the Idols can do collabs with one another!’ and ‘No they are not an entertainment company so people shouldn’t be worried about it’. All I saw, was that this is their attempt to monopolize international Asian music exportation and while they start with Korea, eventually they want to, as they’ve said, be in charge of all international music exportation. A monopoly is not good for competition and that is not good for society in general, who want creativity and diversity.

    Also, about the charity works being used for self interest? … no words to describe my disgust.

    Once again, Jimmie, it was brilliant! Thank you and I hope that a newspaper has the courage to pick this up and print this. Because you’re giving a voice to those, who see through these companies actions ‘in the interest of the Hallyu Wave’ for what they really are!

    • @cheeto_pin
      “I’m glad that you brought up the UAM. When I first heard about it dread had set in immediately. The responses that I’ve seen were along the lines of ‘Great, now the Idols can do collabs with one another!’ and ‘No they are not an entertainment company so people shouldn’t be worried about it’.”

      I have to say I had the exact same response. I felt sick inside. It seemed to me, “The criminals are forming an unbreakable cartel; they are circling the wagons for a big showdown.”

      I did not sense anything good, positive or innocent about the new conglomerate. Nothing.

      • same here… it looked like the top gangs forming one HUGE ASS GANG under the premise of ‘protecting’ the people.

  3. @Jimmie –
    “Using public (citizen taxpayers’) money, these cartels work to directly destroy free competition in the music market. ”

    Thank you, Jimmie, for once again shining a blindingly bright spotlight on WHAT IS ACTUALLY GOING ON HERE. This so far transcends the K-Pop idol of the moment nonsense. This is real and it’s important. For Korea, who stands at the crossroads of sitting back and seeing their greatest recent asset horribly squandered, stigmatized and lost, the call to action is very clear. I am not a Korean citizen, but I join with all of those who wish to be counted as being believers in a true free market society in the 21st century in working to make a change, calling these monopolistic thieves and criminals to account and finally, in the end, seeing real change.

    I can only hope that the intelligent, thoughtful people of the JYJFiles will continue to find ways to assist in this worthy fight.

  4. AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! Very well said! I really clapped my hands after reading this! The citizens of Korea should read this. Seriously! This should be in some newspaper or something!

  5. great article Jimmie.. it’s just that it pains me that nothing major changes occur so far.. the lawsuit until it is done can only drag this whole thing on and on.. big companies were just hoping that we grew tired of waiting or being involved.. I just hope that the Government finally intervenes.. cause the longer this drags.. the more the chance that SM establishes itself with the alliance it is forming.. I just hope someone with influence stood up against them..

  6. Jimmie do you think that MBC’s coverage of JYJ is a permanent step forward or will it only last till Ripley ends? -______-

    • i only mentioned it because you said that MBC used to be the most progressive of the Big3 broadcasters.
      “It was also demonstrated by the outrageous statement of the KFPCAI that it “forgives/pardons” Jay Park and authorises his media appearances, as if it had a power over Jay Park that only the Korean State has the authority to claim[i]! Korean citizens haven’t seen such an ugly face since the last military dictatorship.”
      Jay Park had to go through this even when he was picked up by a successful company like SIDUS. As an international fan i think Jay is one of the only “kpop” artists with the potential to succeed in the US. It pained me as a fan to see him go through the same difficulties.. i always seem to pick fandoms that make my heart ache -___-

      Actually i think international fans are beginning to get sick of how “manufactured” kpop is. Even those who start off primarily listening to the typical kpop groups gradually move towards korean indie singers/ non- idol rappers. Even now the groups that the newbies are attracted to are the ones that debuted before or in 2008. If UAM squeezes out future artists similar to tiger JK / Park hyo shin/ epik high/ supreme team from the market the hallyu wave will merely be a flash in the pan.

  7. this whole SM and now UAM thing reminds me of the Samsung incident. the one where they got busted for tax evasion and a whole bunch of associated crimes, but the top guy was eventually pardoned because of Samsung’s contribution to the nation economically.

    i dun have all the details, so it’s probably unfair to say this, but there may be parallels in this situation.

    SM’s already the big boy in Korean entertainment. by colluding with other large entertainment companies and forming UAM, it’s like they’re building a chaebol of their own. and perhaps one day, they’ll have enough economic influence to get away with crime just like Samsung has.

    it’ll be a sad, sad day in K-pop history when that happens but one that seems very probable, unless the court hearing tmr nips the problem in the bud!

  8. What I am wondering about the most is why SME so hell bent not to let JYJ go or fulfill their demand. Could it be more behind the scene drama than what’ve been revealed to us?

    I think UAM formed to cover up some dirts behind the cartels or possibly for some damage control?….

    • @DayBreak
      “What I am wondering about the most is why SME so hell bent not to let JYJ go or fulfill their demand. Could it be more behind the scene drama than what’ve been revealed to us? I think UAM formed to cover up some dirts behind the cartels or possibly for some damage control?….”

      SM will not let go of JYJ because they represent the creative epicenter of that lavish, over-the-top cash cow that was TVXQ. The millions they reaped from that group we may never be able to know. But it was huge, huge money.
      No corporation lets go of that willingly.

      And I agree with you that UAM is a safety net for SM if, as I’m sure they are beginning to surmise, it all goes terribly terribly wrong for them, legally. They will have that cushion to offset the hit they’ll take financially unless the Korean justice system also declares this new cartel illegal, as they absolutely should.
      So let’s hope for that.

  9. Excellent article – well written, precise, rational & cool headed.

    As an “outsider” looking in, the lack of any concrete & decisive action by the courts against SM (have any fines been imposed as stipulated in the last hearing for example?) gives me, as an International fan the impression that the Korean judicial system is practically redundant & that it has no power or control over large “organisations” such as SM & as a consequence can do nothing to protect the individual rights & privileges of each & every citizen it is meant to serve & protect.

    The courts have to act quickly & decisively now to take back control of the situation & re-assert its authority before its “good” name is further sullied by SM’s behaviour & obvious disrespect.

    • @Tal
      I agree very much with your view on this matter^^
      It is so obvious that SM forming UAM to show the Korea government, her judiciary, and her people. That with SME’s money and power, they control everyone. If you don’t agree with their unjust contract, ~~ too bad~~ SME don’t have to follow Korean law and orders. It likes showing off they are above the law.

  10. Wow Jimmie, such a power piece, this just makes me think…it’s like totally way bigger than JYJ. This is beyond Kpop! Seriously being a JYJ fan I never knew I’ll get myself into something like this. Your views on the whole Korean music industry and how it relates to the government has really made me think about what it means to be a fan of the arts, and a citizen, and consumer. You have a little SKK in you ha ha ha…that’s what the JYJ fight reminds me of SKK scandal, Micky picked a great role. It’s true what you say and with every read I’m even more sad that you must leave us for a little bit. Like you are the sound part of the JYJ fandom, and with what you have given us, now we too can be sound in our arguments against stupidity and ignorance of what’s going on. What made me gasp, was “As such, I consider SM Entertainment to be a company that hates Korea and Koreans.” WOW…hard opinion but I totally see how that can manifest itself to be true.

    Again people are so stuck o

  11. Aloha….Yes…avex many many dirty force to JYJ now, I’m not to suer myself… hard to trust Japan Music Co. Matsuura bring up unrelated issues (twitter) and busy gossip around. How he can create nasty diversions, he should stick on the main issue absolute he’s stick on the sidetrack. All the adults using power’n threaten to JYJ, absolute unacceptable,they try to tear down but our building’s strong . Ty PS. Mahalo Jimmie

  12. Thank you for another remarkable article.
    I always have considered South Korea as a model country. Both Japan and S.Korea managed to reborn from the ashes of war, nuclear war in the case of Japan. It shows us the value of their own citizens. Hard workers and believers who built new coutries out of almost nothing. Countries that developed to the point to be considered “highly developed” in all aspects.
    Currently, these huge achievements are being scandalously stepped over through the outrageous behavior of entertainment agencies like SM, Avex, and currently the new-born UAM. To avoid laws and to become all-powerful to control all the entertainment industry only from one desk alone, it can’t be allowed. To violate humans rights in day-light, it can’t be allowed. To earn huge amounts of money riding over the shoulders of young, innocent and slaved new talents, it can’t be allowed.
    As you wrote, Jimmie, I hope that the current S.Korean government be awared about that and finally put an end to all SME’s non acceptable behaviors. And I wish the same for Avex in its own country, Japan.

    • @Shuheilove

      I am in agreement, Part 3 knocks it out of the park just like the first 2 installments. And again I ask myself, “WHAT are we going to do without Jimmie’s commentary now??” Well, I guess the future will unfold as it will.
      One interesting thing: I’ve been in touch with an American “expert witness for Korea” who has a blog and writes on various timely issues from a legal perspective. [See: http://www.koreaexpertwitness.com/blog/ ] He responded to my email, in part: “… K Wave like much of Korea is evolving, with few systems and procedures ( and contracts) in place. Like many markets, they over time will benchmark and follow global standards. Legally, entertainment law and representation is in its infancy…” That, I find, is the understatement of the week! Infancy!? Try in utero! But it does point up the fact that in terms of fairness, the Korean entertainment industry is living back in the ’50s of the USA and believe me when I say, that was NOT a good time to get a fair shake as an artist. The business end of things was making it up as they went along so no coincidence it was “Everything for Me, Nothing for You.” Now, add to that the entrenched patriarchal values of the Korean culture and you have a real train wreck in terms of contractual parity.

      So JYJ is serving brilliantly as a very early pioneer of a better way for ALL Korean artists in the future. How wonderful they are and how brave! I am proud to live in the time of the ascendancy of JYJ.

      • Dear Lilibaiyu: What you’ve written is very important, and shows us the ancientness and the obsolescence of the S. Korean entertainment industry. It needs an urgent renewal in all its aspects, specially in its management practices. What I like the most, is your last paragraph and I second every word you’ve wonderfully written there. Thank you my sister.

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