[TRANS] An Automatic Pardon for Lee Soo Man, the Originator of the European Korean Wave ‘Slave Contract’ [Fiasco]?

Note: This article was originally posted on the first page of news portal sites. However, it suspiciously disappeared from the front page quickly after it was posted.

An Automatic Pardon for Lee Soo Man, the Originator of the European Korean Wave ‘Slave Contract’ [Fiasco]?



[金土日의 리트윗] And if they buy it just because we export it?…the things that get buried under the hype about European expansion
The Korean Wave is tumultuous. Korean pop culture, which started rapidly spreading abroad in the late 1990s through TV dramas, to this day doesn’t show signs of slowing down. And now, through the Internet, Korean idol singers are even widening their stage all the way to Western Europe. This story was already reported by numerous media outlets, but the fine details were omitted. In any case, in summary, it was reported that even average European consumers were starting to respond to the musical products of the pop music business pioneered and executively directed by Lee Soo Man. Continue reading

[OP-ED DEBATE] 110618 Arguments For and Against the Idol System

PRO current idol manufacturing system:

[Debate] Gradual improvements in the K-pop idol system

By Lee Seung-hwan, TV Critic

Both K-pop group Girls’ Generation and folk singer IU work under the thoroughgoing production efforts of their management companies. In addition to their musical activities, they are active in various other areas in the arts and television miniseries, and they are referred to as icons of the era amid enthusiastic attention from fans and the public. There is no reason to say IU is not an “idol” simply because she performs folk music. The South Korean idol industry has already become an independent ecosystem carrying within it a diverse range of genres. It is something of a prejudice to believe that all those working in it will be developed according to more or less the same system.

If Korean idols do possess a similarity, it is that they are required to be multi-talented. They have to be able to handle dancing and live performance, they have to have top-level acting talent, and they have to be well-spoken and demonstrate special talents. This seemingly harsh goal of the “complete entertainment industry man or woman” was, in reality, set by the public. In the era when performance-style singers were not that common, the public told their idols to “dance like Michael Jackson, perform live, and write your own music.” Those appearing in miniseries were criticized as “moving in on other people’s turf out of mere faith in their popularity.”

It might have been fine for everyone had they been able to dedicate themselves to music, but the collapse of the South Korean music market, with its failure to keep step with the arrival of the MP3, made that an impossibility. In a situation where survival was impossible without diversification of revenue windows, the solution was to foster new, multi-talented entertainers who could satisfy all of the public’s expectations. The expenses grew the longer the training period lasted, as did the level of dependence on the revenue flow generated by affiliated singers. Contract periods grew longer as a matter of course, and the idol industry turned into gambling, with large risks and large rewards.

It is too late for regrets, but the idol industry did assure itself a relatively stable market by winning over the pan-Asian market in the late 2000s, and a standard exclusive contract emerged to protect singers from unfair contract structures. Presented by the Fair Trade Commission in 2008, this contract is, strictly speaking, a recommendation, but the country’s three major management agencies are working to implement terms at its levels. The system has reached some degree of stability, and the contract that binds a singer for more than a decade is gradually becoming a thing of the past. The exclusive contract for Super Junior lasts five years, as does Big Bang’s, while 2PM’s does not exceed the maximum recommended level of seven years.

The current system is not problem-free. But at the present time, when it has managed to proceed from gambling to the industry stage, what is needed is not drastic change. Rather, it is consideration for how to effect gradual improvements in the system. This is even more the case if one considers how much trial and error preceded the emergence of even this imperfect system. And the efforts to formulate plans for such improvements will become possible from an affirmation of the idol development system.


AGAINST current idol manufacturing system:

[Debate] K-pop an extension of S.Korea’s troubled economic structure

By Choi Ji-seon, Music Critic

Another round has begun in the K-Pop/Korean Wave debate. The “idol” training system is once again appearing alongside the achievements of the so-called “post-Korean Wave” as a problematic topic of discussion. As is well known, K-Pop, as represented by “idols,” is the product of a very particular star system. Most characteristic of this is an education and training system that has been referred to as the “apprenticeship system” or “academy.” Based on this system, entertainment companies have overseen and controlled all areas and processes from planning and production to management. This bears a connection with the immense and complex organizations that companies have become compared to the past, as well as their adoption of a “one source, multi-use” strategy.

As a result, the training subjects have expanded and differentiated over time. In addition to singing and dancing, language studies have become an essential, along with personal skills such as acting talent and an entertainment sense, and adjustment of physical appearance. Apprentices are selected at a young age and subjected to a long and arduous training process.

The recent pop music produced by idols, which many have said represents an evolution, was born out of this process. The diverse array of images seen in pop groups and their dynamic and coordinated dancing are things that were manufactured this way. The creation of brands for the different entertainment companies and, further, the development of a “made in Korea” Asian pop with a meaning beyond that of popular domestic music also owe a debt to this system.

But as the training and development system has become more thorough and systematized, it has taken on a negative sense. Criticisms of the coordination and management of even the creative aspects, and of the mass production of uniform music, are nothing new. In addition, increased investment in entertainment companies has led to the firm establishment of a system designed to recoup as much of it as possible within a short period of time. As a result, apprentices have to go through a lot of efforts even after making their debut, and they have to remain as “exclusive property” for a long period of time. The unfair contract practices between companies and individuals, and the inappropriate compensation systems, will continue to be the topic of discussion in the days ahead, and they will also create a dilemma in terms of overseas expansion when compared to the current situation in the West.

But this emerged from a process of the idol star system becoming incorporated into the logic of capital and industry. This also bears connection with an economic and social structure in South Korea that demands excessively intense labor and fails to compensate it appropriately. It offers an unvarnished picture of a capitalist society that emphasizes extreme competition. It would not be strange to describe the myth of the overseas expansion of K-Pop as homologous to the Korean-style industry structure in which companies are compelled to emphasize exporting. In this sense, the system may be a cultural version of the “myth of economic growth,” which sought to integrate the work force and overcome other problems with the “fantasy of dedication and effort” and the “diligence ideology.” Such a star system becomes a double-edged sword.

Source: Hankyoreh [Pro] and [Against]
Shared by: TheJYJFiles

[NEWS] K-Pop’s Soft Power

K-Pop’s Soft Power

The story of South Korea’s musical exports.

By Neil Manticore-Griffin June 2, 2011

This spring, the Hollywood Bowl hosted a big-budget festival “for all generations” featuring a family-friendly parade of torch singers, hip-pop crews, and boy and girl bands. But instead of a shot in the arm for America’s pick-pocketed music industry, it’s a showcase for the boom of cultural exports from what CNN dubs “the Hollywood of the East”: South Korea.

K-Pop–named after (Japanese) J-Pop before it–has attained fashion first status in Thailand, Vietnam, Hong Kong and Singapore. More surprisingly, acts are making inroads into the self-sufficient charts of Japan–and more unpredictably, starting to occupy the imagination of a neo-capitalist China.

K-Pop’s rise began in the ’90s. South Korea had emerged as one of the Tiger Economies via a determined, decades-long drive to build up a competitive hi-tech manufacturing industry (starring Samsung, Hyundai and LG). This triumph of capitalism could only be achieved via a failure of democracy–a series of military republics kept free speech and wages down, as true to their own ideology as their more notorious neighbor. Democracy finally arrived in 1987, and the new rulers attempted to reform, while continuing to rely upon, the country’s chaebol (dynastic family businesses the size of multinational corporations). Likewise, as nearby China outpaced the Tiger Economies, South Korea’s previously isolationist foreign policy shifted to segyehwa–a political term usually translated as “globalization” (but more usefully ambiguous).

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[NEWS] 110614 The dark side of South Korean pop music

The dark side of South Korean pop music

By Lucy Williamson BBC News, Seoul

14 June 2011

South Korean pop group Girls' Generation perform in Seoul, South Korea, on 14 May, 2011
K-Pop sensations Girls’ Generation on stage in Seoul

South Korea’s pop industry is big business in Asia. As K-Pop sets its sights on Europe and the US, will this force a change in the way it treats its artists?

Selling singles is no way for a pop star to make money these days. Most artists find that touring and merchandise sales are more lucrative. So when it comes to concerts, size matters.

This is why the biggest date in the Korean pop calendar – the Dream Concert, at which up to 20 bands perform – is held in Seoul’s 66,800-seat World Cup Stadium.

Teenage crushes come here for a once-a-year date in a national love story, where commitment is measured in coloured balloons, and devotion is knowing all the words.

Most of the bands, like Super Junior and Wonder Girls, are household names; highly produced, sugary boy- and girl-bands with slick dance routines and catchy tunes.

But the industry also has a less glamorous side: a history of controversy and legal disputes over the way it treats its young artists, which it is still struggling to shake. Continue reading

[Summary] SM v. Korean Fair Trade Commission

Note: This is a summary of the Judgment posted HERE.

SM v. Korean Fair Trade Commission (Dossier 2002누13613), Seoul High Court Judgment issued 2004.4.1: Summary

In 2002, SM Entertainment— the Petitioner—was given orders by the Korea Fair Trade Commission—the Defendant—to modify the content of its exclusive contracts with its contracted entertainers, which the Commission deemed violated relevant national fair trade law with regards to unequal bargaining power as well as posed a threat to civil and social security as defined by Article 103 and 104 of the Korean Civil Code. SM Entertainment not only refused to comply with the Commission’s orders but filed suit against the Commission to have its orders overturned.

SM Entertainment argued: 1) Its business model relies on investing in untested young singers, and since such investment carries high investment risk of incurring loss, contractually burdening singers with extremely high penalties for breach of contract is justified in order to gain back the its investment costs and cover for failed investment losses; 2) The Commission has no jurisdiction in relation to private exclusive contracts negotiated between singers and their entertainment management companies; and 3) the exclusive contracts SM Entertainment uses do not violate laws on exclusive regulation or Fair Trade Law Article 23, Section 1, Sub-section 4 on unfair bargaining and unequal negotiations.

The Court rejected all of the above positions and ordered SM Entertainment to pay all attorneys fees, finding that: 1) Even accepting that investment in training and educating carries high investment risk, high-risk enterprises presume equally high returns upon success, and so it is only reasonable and principled that in such investment scenarios the investor to assumes responsibility. It is thus unjust to impose on successful star singers the burden of repaying the investment costs for other failed singers, or, for that reason, to constrain the successful singer contractually with an excessively high penalty for breach of contract. To do so is an abuse of the superior bargaining position of the Petitioner and exploitation of the powerlessness of its artists. Excessive damages also cannot be justified on claims that risk of a singer breaching the contract and leaving the management company becomes higher with success and stardom;

2) When a party utilises his superior bargaining position to extort unfair gains from the other party such as through excessive damages provisions, violates civil law—Civil Code Article 103, Article 104 and Article 398 Section 2—and, on this basis the contract may be declared null and void;

3) The domestic music market has a severe imbalance of power between the entertainment companies and its artist, with the entertainment companies having unquestionable dominance over the artist and thus controlling all aspect of the contract and business matters and as such being enabled to engage in practices such as standardizing an excessively high damages provision. As such, these contracts between the entertainment companies and the artists also infringe upon national laws on antitrust regulation and Fair Trade Law Article 23 Section 1 Sub-section 4;

4) It is the mandate of the Korea Fair Trade Commission to examine instances and reports of unfair conduct or conduct damaging to the functioning of fair and free market competition occurring in domestic markets and to issue recommendations, decisions or orders to the infringing parties to rectify their conduct in line with national laws on fair trade. Therefore the Commission did not step outside its jurisdiction in issuing an order to SM Entertainment to correct the content of its exclusive contracts.

Translation credit: leperenands
Shared by: TheJYJFiles

For French summary, please view below.

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2002 Judgment: Korean Fair Trade Commission versus SM Entertainment

Background Info: Back in 2002, the Korea Fair Trade Commission called out SM Entertainment for the content of its exclusive contracts–notably, the Commission had issues with the excessive penalty for breach of contract and damage compensation in SM’s contracts–and ordered the management company to amend its contract to comply with national fair trade law and civil law relevant to contracts. (At this time, SM’s contracts weren’t 10-13 years long as they had become by the time TVXQ debuted, but in every other way it resembled JYJ’s contract.) SM not only refused to listen to the Fair Trade Commission’s orders, it brought the Fair Trade Commission to court in a lawsuit, claiming that its contracts, including the clauses on damage compensation to the company in cases where the company deems that the artist has breached the contract, were perfectly fair and reasonable. At the stage of the Seoul High Court, the Court ruled in favor of the Fair Trade Commission and admonished SM. This is the text of the judgment that was issued. Readers are to keep in mind that this is almost 10 years old, but the issues of the contract in contention are eerily similar to the current JYJ v. SM case, which begs the question, how does a company like SM get away with disobeying the law for almost 10 years without any consequences? Who and in which high places are shielding this company from the rule of law and the consequences of its disobedience?

[Seoul High Court, 2004.4.1, 2002누13613]

【Points under consideration】

[1] Whether or not the high risk and investment costs involved in nurturing and training news singers justifies music productions companies imposing on the singer the responsibility of repaying the investment costs once s/he achieves success or imposing a heavy penalty for breach of contract on the grounds that there is an increased risk of the singer neglecting his/her responsibilities under the contract and seek to abandon the business partnership once s/he attains success (minor point)

[2] Whether the Korea Fair Trade Commission overstepped its jurisdiction in invoking cartel regulations and fair trade laws [in issuing orders to SM] when this situation could have been resolved through cooperative dialogue (minor point)

[3] Whether the the penalty for breach of contract that music disk production companies regularly include in their singers’ contracts violates cartel regulations and fair trade law Article 23 Section 1 Sub-section4

【Summary/Main points of judgment】

[1] Even upon accepting that the nurturing and training of untested singers carry considerable investment risk, in general high-risk enterprises translate into high returns if successful, and thus it is by principle that any and all investment risk/responsibility be assumed by the investor so that it is not acceptable for a singer that has achieved fame and success to be obligated to make up for the losses of investing in a failed singer or for the record company to force [the successful singer] to do this by imposing on him an impossible fine that goes against all notion of equal bargaining in good faith or for the record company to justify this practice by claiming that the risk of flight from contract obligations by the successful singer increases with the success.

[2] A party in business who “deals with another party by using his position in the deal unjustly” is restricted by laws on antitrust and fair trade. This restriction is of different purpose and requirement than the articles and rules of civil law that regulates the dealings between civil persons. Therefore, even if a provision that provides for excessive damages may become invalidated or have its amount become reduced through Civil Code Article 103, Article 104, Article 398 Section 2 that regulates the content of the contract, to apply law on antitrust and fair trade in order to maintain societal order in dealings is not an improper application of law.

[3] However, when one considers the circumstances of the domestic music market which allow for record producing companies to impose such penalties on singers, the disparity in business know-how between the cited management company and the aspiring singer, the particularaties of an investment contract, the means/objectives/effect/influence of a clause on penalty for breach of contract, the the cited management company’s position and influence in the music records market relative to that of the aspiriting singer, which is such that the former can constrain the latter to conditions against his interests through the imposition of a penalty, it can be clearly established that the bargaining relationship between the two are neither fair nor equal, and, as constituting acts that cause consternation, it violates cartel and fair trade law Article 23 Section 1 sub-section 4.

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CEO of SM Entertainment, Youngmin Kim, Charged by the Prosecutor’s Office

SM엔터 김영민 대표 기소의견 검찰송치

CEO of SM Entertainment, Youngmin Kim, Charged by the Prosecutor’s Office

김시현 기자 shyun@chosun.com
March 09, 2010

서울강남경찰서는 9일 화장품업체 W사가 인기 아이돌 그룹 동방신기 소속 기획사인 SM엔터테인먼트를 명예훼손과 업무방해 혐의로 고소한 사건과 관련, SM엔터테인먼트 김영민(40) 대표를 불구속 기소 의견으로 검찰에 송치했다고 밝혔다.

The Seoul Police, Kangnam Division, revealed on the 9th that that it had sent an indictment on the CEO of SM Entertainment, Youngmin Kim (40), to the Public Prosecutor’s Office in relation to the lawsuit that the cosmetics company ‘W’ has filed against SM Entertainment for defamation and obstruction of business.

김 대표는 지난해 동방신기 멤버인 영웅재중, 믹키유천, 시아준수가 그룹을 탈퇴하고 SM엔터테인먼트측을 상대로 전속계약을 끝내달라는 소송을 내자 “동방신기 멤버들의 소송은 화장품업체에 투자해 이익을 얻을 욕심 때문이었다”고 말해 W사에 의해 두 차례 고소당했다.

Ever since the three members of TVXQ—Hero Jaejoong, Micky Yoochun, Xiah Junsu—filed suit against SM Entertainment for the annulment of their long-term exclusive contract with the entertainment management company, Kim has declared, “The reason why the three members of TVXQ filed this lawsuit was to satisfy their greed for money after investing in a cosmetics company”. For these words, Kim was indicted already twice.

W 사측은 고소장에서 “김 대표가 우리회사에게 동방신기 세 멤버의 그룹 탈퇴 책임을 떠넘겨 회사 이미지에 타격을 받았다”며 “SM엔터테인먼트가 우리 회사 중국 대리점에 ‘민•형사상 제소를 하겠다’는 내용증명을 보내 보증금 반환 사태도 벌어졌다”고 밝혔다.

The representatives of ‘W’ state, “The CEO Kim is attempting transfer all responsibility and blame for the departure of the three members of TVXQ on us and this has consequently gravely damaged our corporate image”. They also added, “SM Entertainment publicly threatened our operations in China with a civil or criminal lawsuit, which has incurred further damages and led to the loss of our security deposit.”

경찰은 “동방신기 세 멤버는 장기 전속계약을 끝내달라고 소송을 낸 것이지 화장품업체 투자와는 무관하다”고 판단했다. 지난해 10월 법원은 동방신기 세 멤버가 SM엔터테인먼트를 상대로 낸 전속계약 효력정지 가처분신청을 일부 받아들였다.

이에 대해 SM 엔터테인먼트는 “우리는 이 문제로 W사 이름을 밝힌 적이 없으므로 명예훼손도 없었다”고 말했다.

The police already concluded that “the three members of TVXQ filed the lawsuit against [SM Entertainment] in order to have their long-term exclusive contract with their management company declared invalid; their legal proceedings have noghitng to do with their investment in a cosmetics company.” In October of last year, the Court upheld the preliminary injunction submitted by the three members of TVXQ to have the effects of their exclusive contract nullified during the duration of the lawsuit. SM Entertainment continues to affirm, “we have never mentioned the name ‘W’ in relation to this problem and have thus never commited defamation.”

Source: http://www.chosun.com/site/data/html_dir/2010/03/09/2010030901479.html
Translation by: leperenands
Shared by: TheJYJFiles

For French translation, please view below.

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