20140515_seoulbeats_kris_instaAbsolute shock followed by denial were my first responses to hearing that Exo‘s Kris Wu Yifan, leader of Exo-M, had allegedly filed a lawsuit with the Seoul Central District Court, requesting early contract termination against his company SM Entertainment.

This breaking news first appeared on Chinese news site Sina, and the article’s subsequent translation prompted reactions that ranged between anger and confusion. As news trickled out, onlookers waited impatiently for word from SM, Kris, other Exo members, and industry insiders. The issue has been likened to former Super Junior member Hangeng‘s past termination with SM.

Theories debunking Sina’s claims ran wild, with many speculating that Kris had been confused with another potential performer named Chris, in the industry. This would not have been the first time that such an accidental “scandal” had occurred due to name confusion — onlookers can refer to the non-dating incident involving Chinese actress Lin Xi Ya. Comments attacking Sina for bad fact-checking and sensationalism spread rapidly. SM initially denied knowledge of any lawsuit, fueling indignation, but the company’s first statement has since been taken offline.

At the opposite end, others invoked Kris’s unexplained extended time spent in Canada last year as potential evidence pointing to a real departure from K-pop. In addition, Exo were purportedly slated to perform as OT12 on M!Countdown this week, but only Exo-K performed due to Exo-M’s cited scheduling conflicts. This change in lineup was thrown under immediate suspicion after the Sina announcement, with guesswork abounding over Kris’s actions.

20140515_seoulbeats_kris_overdose_exoIn addition, many people had abstained from jumping to any conclusions until the issue had become clearer. However, Korean news sites TV Daily soon chimed in with a response from SM, confirming that Kris had indeed legally filed for contract release. Other news sites such as Korea Herald, eNews, Nate, TV Report, and Daum followed suit with similar announcements. Details as to when the lawsuit was first filed, what the lawsuit demands are, and Kris’s reasons behind it, have yet to be confirmed.

Hankyul Law Firm has released a statement that affirms their representation of Kris. They’ve made it known that they do not wish to speak to the press more than is necessary; they intend to keep things as private as possible. As such, the exact nature of the lawsuit is unknown. Additionally, this is the same law firm that represented Hangeng in his own lawsuit with SM.

It is unlikely, though not impossible, that these many unconnected major news sites and companies would conspire to manufacture such startling important news — for that to occur would be a scandal in its own right. Though the rumor is unconfirmed by Kris himself, this news likely weighs in on the side of truth rather than fiction. We will keep you updated if more news breaks to confirm everything beyond all question, or if anything somehow miraculously debunks today’s numerous reports.

So now we turn to you, for your reactions and speculations. What might prompt this sudden move? What could be next for Kris? What could be next for Exo? How are you feeling about all of this?

20120308_seoulbeats_exo_krisWhat’s certain is that a departure from Kris would send pronounced and hollow reverbs throughout the K-pop fandom. As one of the major players in the industry, his utter and sudden absence would be strongly felt. No matter what, we send our best wishes to him, whether they involve popular entertainment or not.

(A gentle reminder to fans and non-fans alike: please respect Kris, as well as those who are involved; refrain from converging on their social media accounts, which have no doubt been inundated with urgent queries. This is a difficult time for all parties — we must take care to fact-check and share our reactions responsibly, whatever they may be.)

(Daum [1,2], enews [1,2], Korea HeraldMwave, NateSina, TVDaily, TVReport; Images via Instagram, Naver, SM Entertainment)