20140516_seoulbeats_exok_sehun_instagramThe K-pop fandom as a whole, and the Exo fandom in particular, has been taken aback by the revelation of Exo-M member Kris filing a lawsuit against SM Entertainment. As seen from the comments on Lisa’s round-up post on events, everyone has a lot to say on this matter.What are your thoughts on this news? What do you think of the timing? How do you think this will affect the parties involved? 

Kelsey: For being such a presumably well-oiled K-pop machine, SM has had a rough 2014. I doubt if any additional details will leak about this suit going forward. It honestly wouldn’t be surprising if the most we know is that he’s leaving and that’s it.

I read somewhere that SM stock has also taken a big hit from this? I wonder how long it will take to resolve this, and what the repercussions will be for Exo’s brand, especially since they’ve been the company’s top priority for years. Honestly, I mever expected this to happen in SM again, but I grossly overestimated how much the company has learned from lawsuits past.

Pat: I think it’s just plain sad that this still happens after JYJ and Han Geng. Also, I recently finished watching Exo Showtime and I think you could kind of see that while Kris was participating and being his normal self, he kind of held back a bit and seemed like he was going through the movements for his other members.

As for the timing, I remember something JYJ said that they filed at their peak so that people would pay attention and know that something is wrong. I like to think that if this is true, if Kris is really leaving SM, then it’s so that people know what’s up.

But at the same time, I may not consider myself an Exo stan but I love the boys and hope this is something like Taeyeon‘s case: to make SM Entertainment give them proper financial compensation for the work they did last year and this year.

Gaya: I was under the impression that Kris was seeking some kind of modification to his contract as well, but reading about what Suho apparently said in an interview and the post on Tao‘s instagram, I’m not so sure anymore.

Amy: Even if it JUST started as modification, as something innocuous, I think things are permanently ruined between Kris and SM now. It’s really sad that this all happened. Despite not knowing the circumstances of either side, I feel it’s always hard to watch one person, or a few individuals, go up against a huge corporation like SM.

20140516_seoulbeats_exok_suhoGaya: I agree, Amy. The SM propoganda machine is going into overdrive. An Osen interview with Exo-K saw Suho sayng that Kris should return and apologise to the company and group members, while people are saying that Tao’s instagram post regarding “betrayal” is not written by him. Actually, all these social media updates make me rather uncomfortable, as they are mostly vague in nature and are making the situation worse than better. I thought people would have learned something from the T-ara situation two years back, but apparently not.

Alolika: The rumours were making the rounds since last year but no one took it seriously enough to actually think about Kris leaving the company. However, — with him taking this decision — it is pretty obvious that he has had enough of whatever goes on behind the closed doors of SM. As a fan, I really do not want to speculate over post-Kris scenarios, nor accept that Kris will be leaving Exo. But as Amy mentioned, things are permanently ruined between Kris and SM, and I think it’s best for Kris to just leave now. But before that I want him to spill all the nonsense SM made him undergo.

I sincerely hope that the other Chinese members don’t face the ugly repercussions of Kris’ individual actions.

Pat: I also think that at this point, after going through the wild ride that was the JYJ-TVXQ split and Han Geng debacle, it’s no longer just about Kris. Now people are asking questions like why hasn’t SM Entertainment stepped up and fixed their contracts and the way they pay their idols. Sure, the idols may now have better dorms and transportation, but at what cost to the idols?

That and there were probably way too many incidents of their privacy and personal space being violated because SME wouldn’t give them proper security in airports and when they’re out and about.

Andy: I am honestly not even surprised by the situation. SME has a history for these sort of things. The timing could have been a lot better, but it seems Kris had reached his limit. You can’t fault him for wanting to be treated in an equitable manner, and using whatever means possible to achieve fair financial treatment.

Exo and Kris will be hit hardest by this. Even if the situation some how miraculously works out well, there will still be tension. Especially given Suho’s comments, which I believe to be company-fed. SME has another blow to their image and reputation as a company. However, they’ll still be maniacally laughing all the way to the bank.

20130804_seoulbeats_shineePat: It’s made headlines that SME’s stocks dropped wildly after the news broke but honestly, SME is probably going to make SNSD come back sooner or Shinee to make up for any loses.

Is my memory wrong or is Shinee the only male group in SME to not have had the short stick or contractual issues of any sort?

Gaya: I don’t know how Shinee avoided a mess like this.

Pat: I personally think it’s because they never romanticized the relationship they had. Wasn’t it in 2009 when Key basically said that they were colleagues and that in the end of the day, they had closer friends that they consider part of their family?

That and Jonghyun dated Shin Se-kyung; the fandom had its first ‘scandal’ and the fandom has mellowed since then.

Joyce: I was taken aback that this incident happened right in the middle of their “Overdose” promotions. Is that on purpose? Hard to say, but it seems unlikely especially with the the way the news got picked up. Especially as the leader of Exo-M, I doubt he would sabotage his group’s promotions in this manner. Its just unfortunate how this news got released at the worst possible timing, and the blame would inevitably fall on Kris.

I agree with what everyone has said about Kris basically being blacklisted in SM already. Even if he does continue in SM, I think there would be fans and maybe members who would hold a grudge against him, and it would be just awkward all around.

Also, with social media in the mix, and all the unfollowing and ambiguous posts going on, its really hard to make out what’s the truth here.

Alolika: I think the timing has been brilliant. With the solo concert just a few days away and with postponement not being an option (since it had already been postponed because of the Sewol Ferry Tragedy), SM will have to sort out things as soon as possible.

Nicole: Et tu, Kris? Now that the shock has worn off (as well as the denial/upset feelings/anger etc) my feelings towards the entire situation have basically congealed into disappointment. Disappointment that it’s happening so soon and so unexpectedly— I mean, anyone who has been in K-pop long enough knows that the big band break-up/dissolution is an inevitability— as well as disappointment in Kris for dropping this bomb in the middle of their promotion period, eight days before their first solo concert. Yes he is justified in filing the suit, yes he may or may not have deliberately chosen this time to spring the lawsuit on SM, but to me it doesn’t excuse the fact that when it ended up happening it happened at an important and precarious stage of Exo’s careers.

20140516_seoulbeats_exom_kris2My disappointment stems from the fact that in doing so Kris is not just potentially screwing over the careers of the 11 other members, but the staff, production team and basically everyone who has worked very hard to make Exo what they are today. I am of the sentiment that it is his prerogative to file the suit and leave the group whenever he wants if he’s really having a hard time continuing in it, be it today or tomorrow or never. But in his own interest at least he should choose as graceful a way of exit as possible instead of the current confusion with unconfirmed facts flying around, because there’s no way he’s going to come out of this smelling like roses.

I can’t say much about the ‘big bad corporate SM’ narrative because it’s currently growing increasingly hysterical with conspiracy theories from what I’ve seen. Of course the facts are incomplete, and there has yet to be any official statement made by either SM or Kris, but as the situation stands as of today that’s my take on it.

Alolika: Maybe the fanatic in me is speaking up but no other time would have been better for Kris to announce his departure. JYJ did the same thing so that people wouldn’t look at their break-up merely as “hit-a-low-hence-leaving.” Kris did not take a whimsical decision and if he did, it was because things had culminated up to a point where he had to take a step, and make a statement, literally and symbolically. He kept silent for all these years, even during the ever-so-popular “Growl” era. The boys would have received a setback either way — solo concert or not — but while I think K members can pick up where they left off, the M members have to start from scratch. And that is the sole thing that is gnawing at me about Kris’ decision.

Amy: While I think he could have done this with more tact and professionalism, I don’t see how this would have been handled well regardless of when he revealed it. It also doesn’t make a lot of sense to me that he would go through all the trouble of learning all that shit for their new comeback if he knew this was gonna implode two weeks into their comeback. I think there’s a lot of stuff we’ll never be privy to, and I have a feeling that this was not meant to blow up like this, that it was supposed to be handled quietly — like Taeyeon’s supposed similar lawsuit? that we never heard about?? — and then the media caught wind of it and all hell broke loose.

I also don’t believe that none of the members knew at ALL that this was gonna happen. They didn’t question at all when Kris was gone for weeks last year? They didn’t question this time when they all came back to Korea and Kris sat that one out? It’s just very hard for me to imagine that this talk about being blind-sided is SM’s hand at damage control.

20111002_seoulbeats_hangeng_superjunior4Patricia: Maybe this is just my paranoia speaking, but if I were SM and I wanted to make sure that no one sided with Kris, I would definitely capitalize on the fact that a lot of non-fan regular people — even those who might be sympathetic to Kris’ cause — think of Kris’ actions as a selfish betrayal. It happened with DBSK and Han Geng even before SM needed to open their mouths on the matter. Having your remaining idols play dumb and pretend like they had no idea this was coming just makes Kris (or any other Prodigal Idol of the Week) look all the more selfish. To this day, DBSK and Super Junior maintain that neither Han Geng nor JYJ said anything to the other members before suing. They’ve maintained this innocent front for five years and virtually everyone still believes them.

People are saying that Kris held off on filing the lawsuit because of the Sewol incident? Makes sense, but if I were him I’d at least wait until Exo’s concert and “Overdose” promos were over. At least JYJ waited a few months after Tokyo Dome to break the news. Parting ways right in the middle of promos when the whole group is already in the public eye just lends itself to needless awkwardness. But who knows — maybe he really just couldn’t take it anymore.

Amy: I have a feeling that Kris and his lawyers didn’t mean for this to be found public so fast, but it did, and now they can’t stop it. Or maybe he had a truly horrendous solo coming up at the concert and decided he did not want to do it. He did not want to dress up like a fruit dancing to “Single Ladies.” Maybe he snapped. WHO KNOWS.

Leslie: I think that’s the hardest part of this situation. We truly have no idea what the hell is going on so all we can do is speculate, which makes this even crazier because we have everything from the evil conspiracy theorizing fans down to the “he’s just trying to renegotiate” fans. We really have no idea what’s going on (What caused this? Do the other members really have no idea what’s going on? Is SM lying to them about it?), and that’s the most frustrating for us as onlookers. I’ve taken a more passive approach and decided to sit back, wait for more news and silently panic over the many blanks in this situation.

Laverne: If Kris didn’t want to leave before, all the backlash from this incident might want to make him leave now. Until official statements are released, we’ll never know, but it seems the longer Kris’s side stays silent, the more people are turning against him.

Ultimately, he needs to do what’s best for him and if that means leaving in the middle of promotions then so be it. Idols are human and humans have their limit. Then again, I’m not a devoted Exo fan so I don’t ‘feel the pain’ this causes. It will be interesting to see how SM handles Exo-M if he does leave but I have no doubt that Exo will do fine without him.

20140416_seoulbeats_exom_krisLisa: Without Kris saying anything and with the other members’ social media accounts under reasonable question, I am not inclined to firm judgement. The flood of details is disorienting, and though certain ideas may seem more valid, I think it’s too soon to tell. Kris’ silence also resists any firm interpretation–I have only the slightest idea about legal proceedings, but they can require extensive secrecy so as to not jeopardize the suit.

In any case, I do not feel that it is my place to judge the time of his departure, especially if he is a victim in the situation. I am inclined to support Kris and the members by refraining from attacking any one of the twelve, and I hope that things become more resolved and transparent soon.

Mark: In other news, Jay Park is no longer in 2PM, Hwayoung is no longer in T-ara, Han Geng, JYJ, U-Kiss and a countless number of lesser known cases have occurred where debuted idols have terminated their contract and left their company. We’ve heard this story before; this is nothing earth shattering.

Why is it that every time SM bends over, we all gotta be there to peek up its ass?

Amy: Because SM has the worst record known to man with boy bands. They never learn. And all the lawsuits against SM are of the same nature. And because SM is huge. SM can’t help itself, and neither can we, as spectators.

Miyoko: Mark, I think part of the reason SM garners so much attention is because they are the biggest entertainment company in South Korea, with some of the most popular bands, and they have a consistent (and very visible) history with labor issues and particularly awful contracts. That’s not to say that others aren’t worthy of attention, but SM has arguably shaped and continue to shape industry standards in regards to production processes, so their actions will get attention as a representative example.

My stance has always been that I will never blame an idol if they want to leave their company or the industry all together, and it holds true now. Any contract lawsuit is an issue of labor practices, and this unfortunately signals that something is still very wrong with how SM handles their artists. As for timing, there are so many factors we don’t know, and if stuff hits the fan, it hits the fan and nothing can stop it. I’m still awaiting more details, but so far, am wholly unsurprised with how things are shaking out.

20140516_seoulbeats_exom_kris2Ambika: At this point, I want a tell-all book about the going ons at SM Entertainment (which I’m never going to get). Kris attempting to leave is such a huge hit to the group. Sure he may not contribute much to their actual music, but he was a good leader for M on shows, was their English speaker, and just functioned as a recognizable character overall.

It’s already mentioned, but I agree that filing itself and having something so public already damages the company-idol relationship, but that and the timing show how urgent it is. I doubt Kris was twiddling his thumbs and thinking about the best way to screw Exo over. I also agree that there’s no way the members didn’t have a clue something was up.

This legal business is all above me, but by filing to cancel the contract, is Kris trying to leave SME altogether or is he trying to get a new contract/compensation/etc. that he feels is fair? Or is that where the ambiguity is because we just don’t know?

Lindsay: At this point, Ambika, it seems like we just don’t know. I don’t think any official or final information has been released on the nature of the lawsuit itself.

My personal opinion is that Kris wants to leave the idol world all together. He doesn’t have a serious passion for singing or dancing or rapping the way some idols do. It seems odd now in retrospect that he went into the industry in the first place. Maybe that is part of the issue; he got more than he bargained for. But as I said, we don’t really know. Judging from his hiatus in Canada, though, I’m going to stick with the theory that Kris wants out altogether.

If that is the case and Kris honestly doesn’t want to be a celebrity, more power to him. SM Entertainment shouldn’t be able to force people into contracts they can’t leave without huge legal battles. If Kris is just suing for more money, well I’m not sure how I’ll feel about that. Lord knows what is going on with the rest of Exo. I don’t think we’ll ever get the truth unless someone does release that “tell-all.”

Willis: I have to agree with you Lindsay. I don’t think Kris wants to be an idol anymore. To me, he does not exhibit the burning passion for any particular facet of the music industry. He was a trainee for a few years prior to Exo’s debut, but maybe only after debuting did he realize the K-pop idol life was not for him.

The timing is unfortunate — falling right before Exo’s solo concert and amidst their “Overdose” promotions. SM Entertainment definitely needs to rework those contracts to be more flexible and to include an exit clause. I can’t imagine signing 7 to 15 years of my life away to one company. All eyes will be looking at Exo for any further updates. Every word and social media post will certainly be scrutinized and picked apart. Even though the details are currently unclear, the group dynamic will surely take a big hit.

20140516_seoulbeats_tvxq_smrookies_jisungKelsey: I don’t think the K-pop industry is designed for anything but these extended contracts. If the previous incidents didn’t change SM’s protocol, I don’t think the system will ever change. We saw that some of the SM Rookies are ridiculously young, and I’m sure they’re under the same 10+ year contracts that all of their predecessors had to sign. For every one person that quits, there are dozens that adhere to the contracts, so I don’t think SM will ever change their habits unless some govenment policy forces their hand. Regardless of what fans or disgruntled idols like Kris think, SM doesn’t think the system is broken. I’m not sure management sees a big incentive to change tried and true methods of idol production.

Fannie: I’ve always gotten the feeling that Chinese trainees/idols have an especially rough time, particularly within SM. This was somewhat validated when I watched the documentary on Han Geng that was released last year. We don’t know the details, but I’m glad Kris is sticking up for himself if it’s really what he feels is best for him.

That being said, there’s also that part of me that wonders how Exo-M is going to recover from this. I have no doubt the fans will still be there for the group, but Kris is the only one that has natural leadership qualities (alongside command of the language) among Exo-M. He’s the one that has pulled the group together from the start, and unlike in Exo-K where Suho is more of a figurehead, Exo-M is fairly dependent on Kris taking the lead at talk shows when they are promoting in China. I can totally see SM reassigning Lu Han to be the new M leader (he seems to be the golden child of the Chinese members, while Lay is ignored and Tao is too immature) but he really doesn’t have the personality for the part.

Idelle: It concerns me that Kris’ lawsuit has had the Korean public letting out all that latent xenophobia, and the other foreign artistes in the industry (the other members of Exo’s Chinaline and other Chinese artistes, for instance), calling out foreigners and the Chinese in particular as biting the hand that feeds them and much, much worse.

Gaya: I’m glad that other former Chinese SM trainees are coming out in support of Kris, because he will definitely need it in the coming weeks and months.

Camiele: As far as reasons why SM continues to get attention for their idols leaving, quite frankly its visibility in the music industry sets a standard in which other companies will either fall in line with or attempt to buck the trend. More importantly, their title as the biggest record label in South Korea also means whatever they do is indicative of the entertainment industry as a whole in that country. Though certainly not all record companies have the same issues, SM illustrates just how corrupt the industry is, to the point that even when the government “gets involved” (more or less telling them not to do it again), when they do, they get a piddling excuse of a reprimand, pay their parking ticket, and go on their merry way. Their status and power sends a message: “Our bitches wear our collars. If they step out of line, they know what’s coming to them, and no one’s going to care.”

20140516_seoulbeats_exo_ocean_bybearsutNow, that being said, I only have one thing to add, and that’s for the fans, though it may be already too late for this: Listen Exo fandom. Word of advice: don’t mess this up. No matter what you feel, these kids are human, and so are your fellow fandom members. Take lessons from DBSK and Super Junior fandoms: the anger and resentment only makes it worse for everyone involved. Now is the time to start acting like a family and not a bunch of grade schoolers who want to point fingers, blame, throw mud, and generally throw immature temper tantrums. Cassies went through it. ELFs went through it. The pain is real, and the pain of a crumbling fandom is just as real. Support is always the best way to handle this.

(Google, Osen, Weibo[1][2]. Images via: SM Entertainment, Instagram, Osen, Men’s Uno, Sina, Bearsut)