The highly publicized showdown between SM Entertainment and EXO heats up as an SM employee debunks the notion that the boy band’s members were tricked into signing predatory and obscure contracts.
This latest twist in the high-stakes dispute came to light in recent reports from regional media. Just before the start of June, EXO members Baekhyun, Xiumin and Chen (who are aged 31, 33 and 30 respectively) have decided to terminate their exclusive SM Entertainment contracts.
The disgruntled K-Pop professionals accuse SM of forcing them to sign approximately 12-year “slave contracts” and associated “extensions” in violation of South Korean entertainment law.
“SM is attempting to enforce a minimum 17-18 year contract period by having the artists re-sign exclusive contracts thereafter,” a lawyer for EXO members in attendance said in a widely circulated statement. “It’s that SM continues to exercise extremely unjust power over their artists.”
Kakao partner SM – which found itself at the center of several public confrontations in 2023 – promptly returned the allegations, expressing belief that Baekhyun, Xiumin and Chen were being courted by rival K-pop companies. EXO members then claimed that they chose to push for additional financial information and the termination of the contract on their own and without the influence of “outside forces”.
Now, as mentioned at the outset, a new exposé from an SM employee challenges the allegations against the company – including claims regarding the length and details of EXO members’ contracts.
The related post was originally published on Blind, a South Korean platform (there seems to be a popular international version now too) that allows verified employees to anonymously comment on their companies.
And according to Google’s translation of the lengthy Korean-language comments, EXO members “voluntarily renewed” their respective SM contracts — and pushed for “favorable splits” — after first signing with the agency as young adults. According to the author, this point undermines the argument that Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen were forced to make non-ideal pacts.
“How long has it been since you became a top star?” the SM team member asked the seemingly outgoing EXO pros, whose group is said to have had the best-selling album in South Korea in 2013, 2014 and 2015. “If you talk about the content of your first exclusive contract, I would understand the excuse of being a newcomer, but were you a newcomer when you renewed your contract?”
Elsewhere in the lengthy response, the SM employee identified money as the sole motivation for requesting termination and claimed that affiliated EXO members had long disrespected the company’s employees. Meanwhile, EXO’s “international fan bases” today targeted SM in an open letter that exposed the many facets of the dispute and captioned it “Justice for”. CBX.”
Available in English, Mandarin, Indonesian, Thai, Arabic and other languages. said letter reads more like a legal demand than a casual message from fans.
“We call on SM to stop foul play through misleading statements in the media, which has led to unfair and divisive attacks on members,” wrote the “international fan communities” and also took note of their protest to the SM headquarters. “Finally, we urge SM Entertainment and its employees to uphold the corporate social and ethical responsibilities required as an entertainment company on the global stage.”