Slave contracts. They are the bane of every fangirl's existence. These contracts have caused some of the biggest and best groups in K-Pop to disband or go on hiatus while the company is in a legal war with the members trying to leave. The most recent case of lawsuits over these contracts is EXO's Kris and Luhan. Back in 2014 Kris left EXO claiming he was being mistreated as a Chinese member and his company SM Entertainment would not let him get medical attention. He was ill and was seen getting treatment for myocarditis. A few months later, Luhan also left EXO with similar complaints. According to Kris and Luhan, SME was overworking them as well as discriminating against them because of their race. In the beginning of 2015, EXO lost another Chinese member Tao. All three artists sued for similar reasons. This past week two years and many court dates later, Luhan and Kris lost their lawsuits. They have to give a portion of their profits from their solo activities to SME until 2022.
Another very popular group from SME, Super Junior, had their Chinese member also leave. In 2009, Hangeng filed a lawsuit against SME to terminate his contract. He argued that his 13-year contract was "unlawful, overly restrictive and unfair." He claimed he was forced to do things outside of his contract and he was refused sick leave so problems erupted with his kidneys. He won his lawsuit.
Chinese members are definitely not the only idols that sue out of their contracts. Three members of the most popular and iconic K-Pop boyband of the early 2000s, DBSK, sued SME for mistreatment saying they only had three to four hours of sleep each day. Their contract was also for 13 years, and they also won their lawsuit and are active now under their own company as JYJ. The two remaining members still promote as DBSK.
More recently, all six members of B.A.P sued their company for not getting paid. In the three years since their debut, their company had not paid them anything. After many months of confusion, B.A.P ended up staying with their company. I don't feel completely comfortable with their decision to stay.
Many K-Pop groups have these strict "slave" contracts. There are many different aspects in a slave contract, but we don't know all the conditions. They often state that K-Pop stars must live in tiny dorms with up to seven people in one room or that many idols are forbidden to date. The members of popular girl group 2NE1 were barred from dating until they reached a certain time after their debut.
The Korean government has passed laws trying to get rid of slave contracts, but the companies have found ways around the restrictions. Hopefully, K-Pop is evolving out of these slave contracts, but with Kris' and Luhan's loss, it seems to have taken a step back.