SM Entertainment Employee Fires Back Amid EXO Dispute — As Fans Call Out the K-Pop Company’s ‘Misleading Statements in the Media’

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With a contractual dispute between SM Entertainment and three members of EXO (pictured) having devolved into a war of words, an SM employee is firing back against claims made by Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen. Photo Credit: To. Chanyeol

The much-publicized showdown between SM Entertainment and EXO is continuing to heat up, as an SM employee is refuting the idea that the boy band’s members were duped into signing predatory and difficult-to-understand contracts.

This newest twist in the high-stakes dispute just recently came to light in reports from regional outlets. Closer to June’s beginning, EXO members Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen (who are 31, 33, and 30 years old, respectively) moved to terminate their exclusive SM Entertainment agreements.

Among other things, the peeved K-pop professionals are accusing SM of compelling them to sign roughly 12-year “slave contracts” as well as related “extensions” in violation of South Korean entertainment law.

“SM is trying to claim a contract period of at least 17 to 18 years by having the artists sign the subsequent exclusive contracts again,” an attorney for the EXO members at hand indicated in a widely circulated statement. “This is SM repeatedly perpetrating extremely unjust use of power against their artists.”

Kakao-partnered SM – which has found itself at the center of multiple public confrontations in 2023 – promptly fired back against the allegations, expressing the belief that Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen were being wooed by competing K-pop companies. The EXO members then maintained they’d opted to push for additional financial information and the contract termination on their own, without the influence of “outside forces.”

Now, as initially mentioned, a new exposé penned by an SM employee is calling into question the allegations against the company – including the claims involving the length and details of the EXO members’ contracts.

The corresponding post was published originally on Blind, a South Korean platform (now boasting a seemingly popular international version as well) that enables verified employees to weigh in on their companies anonymously.

And according to Google’s translation of the lengthy Korean-language remarks, the EXO members “renewed voluntarily” their respective SM deals – and pushed for “favorable splits” – after first signing with the agency as young adults. Per the author, the point undermines the argument that Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen were coerced into inking less-than-ideal pacts.

“How long has it been since you became a top star?” the SM team member asked the seemingly outgoing EXO professionals, whose group is said to have had the bestselling album in South Korea during 2013, 2014, and 2015 alike. “If you’re talking about the contents of your first exclusive contract, I’d understand the excuse of being a rookie, but were you a rookie when you renewed your contract?”

Elsewhere in the voluminous retort, the SM staffer identified money as the sole motivation for the agreement-termination request and claimed that the associated EXO members had long failed to respect the company’s employees. Meanwhile, in a testament to the dispute’s many angles, EXO’s “international fanbases” today took aim at SM in an open letter with a header reading “Justice for CBX.”

Made available in English, Mandarin, Indonesian, Thai, Arabic, and other languages yet, said letter reads more like a legal demand than a casual message from fans.

“We urge SM to cease foul play via misleading statements in the media, which has resulted in unfair and divisive attacks on the members,” the “international fanbases” wrote, having also taken their protest to SM’s headquarters. “Lastly, we urge SM Entertainment and its employees to exercise the corporate social and ethical responsibility necessary as an entertainment company on the global stage.”