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[OP-ED] f(x)'s Amber and Super Junior-M's Henry Remind Us of SM Entertainment's Dark Side

By Patrick_Magee   Monday, April 3, 2017   514,932   10,867   9



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Most people know that if you make the same mistake over and over again, it stops being an accident, and start being compulsive or chronic. In the case of SM Entertainment, however, such notions aren't observed; almost every year, a new scandal breaks out in which one or more idol group members cite poor working conditions at SM Entertainment as a reason for attempting to leave the company. From withheld pay to mysterious injuries, SM Entertainment artists including TVXQ's original members Jaejoong, Junsu, and Yoochun along with Super Junior-M's Henry have all spoken out against the practices of the company. All of their watershed moments were very public, and yet internal scandals continue to rise from the house of SM. It is with this in mind that we must ask: why can't SM Entertainment keep it together when it comes to artist relations?

To explore SM Entertainment's troubled history with artist relations, you only need to start with the words that f(x) member Amber posted on her Instagram earlier this year. "I'm continuously neglected, hurt, and taken advantage of," she stated, echoing the same sentiments expressed by labelmate and Super Junior-M's own Henry a little over a month ago. "I'm so tired mentally and physically and this is where I draw the line. No more," she said.

On March 25, Amber posted another more detailed message on Instagram about her time at SM. She described being told she "wasn't good enough" despite often being the lone force behind her marketing plans, music, visuals and general "job hunting." She expressed frustration with her experiences of more than five years and implied she was taking on more than she was ever meant to. While many fans are still reeling from the shock, for longtime observers of SM (and Amber in particular), her cry for help seems eerily familiar.

As we mentioned, Amber's statement had a similar tone and timing to one made by Henry. In his own, he said "I can't do it alone any longer. It's been a mistake since 9 years ago," and reached out directly to fans by adding "if you see this message please speak on my behalf, the company won't listen to me." This message offered a stark and shocking contrast from the rigorously planned, positive ones usually seen from K-pop stars' social media accounts, and forced many to confront the notion that a favorite artist might be treated unfairly. As it turns out, though, these incidents might not be so random, and they represent a larger problem in the way that the Korean pop industry operates.

You might recall that prior to Henry and Amber's incidents with SM Entertainment, the label had a highly publicized legal battle with several original members of EXO: Kris, Luhan, and Tao. All three members were Chinese, and their problems arose primarily from their own desire to work outside of the confines of their original contracts, in a way more suited to the Chinese market. In some cases, this meant solo singles or acting. In others, this meant cosmetic endorsements. But to SM Entertainment, who had signed all three artists to an exclusive contract, it meant a conflict of interest. As news of discord came out, all three members' activities were quietly put to a halt, until they eventually left the group entirely.

As lawsuits traded hands back and forth, fans were reminded of a nearly identical situation several years prior: a Chinese member of the label's flagship super group called foul in regards to the label's practices (in this case, the length of contracts), went through legal drama, and came out on the other side no longer a Korean celebrity. That was, of course, former Super Junior member Hangeng. Although his split from SM brought the label's infamous ten-plus year contracts to the attention of the public, the damage was done; he has not promoted in Korea since that time, a fate often shared by SM Entertainment's ex-artists.

Hangeng isn't the only former SM Town resident that's had issues with contract length, and the dearly departed members of EXO weren't alone in their quest for more activity options. As mentioned before, original TVXQ members Jaejoong, Yoochun, and Junsu experienced so much trouble with the label in these departments that it effectively broke TVXQ as the world knew them. This was no small feat - the group was perhaps SM Entertainment's biggest success story of all time alongside BoA, and their turmoil bubbled over during a stretch of Japanese promotions in which the group dominated both the charts and media air space.

The story behind TVXQ's restructuring is complicated and could be made or broken by the presence of unverified information. What is certain is that the group began experiencing troubles sometime after cosmetic company CreBeau sought to ink an endorsement deal. When this wasn't allowed to happen, it was used as an opportunity for the several members to bring other problems to the table. As did Hangeng, the group that went on to become JYJ raised concerns about the length and format of their artist contracts. In this case, TVXQ was allegedly held to a 13-year exclusive contract, with many stipulations requiring performances or labor even in the absence of compensation.

TVXQ continued as a two-member unit, while JYJ did a mix of solo projects and group activities. Despite massive sales, the projects bore the stamp of another signature SM Entertainment technique: preventing artists who left on poor terms from advancing further in the industry. JYJ, just like H.O.T-expats JTL before them, were blocked from appearances in music shows, advertisements, and the K-Pop scene at large. SM Entertainment extended their influence and power in a way that was designed to directly disadvantage others and punish them for speaking out.

There's no doubting that this collection of incidents paired with the departures of artists like Jessica paints SM Entertainment in an unflattering light. In terms of both business and artist relations, fans and onlookers alike are left with some tough questions about what exactly it is they're supporting.

Although the spotlight often ends up on SM since they're one of the biggest K-pop labels, this kind of ethical shadiness is present all around K-pop. In a recent interview with "the Glow Up Podcast," Jay Park revealed that JYP trainees were often subject to beatings as a form of punishment for mistakes or bad behavior. Some other labels, like Open World Entertainment, have been taken to task for sexually harassing trainees and artists. Of course, it's also common knowledge that many labels require strict diets, which sometimes results in trainees and artists developing eating disorders. Countless other music industries and labels show us that it's possible to operate without such a level of physical abuse, so these events leave a sour taste in K-Pop fans' mouths.

While these instances of abuse - both alleged and legally confirmed - cause a great deal of distress for their victims and fans alike, they are a symptom of a cultural mindset. South Korea is among a handful of Asian countries with a predilection for corporal punishment, and it's possible that the string of incidents within the entertainment industry is only par the course. Though, with an ever-expanding international audience juxtaposed against more aware and involved local fans, labels might want to consider cleaning up their acts. Beyond making an ethical improvement, it would save them quite a bit of trouble in terms of creating cover-ups for bad press.

SEE ALSO: H.O.T announces they will be holding first concert together in 17 years

  1. H.O.T
  2. Luhan
  3. Tao
  4. f(x)
  5. Sulli
  6. Amber
  7. JYJ
  8. Junsu (XIA)
  9. Jaejoong
  10. Yoochun
  11. Jessica
  12. TVXQ
  13. Jay Park
  14. Henry
  15. Hangeng
  16. Kris
  17. op-ed

mayleena Monday, April 10, 2017

Tell me something I dont already know.

injungim Thursday, April 6, 2017

One thing you should remember, SM ent doesn't need artists. They need dolls, to do whatever the fuck they plan. All their artist has to do is just sit down and chill, waiting to be called (if you can gain some profits like Henry - which is a rare case for foreign members) or abandoned before thrown away (like The TRAX, we can call No Minwoo as an example)

zemasrunner Wednesday, April 5, 2017

SM's image is really going down hill and it has been so ever since the JYJ/TVXQ and media blacklisting debacle as well as Hangeng / SUJU drama. I was a HUGE DB5K and SUJU fan back in the day (2006 - 2009) but after everything that happened with SM and JYJ particularly, I found myself just disappointed in SM and even Kpop in general because the way things work there is completely inhumane from my perspective. Many super talented people are not fulfilling their full potential under SM because it's over contolling. Every single detail is manufactured, you feel that artistry is missing. I wish all of SM artists discover their true power and exert pressure for change. It's the performers that I like, not the shareholders, managers, and highups. Judging from what happened to JYJ when they split from SM with the media blacklisting and influence on blocking promos and stopping their Japanese careers under Avex, I understand the fear these artists have as they have seen what they expose themselves to if they decide to stand up against SM. However, seeing what Junsu, Yoochun and Jaejoong's artistic freedom produced, I feel happy and proud of what they they did because we get to see more daring and raw ART from them now, even though their absence from the big scene is still heart breaking. People with so much talent and popularity sould have a place under the sun, and SM is blocking anybody with an artistic consciousness and the courage to say enough. SM is really good at casting their talents, they choose them at a very young age, a period when they don't really understand what those contracts entail and what they're getting themselves into. Everybody there is so talented and it's a shame BUT I have the certainty (from my long experience as a Kpop international fan) that in a few years, SM will debut a new group, on whom they will focus all of their energy and completely disregard the ones that are already there with incredible talents and established dedicated fandoms. I have been around long enough to know that in a few years, the hype groups today will leave their place to the newest thing SM want to push forward. They will focus all of the TV appearences and promo on on group and won't allow any of the agency's other groups' promos to collide with those interests, upsetting all the fans and giving some people time to forget why they love a certain group. I think SM needs to review its policy to keep going strong, they need to stop being petty if somebody decides to leave, it's an adult's decision to leave a company they don't enjoy woking at anymore. It happens in all professional ventures and SM Entertainment is no different. The "ungrateful" debate is kind of funny, because each person who parted, gave enough back and if it wasn't for their talent, they would never have been chosen. These young trainees grow up and become full adults and true artists, they have the right to have a change of heart. Finally if it's in the interest of their art to leave SM's contrictions behind, I encourage them to leave. Everybody should have the freedom to have the choice when it comes to their life and career.

xloveseoul Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ok clearly they're both at fault. The artists know what they got themselves into once they signed the contract. But I'm not going to deny that SM has been under scrutiny since the beginning of time, for their unfair contracts either. Even if there are certain rules and relegations regarding companies and their artists, now, upon some "artists protection act" or something. The chances are nothing will change. Not right away at least.

themsbabyg xloveseoul Tuesday, April 4, 2017


chanyeolisbae867 Tuesday, April 4, 2017

There are many different ways to analyze this, but you can't fully blame it on one side. Sm treats them badly yes, but if Amber and Henry knew that they wouldn't have signed with Sm. But again that's how the korean industry works, so it's better to be in a more popular company.

Kpopisthecure Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Can someone sum this up for me?

devilinblack1 Kpopisthecure Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I say you better read it line by line if you want to know the dark side of Kpop entertainment industry...It will make realize someone who is biasing toward a group and hating another group because of that makes them such a sick person.

iisstf28 Kpopisthecure Saturday, May 27, 2017

A bit of a one sided opinion about the drama between SM and Amber+Henry, about them being neglected by their company. AKP uses other ex-SM artists as examples, but they had completely different situations that I feel that they don't really fit here? Also talks about other companies hitting trainers or some even sexually harassing them. That's about it

caitlinnolly Tuesday, April 4, 2017

the thing with amber and henry is that they are promoted, more often than most others - just not as often with their respective groups. that's why i don't know how to react, especially towards amber. it just all seems a tad ungrateful, and that's coming from an fx fan.

devilinblack1 caitlinnolly Tuesday, April 4, 2017

They are musician and they want do music but amber is always doing shows to promote her group and henry added as a super junior 13 th member...SM made super junior to play on fifa or you know the names of the chinese member..who is here for their 14-15 years of life..they don't even appear on any shows..

caitlinnolly devilinblack1 Tuesday, April 4, 2017

amber has had plenty of solo releases? she has done a lot, more than krystal and luna and some snsd members and plenty of other artists under sm. henry also promotes a lot, especially on shows so i have absolutely no clue what you are on about. if anything, zhoumi is promoted the least - but you don't see him complaining, do you?

NoonaVip caitlinnolly Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"Tad ungrateful " I agree

pinkselfie caitlinnolly Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Zhoumi promotes quite a bit in China. I live in China and I hear of him sometimes. However henry?? I forgot he existed since super junior m barely does anything. Henry should really leave super junior M and go to a Chinese company that can promote him more. his talent is so wasted in SM

caitlinnolly pinkselfie Tuesday, April 4, 2017

if he wanted to promote in china wouldn't he ask to? sm would probably earn more from henry if he was promoting there, they have no reason not to let him if victoria, zhoumi, lay, etc are promoting there. also, a ridiculous amount of talent is wasted in sm, is it really a surprise?

caitlinnolly NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

i understand she wants to do more, it's just that she should think about how much she gets promoted compared to other soloists from the sm groups (sans taeyeon). so yeah, tad... maybe a little more than tad but still

motdepasse caitlinnolly Tuesday, April 4, 2017

If Amber has more solo release than Luna, Krystal or some SNSD members it's because she did almost EVERYTHING by herself since SM didn't do nothing (SM didn't gave her a solo debut, she went to SM with more than 20songs and said she wanted to go solo, it's even her who did the concept for Shake that Brass and even chose the dirctor), but dude if she signed up with an agency it's not for doing everything by herself (job hunting (like Real Man, which was a boost for her popularity, wasn't recommended to her by SM), marketing plans etc). Zhoumi etc didn't complain but can you blame Amber for speaking up against something that isn't right? Someone stays quiet about an injustce so she have to do so?? Henry and Amber don't get ANY job by SM they're JOBLESS and if u see some release from them u should know that they went through hardship who should not be taken by them but by legit pro=SM

NoonaVip caitlinnolly Tuesday, April 4, 2017

If she just has so much creativity under her belt, signing with SM is entirely her own fault.

caitlinnolly motdepasse Tuesday, April 4, 2017

sm are all about money, amber's solo releases didn't do extremely well, therefore she didn't make them the money they expected and wanted. not only that, but look at sulli? she's an actress and she has had near to no work, is she complaining? no, she's living her life. seohyun did a lot by herself, so did luna and jonghyun. i'm not saying i don't understand why she's complaining/calling sm out. what i am saying is that there are people who have it a lot worse in that company. the amount of station releases amber has had is ridiculous, she's had more than one solo comeback/album, her and luna were going around as an unofficial duo, and there were a lot of other things. if she wanted to put more music out there, there are penty of platforms. what about her youtube account? what about soundcloud and spotify? complaining won't do her any good, she'll probably just get blacklisted by sm, the same as everyone else does.

caitlinnolly NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

there are other ways to showcase that creativity though, if what she's doing isn't making sm money, they're not going to risk losing even more just to keep her happy :/ she needs to think of other ways

motdepasse caitlinnolly Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Like I said it's not because some people doesn't complain about something UNFAIR that other people shouldn't, if it's unfair it's her right and even brave to speak out. We don't know what's going on behind the scene, maybe they didn't allow her to release stuff anymore since when fans asked her friend about Amber's issueshe said "I'm not allowed to talk about it but don't listen when someone doesn't allow you to do what you want" or something like that

caitlinnolly motdepasse Tuesday, April 4, 2017

she still isn't making her case any better, and all these people who are suddenly supporting her are annoying, where were they when she needed them with her solo debut?

amastris caitlinnolly Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What are you talking about with her solo album?? Go look on the Gaon Chart from 2/15/15 - 2/21/15! The album was second competing against EXO's overdose, Apink, GOT7, AOA, BAP, etc. You're not getting her point correctly here! You're saying she's ungrateful, but you know why that album was a success?? Because of all her celebrity friends & idols that **she** networks with and got to support her and cameo, etc. Beautiful (EP) debutted at #2 on the Billboard World Album chart because she has such a great international fanbase. She, herself alone, with no help, wrote, composed, & produced that album. SME only gets the copyright & licensing because she did it UNDER THEIR LABEL as a contracted employee. SME gets all the $$$ and credit, while she does all the work! It's a testament to her own personal strength that she states it has been this way for 5 years. Henry is finally getting some music released, although it was supposed to be this month, but SME has postponed it, most likely because he complained in December and asked his fans to shout out to SME because "they won't listen to me". How sad is that? He's doing the same thing as Amber, writing, composing, marketing, all by himself... Did you NOT read that part??? They are under SME but SME is not providing them ANY resources to do their stuff. They literally have to do it themselves then push and push SME to release the stuff out to the public and fans. There is something definitely OFF with that business ethic. And to say that this hardwork to be recognized and making a living is being "ungrateful" is beyond clearly reading and LISTENING to exactly what's being said. Yes! So many say Amber isn't "pretty", Amber isn't this, Amber isn't that. But, thank goodness, your comments at least put LIGHT to that fallacy. She was only the 2nd person to SOLO DEBUT in 2014 along with ShiNEEs Jong Hyun and the 1st to do so from f(x). You are absolutely correct! But it was because she wrote, composed, her music then produced her own videos, etc and shoved it in SME's face that it even happened... or are you not hearing her say, "I've been doing it all for the last 5 years..." Henry repeating the same thing for himself??? SME has them under contract but they aren't providing them with an ACTIVITIES! They have to go out and research and network and do it for themselves... and Amber's solo album success is, again, a testament to her personality, creativity, and talent...yet, she says, SME tells her she's no good. *SMH* They have her contracted but tell her they won't support her activities because she's "no good". Let's get real here for a moment. It's not AMBER who is UNGRATEFUL!! It is SME who is UNGRATEFUL!!!

motdepasse amastris Wednesday, April 5, 2017


iisstf28 amastris Saturday, May 27, 2017

Yeah, in that week she did kind of good, but look at the yearly chart and it is pretty damn hard to find her. I really really love Amber and I understand that she is concerned about not having much work... but SM won't give her a comeback if they know that it won't sell... they are not charity, they are a business that thinks only about profit, they have every right to not give her an album if that means that they will lose money and that is what Amber signed up to... it is fucking cruel,but that's what it is... I won't call her ungrateful, it is not that... but I can't blame SM for not giving her work... and you can say that she did it all by herself, that is NOW, when they already saw how her first solo failed to reach expectations even when she got a feature from Taeyeon and got good promotions. Her friends came along for the MV but that's about it about how her connection did in her first solo... Now SM just lets her do her thing when she does the job because if not, they would be losing money there.... SM is about money, Amber doesn't bring as much money... Amber or SM are not to blame here... the ones who complain now about how Amber doesn't get job, but don't buy her music when she does are the ones to blame imo

ani07 Tuesday, April 4, 2017

there it goes again with all the shit. and ppl will believe that only in sment things like this happen. ppl should wake up. the whole korean entertainment industry is like that.

NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Ok realistically speaking, this is why you need to educate yourself before signing your life away. Read the fine print. Visualize those numbers of years that you are about to give up. I'm sorry, I'm not an SM fan at all but I do support lots of their artist and music if I like it, but business is business. Every company in Korea all work differently. Especially the Big 3 companies. If they feel so creative beyond what SM is seeing then they should've looked into JYP and YG or any other smaller companies. Now it just looks like they signed their life away just to become famous. I originally sided some of the Chinese EXO members against SM. Only because they didn't ask fans to "speak on their behalf" or whatever. They battled it on court grounds just like whenever any other contract around the world gets broken.

NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

And last I checked, both SM and Amber were given solos and many appearances.

NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

*henry and Amber

krell NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Yes, to be honest, and I'll get in 'trouble' for this too, I really do NOT see AMBER (F[X]) as all that 'hot a commodity' in K-pop Music. She is 7 YEARS OLDER than when F(X) Group did DEBUT. And what AMBER is doing it ; is 'more of the same' in a lot of ways. K-pop Music is more about 'what is NEW' and about being YOUTHFUL too. Which, in my view, is why say KARA4 Group (the CORE3 members) decided to 'call it good enough' after 7 Years in K-pop ... Having said that, I am a bit concerned that SNSD will be 'tottering out' on stage at AGE 40. But IF the SONES LOVE IT ; then THEY DO !!! ...

NoonaVip krell Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Hey you have the right to your own opinion my friend. I personally cringed on "shake that brass" my damn self but I loved Fx's music. Lol but that's besides the point. I don't we have to worry about SNSD too much. Or should we? LOl 40 is a reach 😂😂😂

krell NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

SNSD is making a TON of MONEY. So, IF any Female K-pop Group could justify continuing to AGE 40, it would be SNSD. And IF the SONES are supportive of that ; and enjoy it ; that is really ALL that matters ... MICK JAGGER (Rolling Stones ; UK Pop) is AGE 73, and THE STONES have been grinding for over 50 years. IF SNSD wants to try for 25 Years ; who is to say it is wrong.

motdepasse NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

"just to become famous" let me correct u, if u knew them you'd know it's because they're freaking passionate about music, don't vulgarize that please. If Amber took social media to talk it's because she wants to stays with f(x) and whithin SM were there is artist who are like her family. " Amber and Henry were given many solos appearance" I'll talk just about Amber since I don't really follow Henry, let me correct u here too, like Amber ALREADY said it in her post (and like I saw it as a someone who follow her) those apearances weren't "given" by SM and that's the issue Amber talked about. She did almost EVERYTHING by herlsef! If she didn't she'd be jobless for 5 years now

NoonaVip motdepasse Tuesday, April 4, 2017

So you are trying to tell me that she was freely promoting her solo and activities by herself without permission or funding from SM?

NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

CUz to me thats what "everything" mean

motdepasse NoonaVip Tuesday, April 4, 2017

I said "almost" dude! And I explained in which ways, for her mini album SM did allow her to go solo and helped her but that solo wasn't made by SM but by Amber they just helped her and not in a big way. Her mini wasn't a flop like u'r all saying, Amber's solo is on the list of the most successful female solo in Korea and was even called a "hit" by billboard DESPITE the fact that Amber was a rapper. But SM didn't do anything with it and in 2016 SM didn't even helped her anymore

xloveseoul Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Let's be honest. There's a dark side to every company but we just don't know about them.

operativealyssa xloveseoul Wednesday, April 5, 2017


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