JYJ performs at Caupolican Theatre in Santiago, Chile, on March 9, 2012. / Korea Times
By Choi Kyong-ae
The boy band JYJ is free to appear back on stage.
The Fair Trade Commission, Korea's antitrust regulator, said Wednesday that it has punished SM Entertainment and an entertainment business lobby group for unfair practices against entertainers, including the JYJ.
SM Entertainment, one of the country's three major management agencies, continued to interrupt entertainment activities of JYJ after the boy band filed a suit against the agency in July 2009, arguing their 13-year contract with SM was too long and that income was tilted unfairly toward management.
Legal disputes between the two sides finally came to an end late last year after rounds of counter suits. Seoul Central District Court warned SM and the Korea entertainment industry association that they would face fines if they make the same interruptive action against JYJ.
"Separately from the court ruling, the FTC has ordered SM and the association not to get involved in any interruption from now on," an FTC official told The Korea Times. "This is a legally binding order they should abide by it."
JYJ was formed when Kim Jae-joong, Kim Jun-su, and Park Yu-chun broke away from the 5-member TVXQ, better known as Dong Bang Shin Ki, in June 2009.
In its major interruptive activities, SM joined forces with the association to send a letter to major broadcasting companies asking them to block JYJ from performing. This was just before JYJ began preparing their debut stage show after releasing their 1st album in October 2010.
The FTC made the association send a notice that it was ordered to correct the wrongdoings against the boy group to 26 broadcasting companies and other involved parties.
Neither JYJ nor SM were available for comment.
The dispute shocked K-pop fans who were unfamiliar with the dark side of K-Pop and there came a flood of negative media coverage, including double contracts and cheating on trainees, of the entertainment industry.
In October last year, the FTC made guidelines for fair practices of management, trainees and production companies in a bid to tidy up some of the problems in the industry.
In fact, a lot of trainees in Korea suffered unfair treatment by agencies but couldn't complain.
"We hope this ruling will ring an alarm bell in the industry not to make the same case happen again," said the FTC official.