Three members of the five-strong girl band Kara told their talent agency DSP Media on Wednesday that they are terminating their contract. The news comes after three of the five members of the hugely successful boy band TVXQ filed a lawsuit against their management agency in 2009.
Han Seung-yeon (23), Jung Nicole (20) and Kang Ji-young (17) announced the termination of their contract through their legal representative Landmark. The other two, Park Gyu-lee (23) and Gu Ha-ra (20), did not.
Landmark said the agency "forced the members to perform against their will, insulted their character and signed various contracts on their behalf without explaining the details to the entertainers. Kara is being used merely as a means to make money and the trust between the management agency and the singers has broken down beyond repair."
Landmark said they will make further comments depending on the response of DSP Media. Gu originally announced she would also terminate her contract but changed her mind.
The three members have no idea about their future schedule because the agency has never let them know -- one of the five reasons they want the contract termination -- but they will try to carry out the schedule already planned, the legal firm added. The group is shooting the drama "Urakara" for TV Tokyo in Japan.
DSP Media dismissed the allegations as groundless and added they "defame the integrity of their management agency, which worked hard to make Kara the leader of the Korean Wave." It added it even divided profits to the advantage of the singers. The agency said it suspects that a rival agency urged the singers to cancel their contracts and is seeking to capitalize on the group's popularity.
In 2009, when members of TVXQ and Super Junior terminated their contracts with their agency SM Entertainment, allegations of rights abuse were raised when the terms of the contracts between the entertainers and their agencies were revealed. Since then agencies have pledged to voluntarily revise their contractual terms, including shortening the duration from 13 to seven years, cutting excessive contract cancellation fees and relieving entertainers of the duty to notify them of their whereabouts.
Some agencies said they created a new clause in contracts requiring them to discuss important schedules with the entertainers. But the latest incident raises the question whether the changes have been implemented.
"Talent agencies consider entertainers merely as money-making opportunities, and aspiring entertainers agree to unfair contractual terms because they want to become famous, so you can say that both sides are using each other," music critic Park Eun-seok said. "We need to use the latest incident as an opportunity to reflect on the backwardness of our music industry and look for improvements."
The troubles at Kara are expected to impact the new Korean Wave in Japan, which has shifted from Korean TV dramas to music. The Japanese media widely reported on the split.