Slave Contract

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A Slave Contract (Hangul노예 계약; Hanja奴隸契約; RRnoye gyeyak) refers to an unfair, long-term contract between Korean idols and their management agencies.[1][2]


Aspiring K-pop idols, known as "trainees," sign contracts with management agencies when the trainee is as young as 12 or 13 years old.[3] It may take ten years for an agency to groom the trainee and for them to debut on stage, according to the former head of the Korea Entertainment Law Society.[2] Both trainees and K-pop idols who have debuted typically live in dormitories, where their management agencies control their diets, their love lives, and their behaviour.[3][4] Under most contracts, trainees and K-pop idols are required to pay back their management agencies for the cost of singing and dancing lessons, their wardrobes and living costs, among other things. As a result, K-pop idols may not make large profits.[1]


In 2008, three members of the boy band TVXQ took their management agency SM Entertainment to court, claiming that the agency's 13-year-contract was too long, too restrictive, and gave them almost none of the profits from their success.[1][2] The following year, in 2009, South Korea's Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) created a rule that limited entertainment contracts to seven years.[5] In 2017, the KFTC again put restrictions on entertainment contracts. Among other things, the 2017 reforms reduced the financial penalties for K-pop trainees that break their contracts early and made it more difficult for companies to force K-pop idols to renew their contracts.[6]


  1. ^ a b c Williamson, Lucy (2011-06-15). "The dark side of South Korean pop music". BBC News. Retrieved 2017-06-19. 
  2. ^ a b c Han, Sang-hee (2009-08-11). "Is There a Solution for Slave Contracts?". Korea Times. Retrieved 2017-06-19. 
  3. ^ a b Sung, So-young (2014-10-20). "Why K-pop idols flee from their groups". Korea JoongAng Daily. Retrieved 2017-06-19. 
  4. ^ Volodzko, David (2016-04-25). "K-pop's gross double standard for women". Public Radio International. Retrieved 2017-06-19. 
  5. ^ Kim, Hyo-jin (2014-12-03). "K-pop stars punished by unfair contracts". Korea Times. Retrieved 2017-06-19. 
  6. ^ "Major K-pop agencies to reform unfair contract clauses". SBS PopAsia. 2017-03-08. Retrieved 2017-06-19.