EXO's Baekhyun, Xiumin and Chen to terminate contracts with SM

Members of boy band EXO, from left: Baekhyun, Chen and Xiumin [JOONGANG ILBO, NEWS1]

SM Entertainment faces yet another legal crisis, this time with its own artists.

Members of boy band EXO, Baekhyun, Xiumin and Chen, notified SM Entertainment on Thursday that they are terminating their contracts with the agency due to mistreatment and unfair contract terms, while the agency argued that it's a part of "an outside party's scheme" to shake the company that has just finished a muddy battle over its management earlier this year.

According to the three EXO members, SM Entertainment has been refusing to provide papers on how the EXO members have received payment since their debut, even after the singers requested such documents seven times.

The three members were also part of EXO-CBX, a three-member sub-unit of the boy band EXO, which released music from 2016 to 2019.

"It is the artist's most basic right to demand clear and precise proof of how payment has been made, and SM Entertainment is required to abide by the law," Lee Jae-hak, the artists’ attorney from law firm Lin said. "But SM Entertainment maintains that such data cannot be shared."

Lee noted that the agency also offered singers 12- to 13-year contracts, which is longer than the standard 7-year contract recommended by the government.

A standard contract is usually based on seven years, and an artist has the right to terminate the contract if it surpasses the 7-year threshold.

“SM Entertainment wrote 12- to 13-year contracts and then forced artists to sign extensions, leading to 17 or 18 years of unfair contracts,” the attorney said. "The artists have been asking very firmly for the payment data [...] but have resorted to demanding a termination of the contracts as of Thursday upon the company's refusal to do so.”

SM Entertainment headquarters in Seongsu-dong, eastern Seoul [NEWS1]

However, SM Entertainment denied all allegations, saying it has been providing all related information and more to its artists every month, whenever the artists requested.

The long-term contracts were also fairly signed by each artist, "in a situation where renewals were in no way forced," and have been approved by the Supreme Court.

The agency argued that the members have been “lured” by an outside force that has been feeding them “incorrect legal information” to make them sign with a different agency during times of turmoil for the K-pop company.

SM Entertainment was embroiled in a messy two-month battle in February and March between its executives and its founder, who each sided with different companies to become the major shareholder of the agency. Kakao and SM’s executives won in the end, but a deep scar was left during the process of kicking out the founder.

“While we were trying to concentrate our power in making a new start, we have confirmed an absurd outside force that has been telling our artists that it’s ok to ignore their exclusive contracts with our company and sign another one with them,” the agency said in a statement.

“Their attempts to lure the artists with poisonous words, without the artists’ true interest at heart, to make them sign double contracts, are illegal.”

SM Entertainment did not point any names out. But a media report revealed that Big Planet Made — an agency signed with girl group Viviz, singer Ren and more — received a letter of notification from SM Entertainment because rapper and producer MC Mong, who SM Entertainment claimed was a director at Big Planet Made, met with the three EXO members and tried to convince them to join the company.

Big Planet Made denied the report, saying, “We have never met with the artists mentioned in the reports, nor have we discussed any contracts.”

“MC Mong is not a director of the company, nor does he hold any position within,” Big Planet Made said in a statement. “It’s true that we received a letter from SM, but we are very regretful about [SM Entertainment] involving us when we have no part in their internal situation. Should they continue with the claim, we will take firm legal measures.”


EXO is a nine-member boy band that debuted in 2012 under SM Entertainment and is one of the most popular third-generation K-pop boy bands, well-known for songs such as "Growl" (2013), "Overdose" (2014), "Call Me Baby" (2015) and "Monster" (2016).

The band recently released the Japanese single “Bird” and held a meet and greet in April marking the first time in four years for members to come together after their mandatory military services. Member Kai began his service earlier this month.