On March 7, 2009, 26-year-old South Korean actress Jang Ja-yeon 장자연 was found hanged to death at her home, leaving a note describing how she was beaten and forced to entertain and have sex with a string of VIPs, including program directors, CEOs and media executives.
On July 31, 2009, three members of Korean boy band TVXQ 동방신기 (aka DBSK), Micky, Xiah and Hero, submitted an application to the Seoul Central District Court to determine the validity of their contract with SM Entertainment (SM). The members stated that the 13-year contract was excessively long and that the group’s earnings were not fairly distributed to each member.
Further details of TVXQ’s slave contract were revealed later that they had to follow the words of their manager as if he was God; any days for their absence without approval would be added to the length of their contract. In addition, TVXQ only get 2% of the album copies sales and the 2% has to be split to the five members. Moreover, SM agency require TVXQ to pay three times the amount that they claim to have invested into the group, and twice what they would have made if TVXQ ever decided to break their contract.
On August 20, 2010, Taiwanese artist Estrella Lin 林韦伶, a former member of the girl group 3EP Beauties, claimed that she was asked to “sexually” entertain investors in exchange of her debut in Korea. Estrella has also revealed that the majority of South Korean actors, actresses and singers were forced to trade their bodies to gain opportunities to enter the showbiz in Korea, and that is an unwritten rule in the country’s entertainment industry.
Estrella has published a new book that month, detailing the 3-year “prison life” she had endured in South Korea. She wrote in her book that she was asked to “provide sexual service” and was “subjected to inhumane treatment”. She was also asked to change her birth year from 1980 to 1985, according to news reports. “I practiced dancing five hours a day and had to take painkilling shots every two weeks to relieve the pain in my knees.”
The first Korean Playboy Model Lee Pani 이파니 has also admitted that she was once asked to have sex with an influential figure for money and fame. All of these situations have supported the words of famous actor and filmmaker Na Woon-gyu 나운규, who claimed in 1937 that “movie directors should become like pimps to treat actresses as if they are prostitutes.”
According to various media critics, Korean society is so dominated by males that people still have very little respect for their female artists. University professor and film critic Yu Gina expressed her thoughts over the issue, “Men who have power and high rank seem to think their power will be bigger if they have sex with popular female entertainers in secrecy. This malpractice and wrong perception about women is so prevalent that men would not even recognize it as a human rights problem, generally.”
According to news report, popular Korean girl group Girls’ Generation 소녀시대, also formed by SM Entertainment, will attend the Fair Trade Commission early next month and testify upon the case regarding the heated “slave contract” accusations. The statement of the girl group is expected to make quite an influence over how the issue would come to an end.
However, it is still unknown whether the girls will testify together, separately or as a select few. Meanwhile, many netizens have expressed doubt over the girl group testifying the truth behind the highly controversial slave contract, owing to the fact that the girls have to protect their careers beyond anything else. Even if Girls’ Generation speak up, can we outsiders really tell what is true and what is not?