Back in May 2014, EXO member Kris filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment in order to be removed from the group. As a member of one of the most successful and popular K-Pop groups in history, his actions shook up the industry and understandably made many EXO fans (EXO-Ls) very upset. Months passed, and in October of the same year, fellow member Luhan also filed a lawsuit to be removed from the group. Fans were shaken once again, but many continued on and voiced their support for both the former and remaining EXO members.

As negotiations and disagreements between Kris, Luhan and SM Entertainment raged on, the former members tentatively began trying to start off their careers again in their native China. Seemingly, the vast majority of EXO-Ls continued to support all of them, whilst others decided to only support for the remaining members of EXO. The entire fandom was arguably still adjusting to the new situation when, in April 2015, a letter written by EXO member Tao’s father was posted onto Chinese social networking site Weibo. In said letter, Tao’s father pleaded that Tao be withdrawn from the group. He stated that his son was not being properly taken care of by the agency, having been injured repeatedly and those injuries allegedly not being properly treated. Whilst it was reported that Tao had agreed to discuss a possible contract termination with SM Entertainment, he continued as a member of EXO, but did not take part in any further promotional activities with the group.

It then transpired that Tao had begun to start up a solo career in China in the next month. The release of his first mini album and the announcement of a series of mini concerts in the country came quickly after reports that he had even set up his own personal management agency to handle his affairs as a solo artist. This was all before his filing a lawsuit in August against SM Entertainment to terminate his contract. Many fans were left angry and frustrated at the situation.

There have been many EXO-Ls who have declared Tao’s actions as a betrayal of his EXO members. What began as a seemingly sincere plea from his father for his son to stop being neglected and return to his home country, turned rapidly into Tao launching an entire solo career whilst still technically remaining a member of his group. Fans’ anger is arguably understandable, not only did Tao go against his contract by beginning a solo career before beginning proceedings for its termination; he seemingly used his lack of good health as an excuse to jump on his own path. Despite Kris and Luhan’s actions to continue careers in China, it seems that the way Tao in particular went about things is what has struck a real nerve among fans.

All this has raised the question; does the problem lie in the fact that Tao did not make the necessary movements to terminate his contract before beginning his solo career or is it something else? Both Kris and Luhan began their own solo activities quite soon after filing their lawsuits, but they seem to have not been accused of betrayal quite to the same extent as Tao has.

Indeed, unfortunately, SM Entertainment has a history of alleged bad treatment of its idols, with former Super Junior member Hang Geng and former DBSK members Kim Jaejoong, Micky Yoochun and Xiah (now known as JYJ) all filing lawsuits against the company in the past. Each idol cited bad treatment, lack of time off work, and the ever famous ‘slave contracts’ amongst other elements in their reasoning.

Of course, there is always a side to the story we, as fans and spectators, never see. There are happenings that go on behind the scenes that could feed into either side of any one argument. It means that we can only go by what we see in the media and what the rumours that will inevitably circulate concerning the situations say. This makes it incredibly easy for us, as those uninvolved, to make snap judgements about idols and agencies in certain situations. Add into this, the high-charged emotional environment that comes along with fandom, and you can have quite a messy playing field.

This writer’s personal opinion, if all of the above is indeed true, is that Tao most certainly should have conducted all official proceedings of contract termination before even considering partaking in a solo career. If someone is being mistreated and their human rights are not being acknowledged, then they should certainly get out of that situation as soon as they possibly can, however, in the tangled world of contractual obligations, there are certain professional protocols that should be carried out. Tao apparently neglected to do this.

Personally, I even think that Kris a Luhan may have moved on a little too quickly. Then again, I suppose they still need to make a living, and perhaps going on a hiatus was simply not an option for them financially. It is not that I expect them to wait until all the lawsuits are finished, because – as in JYJ’s case, it can take years, but I feel that a small time away from the limelight would be better for them mentally and physically as well as in a way of showing respect for the group they have left behind.

What are YOUR opinions on this situation?
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I love writing (especially about K-Pop) and am trying to improve my skills with every post!