Earlier, this year, EXO’s leader Suho revealed that the group would be making a comeback in 2023. This set EXO-L, the official name for fans of the group, buzzing as EXO has not released a studio album since Obsession back in 2019.

On top of that, the last time the legendary K-pop group had a comeback as a full group was Don’t Mess Up My Tempo back in 2018. However, on 3 May, SM Entertainment unexpectedly announced that member Kai would be starting his military service as a social service worker earlier than expected which meant that he would not be able to join in for the comeback.

Now, the fate of EXO’s upcoming comeback is uncertain as members Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen have notified SM Entertainment regarding the termination of their exclusive contracts as reported by Soompi. The three each have successful solo careers and are also members of the subunit EXO-CBX which has topped music charts and their first album ‘Hey Mama’ became one of the bestselling records of 2016.

Through their legal representative and lawyer Lee Jae Hak from law firm LIN, the trio delivered their official statement on 1 June which spanned five pages. They announced that they had sent their exclusive contract termination notice to SM.

According to the firm, the members had submitted a total of seven requests for documents that detailed the earnings and payments for Baekhyun, Xiumin, and Chen from the months of March through May. Despite their repeated requests for copies of transparent settlement reports and settlement grounds, SM maintained that they could not provide copies of the reports.

On top of that, the artists had signed long-term contracts with SM that spanned over 12 to 13 years. Recently, they demanded that the artists renew their contracts prematurely for a total length of at least 17-18 years. The artists feel that SM is using its superior position to force artists to sign ‘slave contracts’ that span almost 20 years including their training periods.

For instance, EXO’s member Suho trained for six years before making his debut. The statement elaborated that it is difficult to file a legal lawsuit against a large enterprise such as SM, but they undertook it with courage and thought that it will also clarify doubts that many SM artists have.

The statement also included a message to fans that said that they apologised for concerning fans and that they would try to find a wise way to resolve this dispute. They also mentioned that they were “actually very frightened and fearful of this moment right now.”

It remains to be seen how this move will affect upcoming EXO’s activities as a whole as well as the members’ solo careers.

Following the announcement, SM’s stock has decreased.

SM issued an official statement on the matter, saying that ‘outside forces’ were approaching their agency artists and proving them with ‘false information, false court documents, and irrational offers’. The statement further said that the outside forces were trying to sweet-talk the artists into signing multiple contracts and engaging in illegal activities. SM also stated that ‘we will pursue all possible legal action.’

This was followed by a second statement from the company, stating that artists can request any record or earnings and balances at any time. They again suggested that ‘outside forces’ may be at play as the artists specifically requested copies of the balance documents. They also claimed that the three members chose to renew the contracts of their free will and that the issue of payments and earnings did not arise during the renewal discussion period.

Our fingers are crossed for the future of EXO!

Image credit: smentertainment.com