The first hearing in the court case between SM Entertainment and former EXO member Tao (Huang Zitao) took place on Oct. 23.
During the hearing at the Seoul Central District Court on Friday, Tao’s legal representation expressed that the exclusive contract SM Entertainment had with Tao should be invalidated by the court due to excessively stringent clauses. The former EXO member’s legal team argued that the contract’s length, inappropriate profit distribution, and alleged discrimination against Tao were the reason the contract should be deemed void.
“If the trust in the confidence of the exclusive contract and its holder is broken, the contract can be terminated,” Tao’s team said, according to AllKpop . “Moreover, holding onto artists through contract length is an infringement on the rights of individuals and limits their freedom.”
The Korean Fair Trade Commission’s (KFTC) average contract length is set at 7 years, but can be extended for another three years in the case of foreigners. Tao’s legal rep said that SM Entertainment took advantage of the extension, emphasizing that the 10-year contract between SM and Tao was unreasonably long. The legal rep also argued that SM Entertainment violated the KFTC guidelines, since the start of Tao’s contract date was his debut with EXO rather than when he started training.
SM Entertainment countered that the three additional years were added to Tao’s contract “for overseas management concerns,” and that the 10 year period is normal considering the training and investment that the company invests into eachh artist.
The Korean entertainment company also denied claims by Tao’s lawyer that EXO’s Chinese members (Tao, Kris, Luhan, and Lay) were discriminated against.
The two sides will appear at another hearing on Dec. 4.
Tamar Herman is a multi-media journalist and the co-founder of KultScene. She is a freelance writer and copy editor, and has written for MTV Iggy, Noisey, and Paste Magazine.