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Ministry to protect rights and welfare of entertainers

The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism on Friday announced plans to set up an “Entertainer Supporting Center” as early as next month.

The plans were unveiled at a forum involving about 20 influential figures in South Korea’s show biz industry at the SM Entertainment building in Cheongdam-dong, southern Seoul.

The forum, hosted by the Culture Ministry, sought to solve problems clouding over the nation’s pop culture and entertainment industry and search for ways to better promote the industry in the future.

With a string of suicides of actors and actresses, the entertainment industry has been mired in several controversies in the last few years. The death of actress Jang Ja-yeon last year brought urgency to the matter of female entertainers’ human rights. Female entertainers have allegedly been pressured to offer sexual favors as bribes to influential figures. Disputes between K-pop groups such as KARA and their agencies shed light on the issue of unfair entertainer-agency contracts.

“Since 2009, most of the issues in the entertainment industry are involved with entertainers’ human rights, poor treatment of trainees or unfair contracts between entertainers and agencies. They have been pointed out as social issues and are required to be solved,” said an official from the Culture Ministry. 
Tae Jin-ah (center), president of the Korean Singers Association and Choung Byoung-gug (right), Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, participate in a forum to discuss ways to improve the nation’s entertainment business at SM Entertainment’s office in Seoul on Friday.( Yonhap News)
Tae Jin-ah (center), president of the Korean Singers Association and Choung Byoung-gug (right), Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism, participate in a forum to discuss ways to improve the nation’s entertainment business at SM Entertainment’s office in Seoul on Friday.( Yonhap News)

Five major entertainment management agencies ― SM Entertainment, JYP Entertainment, YG Entertainment, Cube Entertainment and R’s Company ― participated in the forum.

Entertainers such as Tae Jin-ah, president of the Korean Singers Association, and singer Kim Chang-ryeol, and experts including Noh Dong-ryeol, professor of media communication at Sungshin University, and Gu Bon-geun, deputy director of SBS’ drama production team, also attended.

The ministry expects the center to help protect entertainers’ rights, improve their welfare and establish a fair trading order in the industry.

The center will distribute standardized contracts to the agencies, run programs to educate entertainers and managers and offer consulting for agencies and medical aid to entertainers, according to the ministry.

The ministry also vowed to start an agency registration system to sort out fake agencies and run a “Help Desk” where entertainer aspirants can check which agencies are properly registered. The ministry is also seeking ways to provide a tax privilege to agencies that run trainee systems, considering it a means of researching and developing new content.

According to a survey by the ministry, most of the trainees affiliated with the major entertainment agencies were in their late teens. They remained trainees for an average of 14.57 months, and 80 percent missed school at least once since their debut.

Most of the surveyed trainees and entertainers said they would strongly protest if their human rights were violated, but were relatively receptive toward having to undergo cosmetic surgery or lose weight. Most worried that too much regulation to protect their rights could lead to a decrease in their entertainment work but also admitted it was needed.

By Park Min-young  (claire@heraldcorp.com)
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