Why We Need to Talk about Kris

Kris of Exo-M

We’ve written about why we need to stop talking about Kris. But that doesn’t come close to telling the whole story. Because Kris’s lawsuit could be the biggest thing to happen to Kpop in years. Sure, it might not be resolved right away, but there could be lasting effects that go far beyond an eleven-member Exo.

Exo on the Cusp

Any economist can tell you that China is the fastest growing market. In anything. Exo, and especially Exo-M, found a way to tap that market better than anyone previously has. Given their trajectory at the beginning of the month, Exo was poised to become one of the biggest names in pop music in the world. This lawsuit, however, puts Exo in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Their entire 2014 comeback is marred by speculation and rumor-mongering. And now SM will have to figure out how best to move Exo forward. Do they leave Kris’s position open? Replace him? Do they acknowledge his absence, or cover it up as best they can? Everything Exo does for the foreseeable future will be colored by this one lawsuit. And that’s a big deal.

A Pandemic of Lawsuits

The lawsuit against SM Entertainment could set a dangerous precedent. Whether Kris wins or loses the lawsuit (or even if they settle outside court), he will likely be released from his contract. Though it’s true that a contract is a binding agreement, it’s near impossible to force a performer to give their all. It’s even harder to drag a fan-favorite through court on grounds that they aren’t performing well enough (imagine fan reaction if the current lawsuit were against Kris). The longer that this goes on, and the louder it gets in the media, the greater the chances that SM will release Kris from his contract.

This isn’t the first lawsuit of its kind. Super Junior and TVXQ have gone through similar situations. But the outcome could create a dangerous tipping point in Kpop. Understand that the worldwide press is focused on Kris right now. There is no bigger name in Kpop at this moment, and that could translate into a big gain. If Kris is released from his contract, he might receive a solo offer that dwarfs his current status in Exo. If members of other Kpop groups perceive Kris’s story as a success, if they perceive that filing a lawsuit against their label could enhance their career, we might have a pandemic on our hands. And no group would be safe.

Kris of Exo-M

We Are One?

Exo is known for their motto, “We Are One,” but Kris’s lawsuit could destroy that foundation and send a ripple throughout Kpop. If we do end up with a lawsuit pandemic, artists filing claims against their labels and going solo, the very concept of the Kpop group might be at risk. Read those words, really read them, both for what they mean, and what they could mean.

“We Are One”

If groups become beset by lawsuits, by members forcing their way out to go solo, Kpop could rapidly become a genre of individuals. The groups that we love could disappear, or change so frequently that they lack cohesion. What we’re talking about here is the very soul of Kpop. If “We Are One” becomes an emphasis on the “one,” all bets are off.


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