The 'Lee Seung-gi Act' - A Boon or Bane for K-pop Stars?
In the world of K-pop, there is rising concern that the so-called 'Lee Seung-gi Act', claiming to support celebrities, might end up discriminating against them instead.
The 'Lee Seung-gi Act' is an amendment to the Advancement of the Popular Culture and Arts Industry Act. It obliges entertainment companies to disclose their profit calculations to their signed artists at least once a year. This act was proposed following a payment dispute between Lee Seung-gi and his former agency, Hook Entertainment, and was approved by the National Assembly's Culture, Sports, and Tourism Committee on the 21st of last month.
The amendment, aiming to prevent conflicts between artists and agencies due to murky accounting practices, undoubtedly has positive implications for K-pop. However, the industry seems less than enthusiastic about its passing.
The issue lies in a hidden clause. The amendment includes protective provisions for underage artists, lowering their maximum working hours, banning excessive beauty management, health-threatening practices, assaults, verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and encroachments on their right to education, such as school absences and dropouts. The new working hour restrictions, in particular, have triggered significant opposition.
The amendment proposes to cut back the upper limit on work hours from 35 hours per week for those under 15, and 40 hours per week for those 15 and above, to 25 hours per week and six hours per day for those under 12, 30 hours per week and seven hours a day for those aged 12-15, and 35 hours per week and seven hours a day for those aged 15 and above.
Under these new guidelines, restrictions on the activities of the current generation of K-pop idols are inevitable, especially since many groups include a large number of underage members.
For example, all members of the group Newzins, including the youngest, Hye-in, are teenagers aged between 15-19. Similarly, groups like Ives and Lecielaphim include several underage members. Even the soon-to-debut girl group Babymonsters from YG Entertainment includes members born in 2008 and 2009.
The recently debuted The Wind, who have an average age of 16.8, have been touting their title as the youngest boy group, but under the new amendment, their normal activities will be impossible.
The impact of this amendment is not only on active idols but also on agencies planning to launch new idols in line with the trend of debuting at younger ages. They're in a state of emergency since they would have to overhaul their plans if the amendment is enacted. Even with modifications, the situation seems unsolvable.
Industry representatives voice their strong dissatisfaction with the amendment, arguing that it ignores on-ground realities and impedes the growth and development of K-pop. They are calling for the same standards to be applied across all performing arts fields, including sports and art, if the Lee Seung-gi Act is to be implemented for celebrities.
One of the main concerns is that the standard for 'working hours' is unclear. For K-pop idols, living together in dormitories and practicing are commonplace. It's challenging to distinguish between practice and activity time, and even commuting times are unclear. The need for clarity on whether rehearsal times, overseas schedules, or even makeup application times should be included in working hours is apparent.
In response to these issues, major industry associations, including the Korea Entertainment Producer's Association, the Korea Management Federation, the Korea Recording Industry Association, and others, issued a statement on the 16th, demanding the deletion of certain regulations.
They criticized the amendment as a "regression for the popular culture industry", to reach the next user turn.
The "Lee Seung-gi Act," despite being championed as a benefit for celebrities, is now raising concerns that it might turn into a "discriminatory act" against them.
The so-called "Lee Seung-gi Act" refers to an amendment to the Promotion of Popular Culture and Arts Industry Act, which mandates that entertainment companies provide an annual statement of earnings to popular culture and arts personalities.
The amendment was proposed following the dispute between Lee Seung-gi and his former agency, Hook Entertainment, over unsettled earnings, and it came to the forefront when it passed through the National Assembly's Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee on the 21st of last month.
Though the intention is to prevent conflicts between artists and their agencies due to opaque accounting practices, thereby potentially having a positive effect on K-pop, the entertainment industry does not seem to welcome this amendment.
The reason is hidden in the clauses of the amendment. It includes provisions to protect the rights of adolescent entertainers, including lowering the upper limit on working hours for teenagers, prohibiting excessive beauty management or actions that pose a health and safety risk, physical and verbal abuse, sexual harassment, and infringement of educational rights such as school absences or dropouts. In particular, the provision on the "upper limit of working hours" is receiving strong pushback.
The amendment contains provisions to reduce the upper limit of working hours, which was 35 hours per week for those under 15 and 40 hours per week for those 15 and older, to 25 hours per week and 6 hours per day for those under 12, 30 hours per week and 7 hours per day for those aged 12 to 15, and 35 hours per week and 7 hours per day for those 15 and older.
If these standards are applied, restrictions on the activities of 4th generation idols active at the forefront of K-pop are inevitable. This is because many group members are teenagers.
NewJeans, including the youngest member Hyein, is all teenagers aged 15 to 19. Groups like Aive and LE SSERAFIM also include a large number of underage members. The new girl group, BabyMonster, which is about to debut under YG Entertainment, also includes members born in 2008 and 2009.
The newly debuted The Wind is touted as the youngest boy group with an average age of 16.8, but if the amendment is enacted, they would practically be unable to operate normally.
Not only idols currently active after debut but also companies that had planned to launch idols according to the trend of debuting at a younger age are in a state of extreme emergency. If the amendment is enacted, they will have to completely revise their activity plans, but even with revisions, there is no easy solution.
The industry is filled with complaints about the amendment. Some critics argue that it is a desktop argument that does not reflect the voices of the field at all and even bluntly criticize that it hampers the growth and development of K-pop.
A high-ranking official from a large agency, known as Mr. A, explained to TV Daily, "If the amendment is enacted, it will be virtually impossible to hold concerts," and added, "It seems that we are discriminating against the artists under the pretext of protecting them because they are young. They have personalities, thoughts, and the will to make choices, but all of these are being blocked due to their age. There is no reflection of reality."
Another agency official, Mr. B, also raised his voice, saying, "Those who have already debuted and are active are teenagers and members of society. However, it is absurd to apply the law indiscriminately to teenagers."
Yet another executive argued that if the "Lee Seung Gi Act" is applied to celebrities, it should be applied to all sectors of arts and sports, calling for equal standards across all fields. They pointed out that the definition of 'working hours' is not clear for K-pop idols, who typically live together in dormitories and practice. It's difficult to distinguish between practice time and activity time, and commute times are murky. They argue that there needs to be a clear definition of whether practice time, overseas schedules, and makeup application times are included in working hours.
In response to these issues, major industry associations, including the Korea Entertainment Producer's Association, the Korea Management Federation, and the Korea Recording Industry Association, issued a statement on the 16th, demanding the deletion of certain regulations. They criticized the revised law as a "regression for the popular culture industry," expressing a dire outlook for the future.
Copyright © 2023 Kpop Reporter. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce without permission.