TS Entertainment still hasn’t learned to treat their artists well. Following the 2014 B.A.P lawsuit for slave contracts, TS is now facing another legal battle with SECRET.
In early March 2018, news broke that Ji Eun and Hyoseong have filed lawsuits against TS Entertainment back in August and September of 2017.
Ji Eun filed a request with the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board to have her contract deemed invalid. In her claim, Ji Eun claims TS Entertainment did not follow the contract terms and conditions. The claim addresses issues with management and lack of payment transparency. The claim states the contract has been invalid since May 2017; she renewed her contract with TS Entertainment in March 2015.
Ji Eun states the issues stem from when she was in the drama Sweet Home, Sweet Honey. In her claim, Ji Eun states TS Entertainment delayed payments for rent, transportation, and lessons, and payments have not been properly divided. She also lists that TS Entertainment sold her exclusive contract rights to a third party without her acknowledgement or agreement to the move.
In September 2017, Hyoseong also filed to have her exclusive contract with TS Entertainment nullified. Park Jung Ho, Hyoseong’s legal advisor, told The International Business Times that TS Entertainment “violated [the] contract in many ways,” and ” there are payments she has not received. [TS Entertainment] also transferred the management rights conferred by its exclusive contract with the singer to another party without the consent of Jun Hyoseong herself.” Park also states the company has been “a source of instability in her promotions as a singer.”
With Ji Eun’s suit, the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board ruled in her favor February 8, 2018 claiming TS Entertainment delayed payments and sold her contract to a third party without her knowledge. Following the ruling, Ji Eun posted on Instagram that she has left SECRET. In the February 28, 2018 message, Ji Eun said (translated by Allkpop):
Hello, this is Song Ji Eun. Before I tell you the news, I first want to say that I’m sorry to let the fans who love SECRET know about this matter through news articles. I needed a lot of courage before writing something like this. I’ve always wanted to only tell you about good things, but my heart is heavy because I can’t do that. I don’t have a way to communicate at present, so I ask that you understand that I’m posting this on Instagram.
My thankful heart does not change towards TS Entertainment, which I’ve been with since my trainee days and my debut in 2009. Because the agency was there, we could rely on each other and exist as SECRET as well as meet the fans who supported our dreams until now. I once again say thank you. Because I feel that way, it’s true that I still worry about accurately discussing the situation.
Many people have already read this through news articles, but it’s true that in August of 2017, we filed an application of arbitration against TS with the Korean Commercial Arbitration Board. The Korean Commercial Arbitration Board came to the decision that my exclusive contract no longer exists. I’m telling those who are confused that the articles saying there’s a civil lawsuit going on are not true.
I’m very careful and apologetic as I know how long fans have been waiting for SECRET. However, I still want to give bright energy to a lot of people. I’ll be leaving the team SECRET and starting a new beginning under the name Song Ji Eun. These recent events have been a time for me to mature. With this as a foundation, I’ll conclude by saying that I’ll meet you all with an even brighter image as the way Song Ji Eun originally is. I’m sorry and thank you.
안녕하세요 송지은입니다. 말씀드리기에 앞서 우선 시크릿과 송지은을 사랑해주시고 기다려주신 팬분들께 기사를 통해 이런 일을 접하게 해드려 죄송하다는 말을 먼저 해야 할 것 같아요. 이 글을 쓰기까지 저에겐 많은 용기가 필요했습니다. 늘 좋은 이야기만 전달해드리고 싶었는데 그러지 못해 마음이 무겁습니다.. 현재 소통의 창구가 없어 부득이하게 인스타에 글을 남기게 된 점 많은 이해 부탁 드립니다. – 연습생 시절부터 2009년 데뷔를 해 활동하며 작은 저의 꿈을 큰 꿈으로 펼쳐주신 TS엔터테인먼트에 대한 감사의 마음은 변함이 없습니다. 회사가 있었기에 서로 믿고 의지하며 활동 할 수 있는 시크릿이 존재할 수 있었고 지금까지도 그 꿈을 응원해 주시는 너무나도 소중한 팬 여러분들을 만날 수 있었습니다. 다시 한번 감사의 말씀 드립니다. 그런 마음이 있기에 어떻게 하면 지금의 상황을 정확하게 전달해 드릴수 있을지 지금까지도 고민되는게 사실입니다. – 많은 분들이 기사로 확인하셨겠지만 2017년 8월 TS엔터테인먼트를 상대로 대한상사중재원에 전속계약부존재 중재신청서를 낸 것이 사실이고 얼마 전 전속 계약의 효력이 존재하지 않는다는 판결을 받게 되었습니다. 그리고 민사 소송 중이라는 기사 내용들은 사실이 아니라는 점을 기사를 보고 혼란스러워 하시는 분들께 명확히 알려드리는 바입니다. – 얼마나 오랫동안 팬여러분들이 시크릿을 기다려주셨는지 알기에 조심스럽고 죄송한 마음이 큽니다. 하지만 많은 분들께 밝은 에너지를 전달하고 싶은 마음만큼은 여전합니다. 저는 앞으로 시크릿이라는 팀을 떠나 송지은이라는 이름으로 새로운 시작을 하려 합니다. 여러분들의 격려와 응원이 저에겐 참 큰 힘이 될거라 생각합니다. 이번 일을 통해 저 역시 성장할 수 있는 시간이었습니다. 이를 바탕으로 더욱 밝은 모습으로, 원래의 송지은으로 다시 찾아뵙길 소망하며 글을 마치겠습니다. 죄송하고 감사합니다.
Despite her case not reaching a resolution yet, on March 5, 2018, Hyoseong announced that she, like Ji Eun, would not be returning to SECRET or TS Entertainment.
Hyoseong’s lawyer said, “The trust in TS Entertainment has already been destroyed. There’s no point in discussing contract renewal.”
TS Entertainment, Predictably, in Denial
TS Entertainment, much like they were during B.A.P’s lawsuit, continues to live in a different world. Despite Hyoseong and Ji Eun’s departure announcements and the arbitration court ruling in Ji Eun’s favor, TS Entertainment claims SECRET is not disbanding and the members, especially Ji Eun, are making “unilateral decisions.” TS released a press release saying they will be pursuing legal actions.
In their statement released March 2, 2018, TS Entertainment said (as translated by Soompi):
While they were actively carrying out group promotions, the Secret members had expressed their desire to pursue individual activities. In positive accordance with their thoughts, we supported their activities but while under exclusive contract, one of the members cut off contact. We asked her to honor her exclusive contract, and requested she conscientiously fulfill both her individual and Secret’s group activities. In the midst of this, we learned about one member’s unilateral announcement made on social media about her departure from the group and the dissolution of her contract.
In order to find out the truth, we checked if this had been discussed with the Secret members beforehand, but we have discovered the other members had been unaware of her departure and were very shocked to learn about what was written above.
In line with the mutually agreed-upon exclusive contracts, if the Secret members express their desire to promote as a group now, then we will do our best for group promotions like in the past. If they wish to release music or be active in other ways, we have the intention of preparing for and carrying out [their wishes] at any time.
However, if they continue to carry out unauthorized activities that have not been agreed upon with us, we would like to inform that we will actively respond with severe legal action. Furthermore, in regards to what one member claimed about the invalidity of her contract, we would like to explicitly state that this is not the final ruling given by the courts.
We would once again like to bow our heads in apology to the many people who have been keeping an eye on this agency and its artists that such trouble has arisen.
Despite TS’ claim the other SECRET members are unaware of Ji Eun’s decision, Hyoseong did “like” Ji Eun’s Instagram post. Since both members filed their suits around the same time, both are aware of the other’s actions.
In regard to SECRET as a whole, TS Entertainment claims the group has not and will not disband. A TS representative said February 28, 2018, “It’s true that we’re in a legal battle with Hyosung and Ji Eun, but SECRET is not in the process of disbandment. We want the members to promote together, but since the current situation is like this, Hana is working on her solo album. If the other members want album promotions, then we are willing to give support.”
Hana (formerly Zinger) is the only remaining SECRET member under contract with TS Entertainment. Sunhwa opted to not renew her contract with TS Entertainment September 26, 2016. She is now signed as an actress under the Huayi Brothers label.
The ruling on Hyoseong’s lawsuit is expected in the coming weeks. Stay tuned for updates.