Star Wars II: The producers fight backIt’s hard work, making it big in Korea. For star wanna-bes, it’s day after day of hurry-up-and-wait, their schedules full from morning to night, but with a lot of downtime between all their events.
For their managers, however, it’s more like hurry-up-and-hurry. An able manager will have his days completely booked with appointments to meet with TV producers, those make-or-break entry points into world of celebrity-dom. A manager who’s been promoting new-face singers for years said, “They are the almighty fellas, you know, who always have their own way.”
It’s a potent and unstable combination, that mix of managers, their stars and the producers.
That mix exploded once again last week, in one of the noisiest blasts in recent memory. It all began when Lee Jung-jin, 25, a rising star-hopeful, changed his mind about a decision to star in a period drama for MBC-TV titled “Damo.” Health problems were the ostensible reason ― Mr. Lee’s manager at Star J Entertainment said that he was suffering from a bad case of allergic asthma.
MBC, however, wasn’t buying it. Jo Jung-hyun, in charge of the production team on “Damo,” hinted that producers of “Damo” had suffered through some disagreements with Mr. Lee’s managers, saying that the actor’s representatives had tried to control the show’s production and storyline.
After featuring Mr. Lee in a couple of minor roles on other dramas last year, the network was ready to cast him as a lead. It was his big break, a chance at stardom.
But when Mr. Lee pulled out, the network was left in the lurch. The network claimed the breach of contract was unacceptible. It was one of the worst such cases in MBC’s history. Shooting schedules, budgets, everything was thrown out of whack. Network producers thought their minor stars should just do what they are told.
So last Thursday, the network took action, and announced that it was planning to sue Mr. Lee for as much as 300 million won ($250,000). Mr. Lee would also be banned indefinitely from MBC.
“We’re ready to file the suit any minute,” Mr. Jo said. “We have all the documents, the charter with Mr. Lee’s signature, certification of contents and so on.”
In addition, the association of producers at MBC might embargo all of Star J Entertainment’s actors.
For the moment, however, people posting on MBC’s Internet bulletin board seem to favor Lee Jung-jin. “MBC is being just too haughty,” said one poster, Cha Sung-yeon. “You don’t have to tread on a rising star.”
In the meantime, the producers announced that the series would now star Lee Seo-jin, a slightly more established actor, but still far from being a star.
“Anyway, we were considering using Lee Seo-jin from the beginning,” Mr. Jo said.
by Chun Su-jin
“What’s on Korean TV” appears Wednesdays in the JoongAng Daily.