Dark side of entertainmentRumors about the suicide of the late actress Jang Ja-yeon continue to swirl. The incident may have piqued our curiosity but we shouldn’t allow ourselves to be dragged along. Nevertheless, we should try to get to the root of the incident. The police must thoroughly investigate the rumors that Jang was threatened and mistreated, and the case must be handled in accordance with the law.
We believe that Jang’s case has gotten out of control because the entertainment industry has functioned for too long without any rules. Entertainers, management agencies, producers and broadcasters have tried to maximize their own interests, and abuse - whether verbal, physical or sexual - has simply become a part of the process.
Agencies have been accused of making contracts that exploit entertainers as little more than slave labor. Some entertainers, especially those new to the industry, get stuck in contracts 10 years long or longer. Agencies maintain that this is a necessary practice because for every 10 to 20 people with whom they have contracts, only one or two become stars, and they have to make profits to cover their investment. But there has to be a limit. The Fair Trade Commission’s decision to enforce standard contracts for entertainers by June is a good, if not belated, decision.
The entertainment industry must develop a structure that is both more advanced and more professional. In the current structure, in which many agencies make contracts that have them training entertainers, programming and even controlling the entertainers’ private lives, the conflicts and rumors about the agency-entertainer relationship will never end.
Agencies also need to become more transparent in their business dealings if they want to become part of an advanced industry.
It would be worthwhile to consider the introduction of a two-tiered management system similar to those that exist in New York and California. In that system, one agency handles the entertainers’ legal affairs such as contracts and another is in charge of that person’s activities and performances. A law proposing a U.S.-style certified agency system was proposed in the 17th National Assembly, but the effort went up in smoke.
“To be an entertainer” is always at the top of children’s dreams in surveys asking what they want to be when they grow up. Last month an agency had an open contest for new talent. The odds of getting in were 7,000:1.
The entertainment industry needs to adopt fair rules and an advanced system that will protect our citizens, develop our popular culture and keep hallyu moving around the world.