K-pop boyband EXO member quits and sues
Yet another piece of bad news has hit top K-pop talent agency SM Entertainment.
Yesterday morning, Chinese media site Sina reported that member Luhan wants to leave popular K-pop supergroup EXO.
The 24-year-old idol has filed a lawsuit against SM Entertainment, and is seeking to nullify his contract with the agency.
Luhan, who debuted in 2011 with 12-member boyband EXO, is the second member to leave the group following Chinese-Canadian Kris' abrupt departure in May.
EXO comprises two sub-groups: EXO-M, that sings in Mandarin, and EXO-K, that sings in Korean.
Luhan and Kris were both from EXO-M, and are now represented by law firm Hankyul.
Within minutes of Luhan's announcement, SM Entertainment's stocks plummeted to a new low, dropping by 9.41 per cent.
International fans expressed dismay at the news, even starting the hashtag #alwayssupportluhan, which was the top trending topic on Twitter worldwide yesterday.
Since the news broke, he has posted messages on his Weibo and Instagram accounts, saying: "I am home" and "I just wanna all of you to know that I love you all".
According to Sina, there are four main reasons why the popular star wants out, including over-exhaustion and alleged unfair treatment by the company.
Luhan had reportedly worked countless late nights and flew from country to country for back-to-back schedules with no rest in between, causing him chest pain and headache.
He also had his leave request rejected several times.
He claimed there was discrimination against the Chinese members in the group, as EXO-K received more endorsements in Korea, and more screentime while performing.
Luhan had previously said: "It is a working environment where it feels like we are robots in a factory."
EXO, which debuted in 2011 with 12 members, has enjoyed a smooth climb, bagging more than 50 awards in the past three years, including the coveted Best Newcomer and Song Of The Year.
The singers gained millions of fans worldwide with their catchy tracks, sleek dance moves and pretty-boy looks. When they performed as an 11-member group at the Singapore Indoor Stadium in August for their first solo concert EXO Planet #1, they sold out 8,000 seats.
However, rumours were rife that Luhan would follow in Kris' footsteps after he was absent from the group's gigs in Thailand last month.
He was also noticeably missing from the agency's world tour, SMTown Live, in Tokyo last weekend.
It was reported by Korean news outlets that he was absent due to health reasons.
This has been a controversy-ridden year for both EXO and SM Entertainment.
Luhan's departure comes shortly after Jessica Jung's shocking departure from Girls' Generation two weeks ago.
In May, Kris, leader of EXO-M, left the boyband abruptly after filing a similar lawsuit against SM Entertainment.
In his lawsuit, Kris, 24, claimed that he was denied equal treatment as an artist, and that he was being treated like a machine by the company.
Shortly after that, it came to light that EXO-K member Baekhyun was dating Girls' Generation member Taeyeon, who is also from the same company.
Despite the controversies, it was reported that EXO's activities would continue as scheduled.
"Goodbye, brother. Let's perform on the same stage again when we have the chance next time. As your brother, I support your every decision. Bless you."
- EXO-M member Lay, 23, on his Weibo account
"I can't believe it. I am upset and disappointed at the management as this is not the first time something like this has happened. There must be something wrong with the contract. I really don't know what will happen next."
- Local fan Li Meixian, 23, relief teacher
"It has been a tough year for EXO fans. I am devastated and I feel lost. I need some time to recover from this. However, we EXO fans respect Luhan's decision as he is really overworked and exhausted. The members are always flying around and the airport is like their second home. No matter what, I will continue to support the remaining 10 members."
- Local fan Nicole Lu, 21, undergraduate
"We love you, too, and we respect your decision. Please take care of yourself."
- Netizen Noreunoor in response to Luhan's Instagram post
'Someone is pulling the strings'
SM Entertainment said it was shocked, claiming that the lawsuit was filed while it was negotiating Luhan's future schedules and activities.
This comes after he expressed his wish to focus more on his individual activities in China more than group activities, and because of his health.
Comparing Luhan's lawsuit to Kris', SM Entertainment said the lawsuit was filed for no actual reason after the star got popular through activities with the group.
It said: "We see this as prioritising one's self and ignoring the understanding of the contract with the agency and everyone involved in the contracts and the activities with the group.
"We believe there is someone behind the scenes who is pulling the strings."
The agency said it plans to respond with its overseas partners, including those in China, and with legal experts.