The Ministry Of Culture, Sports, And Tourism recently explained new changes to regulations that will take place in Korea, most of which if executed faithfully do seem to move things in a positive direction.
On December 11 at 2 p.m., the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism held a briefing session on the new regulations in the arts and culture field. The briefing session notified officials in the industry about a system to prevent 52-hour work weeks, new regulations for mandatory enlistment exemptions, and more regulations that were implemented this year or are to be implemented in 2020. In addition to the existing standard exclusive contract for pop culture artists such as singers and performers, the ministry also established a standard contract for trainees to protect their rights and interests.
I’m definitely betting 52-hour work weeks is on the low end of things as well if you think about it for a bit.
Currently, male celebrities over the age of 25 who have yet to carry out their mandatory military service duties must be granted “external travel permits” from the head of the Military Manpower Administration to participate in overseas activities. Starting from next year, celebrities can engage in “short-term overseas travel” without any required documents up until the age of 27, and after that, they must submit a request and receive a special recommendation from the head of the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism to carry out promotional activities that “help spread Korean culture.” In addition, the Ministry will push for a proposal to extend the passport validity periods for individuals who are required to fulfill their mandatory military service duties and have received the special recommendation from the head of the Ministry from the current one year to up to three years.
There’s a bunch of changes going on, but the most notable one to me was specifically how trainee contracts would work.
The standard trainee contract regulation that was enacted in September ensures that a trainee’s contract period does not exceed three years, making it easier for them to debut or move to another agency. In addition, the agency will be responsible for all expenses related to the trainee’s training and instruction. In exchange, trainees must faithfully take part in the training provided by the agency and must not engage in behavior that can be legally or socially problematic.
One of the most bizarre things that companies have been allowed to do in the past is effectively pass costs of debuting them onto the idol and take comical shares of their profits or withhold paying them until the balance is neutral. Effectively that has allowed companies who have no business being in business take a chance anyway because the structure serves as mitigation of risk for the company since it can pass costs onto labor and to some extent turn them into indentured servants. This has led to scenarios where the idol essentially has no rights or power or money in an environment that’s already highly imbalanced and has led to a lot of unsavory things happening both in the public sphere and behind closed doors.
That will always exist to an extent, but this definitely is a step towards making things better. Granted, that’s assuming it’s actually enforced with enough vigor that it actually makes companies adhere to it.