A contract battle resumes as EXO-CBX claim SME broke promises & aren’t paying them, while SME responds with tampering accusations

I thought the EXO-CBX contract saga with SM Entertainment had reached its conclusion almost a year ago — despite related news continuing to stumble in — yet it will now apparently resume in earnest. The most recent update is that Chen, Baekhyun, and Xiumin announced a press conference for INB100 to talk about unfair treatment from SME.

In what basically amounted to a teaser for the presser, the company rep claimed SME hasn’t been abiding by the previously negotiated terms and is demanding a 10% cut of revenue from the trio’s INB100 activities. The company says they filed a wrongful treatment complaint but SME hasn’t responded for two months.


Alright, on with the summary of the press conference, which the three members didn’t attend but three executives did: INB100 CEO Kim Dong Jun, ONE HUNDRED Chairman Cha Ga Won, and lawyer Lee Jae Hak.

INB100 claims that SME (COO Lee Sung Soo) proposed that INB100 distribute releases through Kakao via SME, and that the fee would be set at 5.5%. However, while those terms were in the draft of the contract, SME later claimed they couldn’t include it in writing because they aren’t the actual distributor (Kakao), so they got a verbal agreement. Now they explain SME wants 10% of the trio’s solo album activities, personal concerts, and advertisement revenue.

INB100 also say they still haven’t received settlement data despite it being agreed that it would be received last year and it being a legal right. They say the only reason the trio stopped pursuing it was they wanted to move forward after the settlement last year. INB100 explain that they intend to pay for EXO and unit content they use that was previously under SME, but that SME didn’t pay them their signing bonuses on their renewal, so they continue to work only for the sake of keeping EXO together and for the fans.

As far as the actual renewal at the time goes, INB100 says SME pressured Baekhyun in late-2022 to re-sign for five years during military service. They claim he requested changes to terms eight times but didn’t get them, and they convinced him by saying it’ll benefit the other EXO members. INB100 also push back against tampering claims, with Cha Ga Won explaining he wasn’t purchasing Big Planet Made at the time, and explains that MC Mong gave Baekhyun advice as a friend, saying the trio are like family, which is why they all came together in the end. It’s emphasized they did not sign any exclusive contracts until the previous situation was resolved.

INB100 say that despite raising their concerns months ago about this issue, they’ve yet to receive a response, so they are cancelling the agreement from June of 2023. They explain that the previous legal disputes were dropped based on SME’s verbal promise, and they had thought the agreement would help protect the rights of other artists in the company and heard that contact conditions improved for juniors since. However, now that the agreement has been violated, they will respond with a review of criminal complaints — making fraud insinuations — and a complaint to the FTC.


SME then responded to the press conference with a statement.

In it, they explain the root of this disagreement is tampering by MC Mong and Cha Ga Won, as INB100 recently became a subsidiary of ONE HUNDRED. SME says that when they ended the dispute in the statement a year ago, they only did so for EXO-CBX’s sake. The company says they’re “devastated” by what they claim is a confirmation of tampering at the press conference.

They say that the agreement was indeed to pay 10% of the trio’s revenue from INB100 to SME. They claim that rate was established as precedent during the rulings on the contracts of the Chinese EXO members that left, so they applied it to this case as well. SME explain that they even amended a valid contract for the sake of EXO-CBX and EXO.

SME claim the talk about distribution rates was to assist them favorably, not to be unfair, explaining that the specific language was removed because they’re not the distributor. They go on to say they showed other considerations to EXO-CBX’s activities, like covering losses for them while things were being worked out. SME says EXO-CBX went on to sign contracts for distribution and events independently, but after becoming a subsidiary they’re now claiming they don’t need to adhere to the contract agreement. They describe it as essentially the trio wanting to profit as members of EXO but not wanting the obligations. SME say that even after receiving notice of this decision, they weren’t going to pursue it out of consideration for EXO-CBX.

SME claims EXO-CBX are only using the lack of settlement details as a pretext for invalidating their contract, which they said they haven’t done due to having concerns it would be seen by a third party tampering with the trio. They say EXO-CBX changed attitude towards the settlement data only due to tampering. SME conclude by saying that they won’t tolerate EXO-CBX trying to invalidate the contract and agreement by appealing to the public, and will respond by holding them accountable through court.


So yeah, that settlement from a year ago? Out the window apparently, and the war over that is back on the menu.

On one hand, it’s hard to not be skeptical about tampering denials when EXO-CBX’s side immediately go to the well of “family” when explaining things, they were all connected a year ago, and they just so happened to immediately link up again after they got independence. On the other hand, SME’s use of personal language as if their building is crying over the supposed betrayal, the admission that they still haven’t sent them settlement documents (despite the excuse they gave), and their history of fuckery with artists makes it difficult to ever sympathize with them in these situations.

Either way, sure seems like that 2023 agreement was just done so the EXO comeback could continue smoothly, and somebody agreed to it without any intention of living up to their end of the bargain.


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