|Kim Jun-su, a member of boy band JYJ, performs during his comeback concert at Jamsil Indoor Stadium, Sunday. / Courtesy of C-jeS Entertainment|
Kim Jun-su at odds with SM takes toll on his career
By Kang Aa-young
K-pop singer-theater actor Kim Jun-su, better known among music fans as Junsu, became emotional at his comeback concert on Sunday.
"I bade a farewell to you two years ago for my military service. At that time, I never thought I would take the stage for performance and see you guys again," he said at the Jamsil Indoor Stadium in southern Seoul. "I am so thankful for this opportunity and my gratitude cannot be overstated."
Kim, now part of three-member boy band JYJ, lamented his "forced" nine-year disappearance from TV, after he left his former group TVXQ over alleged abusive treatment, along with fellow JYJ bandmates Park Yoo-chun and Kim Jae-joong.
The trio's departure dealt a blow to the boy band but SM managed to keep TVXQ together with two remaining members.
|Kim Jun-su performs during his comeback concert, Sunday. Courtesy of C-JeS Entertainment|
Kim, 31, said the past nine years after he left the K-pop band, which was hugely popular, particularly in Japan, has been rough. His fans couldn't see him on TV, which Kim said was revenge from the entertainment mogul SM.
He said his suffering has continued.
At the recent concert to celebrate his comeback after completing his military service in November, Kim hinted SM had flexed its muscles at major TV broadcasters not to feature the "rebels" including himself, a request those working with television networks were unable to reject because otherwise they would find it tougher to book SM's entertainers.
"People don't know why I disappeared from the TV screen. Not even my friends and acquaintances knew exactly what had happened to me, either. They just thought I was not on TV because I didn't like it, which is not true. I wished I could make appearances on TV, particularly when I released a new album. I was desperate."
Pop culture critic Ha Jae-keun said Kim's battle against entertainment mogul SM is akin to a "David and Goliath" fight. "Back then, rumors were rampant and some said Kim and his two other bandmates were victimized by the tyranny of major television networks and SM Entertainment," he said.
Ha said major broadcasts would feel pressure not to hire Kim or his two bandmates because they are seen as rebels against the entertainment behemoth. That's the way of the world, he said.
Ha said Kim is one of the greatest vocalists of his time and he was able to endure tough times on his own merit.
Kim won the legal fight against his Goliath and got the green light to do what he wanted. But that was not the end of their confrontation. SM allegedly kept bullying him in the wake of the legal fight, pressuring major TV stations not to feature rebels who turned their backs on the entertainment company.
Kim likened himself to a "blacklisted" artist.
Some 10,000 people in entertainment, literary circles and other areas of the arts, who were believed to be against the 2013-17 Park Geun-hye government, had been blacklisted and disadvantaged by the Park government from various opportunities.
"I saw on TV one day when I was serving my mandatory military service that some actors said they were unable to appear on TV for 10 years because they were blacklisted. They were able to make their comeback on TV after the change in government," he said. "I thought I was no different from them. In a way I was a blacklisted artist. I cried that night."
Kim said he was so thankful for the fans who gathered in Jamsil Indoor Stadium in southern Seoul for his comeback concert.
Tickets for the K-pop star's show were sold out and the stadium was crowded.
Performing songs from his first to fourth albums, he displayed a wide variety of dance performances for three and a half hours, without a break.
"I cannot thank you enough," Kim said, adding he was amazed by some fans in their teens, since his last television appearance was nine years ago when those fans would have been very young.
"To be honest, I think it's funny to call myself a celebrity because I was not on TV for almost a decade," Kim said.
Though he has released several albums, topped global charts and became a top star, he was not featured on major television networks for a long time. He featured on EBS' music program "Space Sympathy" one time and local news network YTN's reports.
Debuted originally as five-member boy band TVXQ in 2003, the group immediately won public recognition.
However, the group plunged into a legal battle and Kim left SM with his two bandmates, forming JYJ together in 2010.
The group name JYJ is taken from the first letter of each member's name.
Their departure cost them their music careers.
The relationship between entertainers and their agencies is hierarchical. And Kim and his two former bandmates suffered the consequences after their departure from the boy band.
Their suffering had led to legislation to prevent the repeat of similar incidents. The so-called JYJ law, which calls for the prevention of boycotting singers or other entertainers on TV programs without valid reasons, was passed in November 2015.
Then lawmaker Choi Min-hee led the legislation which was cosigned by her fellow lawmakers.
Despite the legislative support, entertainers who were at odds with their former agencies, such as Kim, still find it tough to make appearances on TV.