SM’s shady dealings: Author confirms they forced JYJ out of new K-pop book
The author of a recently released book on K-pop has revealed that SM Entertainment pressured his publisher to remove references to JYJ and the TVXQ! lawsuit.
This came to light when one of our favourite bloggers, Oegukeen (who has previously written a guest post for us on inter-cultural relationships) wrote an in-depth review of Mark James Russell’s book K-pop Now!: The Korean Music Revolution’.
Like we (and other reviewers) previously noted, she pointed out that there were odd inconsistencies in the book in the way TVXQ! and JYJ were covered. However unlike those other reviews, this time the author took the time to directly respond to the criticism in the comments of Oegukeen’s blog.
Russell confirmed, as we had suspected, that this effective deletion of JYJ from K-pop history was the result of interference from SM Entertainment. He said:
“Yes, I agree with you about the JYJ/TVXQ issue. But, alas, that was not my call. SM Entertainment was quite adamant about how TVXQ was covered. Which is too bad, as I really liked Xia’s “Incredible” (among other songs).”
Of course this did not go down well with fans of JYJ who questioned the author’s integrity and, rightfully, used it as further proof of SM’s meddling in the group’s affairs despite being told to stop interfering by the Fair Trade Commission.
I see that SM is still trying to erase JYJ existence http://t.co/m2FqeoXUJP
— Junchan ♥ (@spaceshipcandy_) November 2, 2014
Where’s the integrity? Reading the writer’s comment was infuriating. http://t.co/DEp7iYbfCl
— Ning 寧 증문녕 (@ning225) November 3, 2014
While JYJ fans’ frustrations are understandable, it is unfair to throw the author under the bus for something which is not really in his control. Aside from anything, his 2008 book POP GOES KOREA is one of the absolute best books on the history of Korean entertainment written in English and is a must-read for anyone with a serious interest in the topic.
In order to pull together such a shiny and attractive book with all those high-quality photographs, Mr Russell and his publisher Tuttle would have to work with Korean entertainment companies in order to get the rights for various promotional photos and artworks. The publisher wanted to create an anthology of K-pop groups and that is difficult to do without any kind of input from their agencies.
Mark James Russell actually took to his blog earlier in the year to address the issue but it didn’t seem to get much notice:
“Now, I was not interested in embarrassing anyone or making anyone look bad, and I know that the whole TVXQ history is a very sensitive one, so I tried to write a very positive article on the band, which mentioned them starting as a five-member unit, then transitioning to a duo. I did not mention anything controversial about what happened and just looked at the positive — i.e., that everyone is doing well now, and fans have a lot of great music to choose from.
However, SM Entertainment did not like that approach. They were worried that any mention of the group’s history would upset the fans. I tried being flexible, and repeatedly pointed out that not addressing the group’s history at all would likely just draw attention to what happened and upset people more. But, in the end, SME had its approach and was firm. So that is how we ended up with the book the way it is.”
The excuse that it might ‘upset the fans’ is hilariously ridiculous and yet it is exactly the kind of thing that SM would say.
Amusingly, because the company most likely only checked (or were given to check) the parts of the book that regarded their artists specifically the break-up of the group is still alluded to in the profile of KARA further on.
Although it’s not great that the publisher caved to SM’s requests it is understandable to a degree and it’s good to see that the author is not trying to cover up what happened despite the backlash he might receive from the more… passionate parts of the JYJ fandom.
But for SM… this is, yet again, more bad press. 2014 really is a year they will wish to forget.