Korea Broadcasting Actors Union Rep Provides Deeper Insight Into Drama Payment Controversy

Reports have begun emerging recently that some actors have not been paid for past productions. Just in the past week, Rain, Lee Na Young, Gong Seung Yeon, Jung Yoo Mi, and Kim Min Jung have revealed that they have yet to receive payment for dramas they’ve worked on.

On January 17, Song Chang Gon, the head of external relations at the Korea Broadcasting Actors Union, sat down for an interview and provided more insight into the situation.

First, he explained how the payment system works as he said, “In order to understand why some actors have not been paid for their drama appearances, it’s important to understand how the payment process works. For films, payments are made after filming is completed but for dramas, payments are made after a drama is aired. For example, if an actor films a drama in December and it airs in January, he won’t be paid until late-February because payments are made at the end of the month following the broadcast. This system that allows companies to not pay actors until the end of a drama, even if they are done filming, is what has led to this problem.”

When asked to estimate the payments that have yet to be fulfilled, Song Chang Gon stated, “We can only base our estimates off the actors who are in our union. We can’t discuss how much each individual is still owed because that is personal information, but we can say that altogether, our actors have not received 3.2 billion won (approximately $2.98 million) just from the three main public channels (SBS, KBS, MBC). These are all payment issues from the past and there have been no recent cases.”

He also discussed what he believes are the biggest hurdles to resolving this situation. Song Chang Gon stated, “During the Lee Myung Bak administration, our union’s right to collective bargaining was affected by government regulations. However, that right was recognized by the High Court and we are currently awaiting a verdict from the Supreme Court, which is expected to come out in March or April of this year. Once that has been settled, we will be able to hold group negotiations with broadcasting companies, production companies, and the government on behalf of all our actors, which will make the process easier.”

The representative also noted that though the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism and the Fair Trade Commission have created a standard contract for actors, it is simply being seen as a suggestion and not being implemented properly. He said, “In the contract, it says, ‘If an issue arises regarding payment, the broadcasting company will take responsibility for the issue and negotiate with the union.’ That’s all we’re asking for.”

Finally, Song Chang Gon touched upon the responsibility of broadcasting companies to properly vet production companies. He said, “It’s important to look at a production company’s experience and financial statement. There are a lot of companies emerging these days that are created solely for the production of just one drama. Though these may be practical, they can cause problems later on if an issue arises as there is no longer a company that can be held responsible. The broadcasting companies need to make changes for this situation to be resolved.”

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