The issue of unilateral contracts received considerable public attention following the death of Jang Ja-yeon in March. A suicide letter allegedly written by the actress, who played a supporting role in the hit TV drama "Boys Over Flowers," accuses her former manager of forcing her to attend drinking parties and to provide sexual favors to influential producers and executives of entertainment companies.
Police have recently arrested the manager on suspicion of physical assault and threatening Jang.
The accusations against him are not an isolated incident, as a recent poll conducted on 2,000 entertainers showed 19 percent of respondents saying they have personally been propositioned for sex or knew an associate who received such an offer.
The survey, conducted by the Korea entertainers union, showed that 62 percent of respondents claimed they were hurt professionally by turning down such a request, with some being threatened and physically abused.
The Fair Trade Commission said it has established a new standard contract to better protect entertainers and limit the power of talent agencies who have been accused of forcing aspiring singers, actors and actresses to sign de facto slave contracts.
The changes, established after receiving requests from umbrella groups representing both actors and singers, ban contracts exceeding seven years, which have been cited for limiting the ability of entertainers to switch management agencies. Most existing contracts exceed 10 years, with heavy penalties being imposed for entertainers that decide to quit before the expiration date.
Long contracts have also been the source of numerous disputes between entertainers and talent agencies.
Under the revised rules, an entertainer can automatically end a contract after seven years even if there is no clause on duration.
He or she can extend the agreement if there is mutual consent.
Other revisions will remove clauses that compel entertainers to notify agencies of their whereabouts throughout the day, which infringes on personal privacy.
"In the future, an entertainer does not need to follow rules that limit their private lives and can take legal action to end an unfair contract," an FTC official said.
He added that the new rules make it compulsory for talent agencies to get written consent from entertainers if they want to trade an actor or an actress. Entertainers can, in addition, engage in various economic activities as long as such measures do not affect their main careers.
The FTC, meanwhile, said that the new standard contracts and related rules will be sent to talent agencies and managers, with the regulator to take measures to ferret out non-compliance and violations.