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Age of Feeling (and others) still struggling to pay actor salaries

Good gravy, the behind-the-scenes troubles just won’t quit for Age of Feeling, which wrapped several weeks ago but is still attracting criticism for failing to pay all its actors and staff. This is a problem that the show had encountered mid-run, and at the time the production had hastened to insist that payments would be made as soon as possible. The problem is, it’s certainly not a lack of desire to pay up, but an inability to, as the show ran over budget while it was still airing. (The drama had boasted a sizable production budget of 15 billion won, roughly 15 million dollars.)

At the center of this fresh dust-up is the disclosure that on April 17, production company Ray & Mo sent contracts to some of its cast that essentially revised their salary to 50%. A Ray & Mo representative stated that this was previously negotiated with those cast members, and that the producers had not just unilaterally cut pay by half: “The documents were sent according to an agreement by both sides.”

A rep from the KBS side said, “As we understand it, the production company and the actors have drawn up agreements on an individual basis, in the spirit of shared sacrifice. Strictly speaking, those contracts are between the actors and the production company, so KBS’s involvement in those matters is prohibited.”

According to the agreement sent to one actor’s management company from Ray & Mo, the contract states that the parties (1) agree to receive 50% of the original salary, (2) understand this to be full payment for the show, (3) will not demand any further recompense from the company, and (4) acknowledge that violation of these terms will subject the party to lawsuit.

According to Ray & Mo, they came to this agreement because they were struggling to accrue the necessary funds to pay all their people, and some actors had asked if it would be possible to at least be paid half of their fees, as half was better than nothing.

However, there were other actors whose representatives stated that they had received no word of reduced paydays, and that they were not even aware that negotiations had been underway until the news articles hit the web. One management rep said, “If we don’t negotiate to receive reduced salary, I wonder if this means we will never see that salary. We will have to talk with the production company.”

I find this a sad situation all around, and one that I can’t even blame entirely on one party, even though you would think that a production company would be able to manage its budget better. Still, we know from past incidents that these prodcos are often running on razor-thin margins, and in the event that a drama isn’t a runaway hit (which is frankly more likely than it actually being one), the blow could be disastrous for all involved. And assuming that the funds are that strapped, perhaps half a payday is really better than potentially nothing. We know that situations like this have ended tragically before, such as in the case of Sandglass/Faith producer Kim Jong-hak. Being bad at money is one thing; nobody should feel the only solution is to die over it.

And Age of Feeling is far from the only drama to run into payday problems. (…which is NOT to say that if everyone’s doing a bad thing, that bad thing becomes normalized.) But to take a look at some recent examples:

Goddess of Fire Jung-yi, the flopped sageuk starring Moon Geun-young as Joseon’s first female potter, ran into problems and couldn’t pay a portion of its cast after it ended its run in October of 2013. It was reported that the leads were owed funds in the hundreds of millions of won at the end of the year, and at the time the production company stated that it planned to make payments after it had received funds from overseas sales. (Which goes to show that overseas sales do factor into a show’s success, even if it’s not in terms of popularity or buzz.) Thankfully, the drama was able to make its back payments in February of 2014 to some of its cast… while others are reportedly still waiting. Currently one source stated that they are in talks with MBC and are awaiting further developments.

Rascal Sons was an MBC weekend drama that didn’t do too well in its 2013 run, and the CEO of production company To Be (Two B? Too B?) Enterprise actually fled the country when faced with a debt of 700 million won in outstanding cast salaries. For instance, lead actor Lee Sung-jae lost out on 110 million won (roughly a hundred grand in US dollars). In this case, MBC stepped in to negotiate a compromise with the actors owed large sums to pay them at a 10% reduction, while actors with smaller salaries were paid their full fees. (Okay, props to MBC—they CAN do some things right.)

And then there’s the sad case of The World They Live In, which aired on KBS as far back as 2008 and still had not given Hyun Bin and Song Hye-gyo (as well as Eom Ki-joon, Yoon Yeo-jung, and Bae Jong-ok, among others) their pay. The full amount owed was reportedly 679,270,000 won, to both cast and crew. There were efforts as late as last year to recover those fees, but in the end, the people awaiting payment gave up on those salaries. Apparently there were no hard feelings, at least from some of the leads; Song Hye-gyo’s reps reported that she had a special relationship with the producers and initiated the discussion to give up her pay, wishing them good luck in producing good future work.

Via Money Today, Oh My News, Hankooki, W Star News

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Sighs. To work and not get paid is really horrid.

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The SK Entertainment industry works hard at maintaining the negative opinion that it is run like a third rate production from centuries past. The motto is work your actors ragged and then stiff them at the end, by not paying them, while making sure the actors can't complain publicly, lest they suffer netizen backlash for being ungrateful.

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I am asking this question because I am trying to understand the reasoning behind it: why would the netizens have a backlash about the actors being ungrateful, if and when the actors have not been paid? Wouldn't the netizens (want to) be on the side of the actors (especially if they have not been paid)?

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Because actors still get paid a lot more than the crew, who work much longer hours and get paid a lot less. Actors film a scene and wait around for the next one while the crew is at work all the time. If the actors don't get paid, what more the crew?

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Which is to say, a little adroit PR and class-baiting diverts the blame from the people who deserve it: the hustlers and con men who create dramas without the capital to finish them. It is a resoundingly stupid and dishonest way to run a business.

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@ maldita and Quiet Thought: thank you for your answers and for your thoughts.

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that is just sad considering how hard those actors work. that's not fair. they should be more professional and careful with the money.

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In 1933, American performers formed the Screen Actors Guild to unionize in Hollywood. The union provides powerful protection for actors against all kinds of abuse.

I cannot make a blanket statement that all actors work very hard or deserve to get paid, whether in the US or Korea.

But I will say that, in the absence of a union and its lobbying power, which begets a set of protective laws and regulations (exemplified in the California State), no production company anywhere will behave like a good citizen. It is just the nature of the beast.

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Smh that's what u get for paying stupid writers alot of money Failure

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Good thing Kim Jae Wook quit when he did. I wonder if he even got anything for the eight episodes he was in.

I can't imagine giving up on my salary like The World They Live In cast.

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did you know that KJw did not quit ,, he as written out in that drama..

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Panshel is actually right. Kim Jae-wook did quit Age of Feeling, and as a result, he was probably written out. You can read it here:
http://www.dramabeans.com/2014/02/kim-jae-wook-quits-age-of-feeling-on-heels-of-writer-change/

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Ouch. :/

Speaking of Age of Feeling... Boy, am I glad Kim Jaewook left!

SOMEONE PLEASE! CAST KIM JAEWOOK AS THE MALE LEAD OF A GOOD DRAMA, PLEASE!

Kim Jaewook and Im Joohwan are so underrated :'( it's ridiculous.

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Kim Jae Wook... Omg <3 <3 ... 100% agree ;-)

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"In the spirit of shared sacrifice" sounds like a loaded term, at least in this case. Also, threatening a lawsuit if the rewritten terms which offer 1/2 of what was originally negotiated sounds ass backwards. If only those gold bars were real.

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Unbelievable. The cast and crew endure live shootings in harsh situations and in the end they get...nothing?! How can a pc run out of it's production money midway?? Are they that incompetent, I bet they take THEIR own pay check without a blush! Scams.

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I don't know how true it is, but one of the Korean entertainment blogs a while back stated that 65% of the budget for "Heirs" was for idols salaries and location shooting in California. That did not leave much for the rest of the series. But most actors and pop idols make most of their money from product ads and endorsements, not from being in the movies.

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The budget of Heirs had to be insane. I could probably live pretty decently for a couple of decades on the cost of Kim Tan's and Young-do's coats alone lol. I was really hoping thy had some kind of promo deal.

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...and they were FUGLY coats, too.

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this is just sad. i mean the fact that they kept on coming back every day and acting out those scenes without knowing if they were going to be paid is admirable. but it's sad that it has to come to this point or cases of the producer who committed suicide. i just hope they learn from this mistake . and i read about how song hye kyo agreed to give up her pay. i thought that was pretty moving. i hope things turn out well. fighting all around!

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This is so unfortunate. To not get paid on top of how grueling and non-stop for cast AND crew the drama schedule is... =( And probably especially for crew and supporting/minor cast who are more likely to be in financial difficulties. Oi.

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Yeeks.

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This is why the smart lead actors get their money up front. I feel sorry for the others.

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Yikes Just out of curiosity what role do the actor's management agencies play in all of this? Do they just find the parts in the shows and that's it? When a show has problems do the actor's agencies get paid?

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I imagine that one of the things the agencies do before accepting roles on behalf of their artistes is to conduct a background check on the production company - who's a good paymaster, in financial difficulties, or whose boss has poor financial discipline and is more likely to gamble away the budget.

To better assess the risk of taking on a new project and avoid their artistes walking into pitfalls like Age of Feeling now is.

Because actors are ultimately revenue centers for their agencies - if the actors don't get paid the agencies go without either. And whatever conceptions people have of actors' salaries, it's more likely that before the money reaches the actors' pockets the agencies will have taken their cut first - to pay the actors' stylists, managers, publicists and all the necessary expenses required for an upkeep of a star's life.

In the end actors may still be better paid than the crew, but not by much if u think of where the money is really going.

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I'm sorry, but I can't share your generosity of spirit toward the production companies involved. It's all very well to say "there were no hard feelings involved" but it's not the actors I most feel for, it's the crew - all that hard work for literally nothing. Neither fame nor fortune for those wage slaves, while I bet the same executives blathering on about "a spirit of shared sacrifice" have definitely not "sacrificed" nearly as much.

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Whatever is not wasted goes down certain pockets. Corruption is not something an industry/society/government/any group can hide. Just pretend it's not there and hope everyone else does too.

It is their job to run a company and handle budgets. A system which is run by spending money they are not sure they can get back is pure gambling, not smart business.

Work people to the bone, make sure your own salaries are fine and cry me a river about how unfortunate the circumstances are.

This industry is one big mess, it's surprising that it manages to maintain even this occasionally not dismal level of quality sometimes. But that is because of the talented and hardworking people involved, not the ones doing their best to make a mess out of things.

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*sigh* I'm not even surprised anymore.

It's a wonder that "The Legend" managed to avoid these issues. But then again, they had THE most popular actor playing the lead. You can't get much bigger than Yon-sama.

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The Legend was one of the reasons Kim Jong-hak committed suicide. His production co. still owes the crew money from that show along with Faith.

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So that producer messed up TWICE, well how do you call that?

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The poor man was desperate enough to take his own life, no need to beat a dead horse.

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I am sorry he had to take his life.

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Also, I could be wrong, however I think I read in a few places that Yon-sama invested some of his own money to make that drama. Please, correct me if I am wrong. At the same time, I think I had also read that Yon-sama was paid a lot of money for that drama, 250,000 USD per episode (or something along those lines). Again, please correct me if I am wrong.

This is all very sad and disappointing, indeed, especially as one commenter said, for the crew and lesser known/popular actors who gain no fame or fortune in such cases. Those actors (and actresses) cannot depend on ads (as much as the popular ones) to make an income, yet they must be as passionate about acting as the popular/more known actors.

As for the crew's means to deal with this... Really, what would they be? (Shaking my head as well). This is an instance when I wish the fans could have some power in the matter (such as making demands, and being able to take some actions that would have some repercussions on the productions companies, instead of for example getting upset because oppa has a girlfriend, and said girlfriend ends up being harassed. I could be spouting nonsense, however I really wish the fans could have an impact or influence about issues like these).

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Yes you're right, Yon-sama was paid US $250,000 per episode for 'The Legend', it still stands as the highest salary paid to any actors/actress in Korean Drama Industry.
Also about the crews and the supporting actors and actresses, i heard from some sources that the crews and most supporting actors/actresses salaries are very less than the leads so their salaries are paid most of the time if they threaten to sue them, it's only the lead actors/actresses whose salaries are the highest among the staffs that they struggle to pay or end up not paying at all.

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Hello megumi,
Thank you for confirming some of what I had read. As sad as it is that most supporting actors and actresses are paid much less than the leads' salaries, I am really hoping that you are right about them being paid most of the time.

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I feel sorry for everyone, not just the actors and crew awaiting payment. The production company people must feel terrible about not being able to pay everyone. Working on a drama is hard work, you work odd and long hours, and to have nothing come of that is just sad. I hope everything can be resolved somehow.

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"The production company people must feel terrible about not being able to pay everyone"

An unsupported assumption, sadly. If they really felt terrible, they would have taken steps to pay the cast and crew first, perhaps by foregoing their own payments, or maybe selling personal assets to help meet the shortfall. When I see coverage of Production execs selling their houses and cars to help pay the people whose labour they stole, THEN I will believe that they "feel terrible" about their systematic exploitation of people in no position to protest.

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I guess, unlike you, I prefer to give people the benefit of the doubt and believe the best in them when circumstances are contradictory.

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Exactly what circumstances are "contradictory" here? I see none.

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I think what she means by contradictory, is that the producers say they wanted to pay people, but did not pay people. When what they day contradicts what they do, she defaults to assuming their statements are true. In contrast to defaulting to assuming their statements are not true.

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Gah.

In contrast to defaulting to an assumption that their statements are not true.

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There seems to be problems whenever Kim Hyun Joong takes up a drama. First was City Conquest which was cancelled even though he had filmed a bit. Now is Age of Feeling about the change of screenwriter and salaries...

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I really admire Song Hye Gyo to give up her pay since the production team was in trouble.
Personally I feel sorry for everybody, not only the actors but the producers and crew. I don't think they have bad intentions as we see all the gigantic mess it has created. If they could sell their houses/cars to repay everybody, they would. However, the sum is simply too big. Also, the actors who chose these dramas also have responsabilities since they decided to participate in it. I think it is simply just part of the world be live in, some become rich, some become poor, some win, some lose. We can only hope that no more tragedies follows because of that.

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it's random, one of Kdramas in 2013 got minimum rating but the actors didnt hv payment issue and other countries are in line to air the drama. They probably felt sad bcos of the rating, but hey they didnt suffer the $$.

and for Song Hye Gyo. It's called "THANK YOU PROJECT" in my place.

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Geez. Imagine you have to works everyday without getting paid. It's sucks. I feel more pity about the crews since their salaries must be much lower

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Goodness. I wonder what will Anthony do if he's the one involved. I guess PPL (or what do we call that thing when you flood the scenes with endorsed products) really is important if it means being able to pay the actors and staff (just as long as it is not ridiculously placed like being in a final scene where the lead commits suicide, gee). This is just so sad. We know how actors and crew work in a drama (with nary a wink to rest). Yes, it is just so unfair. I guess, Song Hye Go can afford not to get paid, but what about the others?

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excused my ignorance but who's anthony?

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Hello jhulz,

Anthony is Anthony Kim from the King of Dramas, played well by Kim Myung-min. It is a really good drama, though some of us were disappointed with the ending. That withstanding, you might want to check it out. It is a good way to learn about what goes into making and producing a drama when it comes to finances, cajoling actors, the crew's responsibilities, etc...

Anthony is a character who ALWAYS think of a solution when a problem arises. He would do anything to make his dramas happen. Some of his solutions would not give you a clean (or clear) conscience, however he is considered the best in the business, so... the end justifies the means (maybe)? And it's not only KMM who is good in it, the whole cast is actually really good. I would recommend it, and it was recapped here, so you can read about it here as well, to have a better understanding of the drama.

The phrase "What Would Anthony Do?" was coined during the drama (and since then), because Anthony (the character) was just that memorable (if you watch the drama and read the recaps, you will understand why :-) ). I once said on another thread that as big and popular as Heirs was (and has been), no one (that I know of) has ever said or written "What Would Kim Tan Do?" but most readers and commenters here know what the phrase "What Would Anthony Do?" means and implies. Even the recappers (JB, I know for sure), have used that phrase here on occasion. You also need to know that the phrase is usually used when talking about the entertainment business, since that was Anthony Kim's industry and area of expertise.

The King/Lord of Dramas had low ratings (unfortunately) when it aired, however it was a drama that was well made and well written, for the biggest portion of it. It was also well acted by all actors and actresses involved. Goes to show that low or high ratings are simply not an indication of how good or well written a drama is. Here is some more additional info:

http://asianwiki.com/The_Lord_of_Dramas

http://wiki.d-addicts.com/The_King_of_Dramas

This was a long response, however, I hope it helped :-)

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Hello jhulz,

I wrote you a pretty detailed answer, however my comment is awaiting moderation because I gave you two web links/pages for additional info.
So please check back regularly to see when my comment will be posted. I think you will find my response helpful. Thank you :-)... And please let me know if and when you have read it.

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So? Where did the 15 million go? I watched this from beginning to end.. but I can't figure out where the money is invested in.. and certainly not such a large sum of cash.

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Actors probably, and shooting overseas are expensive

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I'm guessing a good deal of scenes shot overseas ended up being canned due to the changes in head writer and storyline.

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maybe it went building that set...

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That's terrible, and it's probably hardest on the crew members to go without salary - totally unfair to them, and they don't get CF deals to sweeten the pot at the end.

But budgets really should be planned better - Age of Feeling was huge and expensive, and had been in the works for almost a year before it aired. And even that didn't save it from flopping, even with middling ratings (they scored in the 7-12 range, wonder what happens to production companies of dramas with 2 and 3 percent ratings?)

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I feel bad for the actors and production crew. They're the ones who suffer from shooting days and nights.

Also, I share your sentiment. What abt Pretty Man, Medical Top Team, and Full Sun? Dramas that only received 2-3 ratings.

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Pretty Man will probably be fine. It has Jang Geunsuk and that drama will definitely earn a lot in Japan and China from broadcasting and even DVD sales.

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Yes, I'm curious too! A lot of drama with decent rating but I never hear news like this from them

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dont worry abt pretty man, 8 countries have bought the drama license. There were PPL's to support the drama as well. IMO, the production company took care actors ( particularly Jang Geun Suk high rate) and staff payment well.

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playull kiss did fine too.. it sold to 13 countries and the YT edition was a hit...

its just that AOF has a bad timing and with the large production budget maybe it earned less than expected

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They should plan better. Perhaps pay the actors partly in royalties. Split revenue. Tge better the rating the more they get paidm perhaps cancel shows that tank.

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People ... the entertainment industry in ALL countries around the world is notorious since the beginning of time for using accounting tricks and outright theft to make "profit" and money disappear. Look at all the American lawsuits by musicians from the 1950s and 1960s seeking unpaid royalties and by actors in the past several decades seeking profit percentages. American music, film and television production companies are notorious for being less than honest, and no reason why Korean production companies haven't learned and copied well. As someone said above, I'll believe the sincerity of producers when they sell their personal assets to pay their debts.

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There are always seems to have problems whenever Kim Hyun Joong takes up a drama. First was 'City Conquest' which was cancelled even though he had already filmed a bit. Now is 'Age of Feeling' which had the screenwriter changed and salaries issue.

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Ah, pardon for almost same comment to i posted earlier. I thought i didnt submit my previous comment

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Boys Over Flowers and Playful Kiss are not known to have had such problems (or maybe not to that extent?) At least that I know of. So no, hopefully, it won't be every time KHJ is involved in a drama.

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I remember Playful Kiss was reduced by 4 episodes due to low ratings.

Still, AoF/IG production was very troubled long before JHK signed up. He was definitely not the cause.

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Thanks Snickers for the added info.

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This is why I'm not surprised that some actors choose to keep doing movies and never want to return to drama-land.

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Hi maldita,
Is it because actors can be paid faster since the ticket sales provide a faster (and more certain) revenue?

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talking about how hard staff work to their bone
i cant help but thinking of LEE JUN KI interview

he said he always smile & dancing to cheer up the staff
the hardest is to remember all the names
esp if there's a lot of team
he's really good, not showing own tiredness for the sake of others...
oh my bias~~ love you
sorry ..kinda of topic now

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So basically, a contract is not binding?

A contract says you're owed "x" amount on a certain date, but if the party who owes the money runs into trouble, changes his/her mind, he/she can then draw up a new one which invalidates the original one. ....... Interesting.

One thing's for sure, this is an unfortunate situation for everyone involved and certainly unfair for all the employees (crew, actors, etc.).

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