A major underground idol agency has admitted making an idol sign a series of contracts containing penalties, and knowing that a final contract was not legal.
Nono Kosaki (16) has been talking about her experiences with FreeK-Laboratory, including being forced to work while injured, suffering physical and psychological pressure, and eventually seeking legal advice after being made to sign a contract saying she accepted a massive penalty charge for her behaviour.
The story runs to about 12 pages in the online edition at https://bunshun.jp/articles/-/55502 – this article provides a summary of some of the points, particularly those referring to the contract, many of which are undisputed by the President of the idol agency.
FreeK-Laboratory is an agency behind several underground idol groups around the country, including chuLa, KATA☆CHU, and NECOPLA (currently known as NECLOPA pixx.).
In April 2021 Nono was successful in auditioning to the idol agency, and a month later made her debut with new idol group, #PANnana. At the time she signed a contract with some key points:
・ The contract is automatically renewed every year, with a declaration required 120 days before the contract expires in order to cancel the contract.
・ The office strictly manages SNS writing and private life, and if there is a loss of contact, late arrival, or false remarks, finances will be suspended or reduced, and compensation for damages sought.
・ Dating with men is prohibited. When a past private image is leaked, the persons involved will be subject to punishment and compensation for damages.
According to the contract, the damage for even sending a direct message to a fan on social media could be as high as ¥2 Million (US$15,000).
The reporters say these conditions are unlike any in employment contracts by the agencies of major idols they have seen, and an anonymous source at one of them said the most that would happen to any of their talent involved with a fan would be a “holiday” or graduation if the story came out – no fines would be involved.
Nono continued with #PANnana, but found the schedule punishing, and when she broke her leg in June she found she was still expected to go to meet-and-greet events with a stick – at the time it seems she was a very popular member at events, so earning a lot of money (two-thirds of which went to the company). She was also still suffering from her father having died of leukaemia in March and became mentally ill, disappearing from July until October, and when found was in a poor mental state, being admitted to hospital for a month. She was told by the company president she would have to compensate the company if she left, so agreed to a transfer to the idol group NECOPLA in January.
Matters there came to a head when she was allowed limited opportunity to commemorate the first anniversary of her father’s death in March, a traumatic time, and she ran away and hid from the company – it seems she is not the only idol at that agency to have chosen this path. A week later NECOPLA announced she had been fired and she felt relieved, but it was not over yet.
A month later she went with a friend to a swimsuit modelling event only to find the organiser had tipped off the President of Freek-Laboratory who was a friend, and he was there with associates who she claims (but he denies) intimidated her into signing a new contract until April 2023 saying she owed the company ¥1.1 Million (US$8,000) as compensation for damages, and had her make a 20-second apology video.
Desperate, she took her problems to a lawyer who pointed out problems with all the contracts that made aspects of them probably unenforceable.
The reporters contacted the President of Freek-Laboratory, Kaoru Oguchi, who answered many of the points raised. He questioned Nono’s commitment at times and explained he had put in the statements about punitive damages after having suffered losses from other idols in the past.
But then, in an amazing admission, he admitted he knew that the final contract she had signed promising to pay compensation was bogus as she was just a child, and there was no guardian signature. It seems he was only concerned with making her believe it was a legitimate contract, to guarantee her loyalty to the company.
This whole case appears to show how an idol agency boss, used what are virtually “slave contracts” to pour pressure on children wanting their dreams of being idols fulfilled, caring little for the physical or mental stress they were placed under.
Read the full story (in Japanese), starting at https://bunshun.jp/articles/-/55502