Boom of One-Person Agencies in Entertainment: The Warning from Kang Daniel’s Case

Recently, there has been a resurgence of one-person agencies in the entertainment industry. Many celebrities, including BLACKPINK’s Jisoo, Jennie, Lisa, ASTRO’s Rocky, Pentagon’s Kino, and actors Lee Je-hoon, Son Seok-gu, and Lee Jae-wook, have established their own agencies to secure autonomy in their activities and favorable conditions in terms of profit distribution.

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However, the risks of one-person agencies have recently come to light. Kang Daniel, who solidified his position as a solo artist and founded Connect Entertainment while also showcasing his abilities as a CEO by recruiting fellow artists, is now involved in a legal dispute with a major shareholder of his agency.

kang daniel

On the 20th of last month, Kang Daniel’s legal representative stated, “We have filed a criminal complaint with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency against major shareholder A for charges including forgery of private documents, embezzlement, breach of trust, infringement of the Information and Communications Network Act, and computer fraud.”

According to the legal team, A had signed a distribution contract worth 10 billion KRW using Kang Daniel’s name without his knowledge by forging the corporate seal in December 2022. Kang Daniel only discovered this last year. Additionally, it was found that A had transferred over 2 billion KRW from the agency’s account overseas and processed it as business income.

Kang Daniel’s side explained, “To minimize the damage to the artists, staff, and third-party contract partners who have trusted and followed us like family, we made numerous efforts for over a year before proceeding with the criminal complaint. However, we concluded that there was no other solution but to hold the individual legally accountable, leading to the filing of the complaint with a heavy heart.”

kang daniel

As a result, many staff members at Connect Entertainment have resigned, and some have been laid off. The company has also liquidated its office building and corporate vehicles. Artists like Yuju, Chancellor, and the dance team We Dem Boyz, who were under exclusive contracts with Connect Entertainment, have left after their contracts expired. Thus, Connect Entertainment, which had been expanding since 2019 by recruiting fellow artists, is now on the verge of closing down.

Kang Daniel’s Connect Entertainment case starkly highlights the risks associated with independent operations and sheds light on the pros and cons of one-person agencies.

One-person agencies have significant advantages, allowing celebrities to manage their careers autonomously and engage in creative and independent activities. They can choose the projects they want and work freely without the restrictions that come with agency contracts. Economically, they can also take a larger share of the profits, making it an attractive option.

If the one-person agency system is well-structured, maximizing the brand value and achieving great success through independent activities, it can be an excellent choice. However, poor management and risk control can be fatal.

Choi Ji-woo, Lee Seung-gi, and Kim Tae-hee also once operated one-person agencies but returned to affiliated agencies due to poor management and lack of risk control. They continue their activities by leveraging the stability and support of traditional agencies while maximizing the benefits of one-person agencies.

Kang Daniel with his puppy-like charm

Kang Daniel’s “100 Billion KRW Lawsuit” illustrates the significant impact when the disadvantages of one-person agencies become a reality.

As the stages for K-pop and K-drama expand globally, the entertainment industry is rapidly changing and growing. In this dynamic environment, celebrities will naturally continue to seek their own paths. However, Kang Daniel’s case serves as a warning that the path may not always be smooth.

By carefully analyzing the advantages and disadvantages of one-person agencies and maintaining thorough preparation and planning, these agencies can truly provide freedom, activity, and success for celebrities.