On October 17 (KST), an anonymous Korean female shared an alarming revelation via the online community website Nate Pann—accusing a “rising star Actor K” of having caused her irreversible trauma since the two started dating in early 2020. While at the time there was no concrete evidence to identify “Actor K,” actor Kim Seon Ho was eventually singled out based on the clues given in the revelation.
For about two days following the revelation, neither the agency, SALT Entertainment, nor the actor himself responded to the growing online speculation. Korean media outlets collectively reported on how “the agency and the actor are both uncontactable.” By the time Kim Seon Ho’s fans received some form of acknowledgment about the issue via a brief announcement that the agency is “looking into the online post and verifying the story with Kim Seon Ho,” multiple brands endorsed by the actor had removed him from their websites and/or social media platforms.
On October 21 (KST), three days after the revelation—and when the online shopping platform 11Street, skincare brand La Roche Posay, outdoor clothing brand Nau, and Domino’s Pizza have all cut ties with the actor already, Kim Seon Ho finally admitted to being “Actor K” in question and apologized to the ex-girlfriend for the “inconsiderate actions.”
Leading up to the actor’s apology, Kim Seon Ho fans voiced concern at how these brands are “acting hastily when nothing has been confirmed.” Yet, in an interview with Sports Chosun, a representative from one of the brands involved with Kim Seon Ho commented that the decision didn’t come based solely on the content of the revelation.
When the scandal broke, we tried to get in touch with him or his agency the whole day. We needed answers but it had been impossible to get a hold of him. We don’t understand why he decided to ghost us, too. He should have explained the situation and let us handle it with him. Only had he been up front, we wouldn’t have had to cut ties with him.
— Brand Representative via Sports Chosun
In fact, according to another representative from a different brand, it had been the utter lack of communication that actually became the driving factor in these endorsements coming to an abrupt end. The representative pointed out, “[Kim Seon Ho’s] reputation isn’t as important as his reliability.” And by going silent for three days, he had become unreliable to work with.
Fame comes with additional responsibilities. Having more endorsements means having more terms and conditions to live by… And after seeing how little he cared for his responsibilities as a model binded by contract with us, we realized it woud be impossible to continue working with him.
Kim Seon Ho’s reputation isn’t as important as his reliability. We need to be able to trust him as our model. But because he handled the crisis with zero professionalism and maturity, we have no choice but to reconsider our contract. We foresee that it will be difficult for him to rebuild the trust with other brands as well.
— Brand Representative via Sports Chosun
Kim Seon Ho is certainly not the first celebrity to have lost endorsements over a scandal. Korean brands are quick to respond to scandals as, from a business standpoint, any scandal plays a direct impact on their sales and they want to minimize any possible side effects.
When signing a modeling contract, brands often include a ‘morals clause,’ binding both parties involved to prohibit certain behaviors. This, then, becomes the basis of their termination and penalty request when something does happen. While the clause itself is vague and open to interpretation—meaning its implementation also varies by the contract period and the situation at hand, an average termination penalty ranges from 200-300% of the initially signed modeling royalty.
Based on a marketing insider’s comment that “Kim Seon Ho had been earning ₩400 million KRW (about $340,000 USD) to ₩500 million KRW (about $425,000 USD) per endorsement in 2021,” the actor could be owing up to ₩5.00 billion KRW (about $4.25 million USD) in penalties if the 10+ brands end up scrapping their deals with him following this scandal.
Reportedly, none of the brands have notified him of termination yet. For one, a Nau brand representative has confirmed, “Nothing has been decided yet. Any content featuring the actor has been removed since the scandal but the brand has not yet agreed on termination.”