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BTS Caught in the Crossfire of Chart Manipulation Allegations

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Recent reports raise questions about BTS’s past.

On April 29, Sports Kyunghyang reported that HYBE’s Big Hit Music denied past allegations of chart manipulation, calling them “inappropriate marketing claims.” However, court documents and past investigations explicitly referred to these practices as “chart manipulation,” “illegal marketing,” and “sajaegi marketing.” The report details how Seoul Central District Court Judge Sung Bo Ki sentenced a suspect to one year in prison in August 2017 on charges of joint extortion related to these allegations.

YouTube “HYBE LABELS”

The story of the case is as follows. In January 2017, the suspect sent an email to company officials saying, “I have information about illegal marketing. If you don’t give me money, I will distribute the information to the press,” and received a total of 57 million won ($48,000) over eight instances.

The suspect, involved in BTS’s online marketing, committed the crime when his company faced financial difficulties.

When the case broke, suspicions were raised that BTS did illegal marketing, such as chart manipulation.

Big Hit Music said, “The inappropriate marketing activities mentioned in the blackmailer’s threats are the blackmailer’s unilateral claim, and the unfair marketing refers to the usual online viral marketing.” They further explained, “The suspect’s claim has nothing to do with the advertising and promotion agency contract we had with the company at the time. The damage also inevitably occurred while trying to solve it personally to protect the artist’s image.”

They continued, “If we suffer a significant image blow because the unilateral claim of the corporation that we conducted inappropriate marketing activities is reported as a fact, there will be no entertainment company that can respond confidently to such blackmail and threat cases in the future.”

However, it turns out that the court specified content contrary to the above position in the judgment.

HYBE Building / News1

The court stated, “The suspect and others disguised themselves as third parties who obtained data about illegal marketing by hacking emails and hiding their identities against the company they had been marketing for.” They added, “They sent an email with the intent of ‘We have all the data on the illegal marketing of affiliated celebrities,’ which scared the victims.”

During the investigation and trial process, the suspect claimed it was his sole crime, but the court did not accept this.

The court stated, “An accomplice (an employee of the suspect) provided his younger brother’s bank account and withdrew the extorted money, knowing that the suspect was extorting money through threats to publicize illegal marketing data on the victim’s affiliated celebrities and was complicit in the crime.”

Attorney No Jong Eon of the law firm Jonjae explained to Sports Kyunghyang, “The illegal marketing, in this case, means (music chart) manipulation marketing, and the court recognized that such a fact existed and specified it in the judgment.”

HYBE is in a state of legal response regarding suspicions related to BTS’s chart manipulation. Big Hit Music said, “Recently, we have detected numerous organized movements to defame and slander BTS,” and added, “We already stated our official position in 2017, and it is as follows.”

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