HYBE was inspected by the Anti-Corruption Commission on suspicion of bribing 100 reporters because of BTS’ enlistment problem

BTS’s management company – HYBE Labels made an argument that they did not violate the Anti-Bribery Act.

On April 15th, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Committee announced: “We have decided to officially inspect HYBE, related to the large-scale free tour the company conducted to the media. The specific schedule is yet to be confirmed. If we detect illegal points, we will ask investigative units such as prosecutors and police to step in.”

HYBE invited about 100 domestic media representatives to attend BTS‘ concert in Las Vegas from April 8th to 9th. The company paid all expenses for the tour, including airplane tickets, lodging, food allowances, and COVID-19 tests. According to many observers, this trip is believed to be a form of HYBE bribing reporters, in order to create good public opinion on the issue of BTS’s military service.


HYBE’s position is that there is no problem with this tour, as it is an exception to the “Improper Solicitation and Graft Act,” also known as the Kim Young Ran Act. HYBE‘s representative said, “We asked the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Committee after we consulted the legal advisors. They replied that it is not a violation of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act to share uniform provisions for official events. In fact, we did not ‘select’ particular invitees for the tour and have supported all applicants with the same provisions.”

The HYBE’s Las Vegas Fam Tour for the Korean press was held for 5 days with 3 nights, from April 7th to 12th. Looking at the tour schedule proposed by HYBE, on the first day of April 7th, reporters departed from Incheon International Airport to L.A. Airport by Asiana Airlines at 8:40 pm. After immigration, they moved to Las Vegas and stayed at the MGM Grand Hotel.


On the 8th, the schedule is to see a BTS photo exhibition, pop-up stores, an audition with 7 labels under HYBE, and a Bellagio fountain show that plays BTS songs. For lunch, each person is served a set of BTS’s favorite Korean dishes at Cafe in the City. On the 9th, after a meeting with the staff of the “The City” and “BTS Permission to Dance on Stage” projects, they watched BTS‘ second performance at Allegiant Stadium at 7:30 pm. On the 10th, after resting for a morning, they departed at 11am from L.A. Airport and arrived at Incheon International Airport at 5am on the 12th.

HYBE Las Vegas Audition

Critics have criticized this unusually large-scale tour for the media to create a positive public opinion when considering BTS’s special military service. At a press conference held at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas on the 9th, the day of BTS‘ performance, HYBE publicly stated their position on the matter of the group’s military service, saying, “We hope that the National Assembly will have a conclusion on amending the Military Service Act as soon as possible.”


Lee Jin Hyung, head of HYBE Communications (CCO) expressed, “It is true that in recent years, the military service system is changing and it is difficult to predict the enlistment time, so artists (BTS members) are struggling. We are paying close attention to handling the amended proposal because it is difficult to plan for members.”

“Hopefully they will come to a conclusion that benefits both society and our artists. If approved in this National Assembly session, it will continue to be discussed in the process of restructuring the National Assembly in the second half of this year. As uncertainty makes it difficult, we hope it will be resolved as soon as possible.”

“Currently, the artist is entrusting work related to military service to the company. The members also shared that they would respond to the call of the country. However, from 2020, the military service system has begun to change little by little. So they are discussing with the company and monitoring the situation.”

Lee Jin Hyung

After HYBE’s stance was reported by the media, the online community had a negative reaction regarding the topic of BTS’s military service. In addition, under the Kim Young Ran Act, if a journalist receives money, valuables or sponsorship in excess of 1 million won/time or 3 million won/year from the same person, that journalist will be fined for 3 years imprisonment or a fine of 30 million won. The money giver also received the same sentence.

HYBE’s position is that this Fam Tour falls under the exception of the Kim Young Ran Act. Article 8, Section 3, Clause 6 of the Act provides that “money and goods, such as means of transport, accommodation, food, etc., uniformly provided by the organizer to the participants in the event in the normal range, at official events related to the duties of officials (including reporters and teachers) is the exception”. It is estimated that the cost that HYBE provides for reporters on the Fam Tour is at least 2 million won/person. The question is whether this amount and valuable items can be considered within the “normal range” of the Kim Young Ran Act’s exception.

This also applies to provisions for food, wedding and funeral fees and gifts, which are other exceptions. Technically, hospitality is also prohibited, but in part is allowed when “the purpose is to carry out the business smoothly or to be socially, ceremonial or ancillary”. Food is 30,000 won, wedding and funeral fees are 100,000 won, and gifts are 50,000 won (agriculture and seafood processing products are 100,000 won).

Currently, the Government has not made an official decision on BTS’s military service

There were reactions from the legal world that it was difficult to understand HYBE’s explanation. A senior lawyer said: “Considering the purposes of the Anti-Corruption Act, if HYBE were to pay the reporters for round-trip airfares and hotel rents, it would most likely be construed as outside ‘normal range’.” Another lawyer said: “For example, in the case of ‘traffic expenses’ as provided for in Article 8, Section 3, Clause 6 of the Act, it seems likely that Incheon – L.A. international airfare will be charged by the media agents which send reporters there. If HYBE only paid for the cost of using the shuttle bus between the hotel and the performance venue, it wouldn’t be illegal.”

Four Journal
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