4th News reported that HYBE was inspected by the Anti-Corruption Commission, suspected of bribing 100 reporters for BTS’ exemption from military service.
BTS’s management company – HYBE Labels made an argument that they did not violate the Anti-Bribery Act.
On April 15, 4th News reported that the Korean National Commission for Anti-Corruption and Human Rights decided to conduct an inspection of HYBE Labels. The reason comes from a free tour of Las Vegas, the US, which sponsors about 100 reporters. If illegal points are found, the Anti-Corruption Commission will ask the prosecutor and the police to step in.
Accordingly, HYBE Labels invited about 100 reporters from all over Korean media to watch BTS’ concert in Las Vegas, USA from April 8-9. The company covers the entire cost of the trip, including airfare, accommodation and COVID-19 testing. 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 side said that they did not violate the Kim Young Ran Anti-Bribery Act. A representative of the company said that after checking with the law, they determined that this trip did not violate the law. The company does not invite reporters by name, but only sends press releases. Those who want to participate must submit an application and HYBE has closed the final list.
In fact, this trip lasts 5 days and 4 nights, departing at 20:40 on April 7 at Incheon Airport. After arriving in Las Vegas, reporters were arranged to rest at the MGM Grand Hotel. On April 8, they went to a BTS photo exhibition, a pop-up store, an audition for US trainees, and a Bellagio water fountain program that played BTS songs. During lunch, reporters were served a set of Korean dishes that BTS love at Cafe in the City.
On April 9, reporters attended a meeting with HYBE staff about The City project and BTS Permission to Dance on Stage. At 19:30 pm, 100 reporters came to watch BTS’ 2nd concert night at Allegiant Stadium. On April 10, they took a morning break, took a flight at 11 a.m. and returned to Korea at 5 a.m. on April 12.
According to the Kim Young Ran Anti-Bribery Act, if a reporter accepts money or sponsorship items that cost more than 1 million won/time or 3 million won/year, that reporter will be sentenced to 3 years in prison or 30 million won. The bribe giver must also receive the same sentence. Currently, it is estimated that the cost of HYBE for each reporter is at least 2 million won/person.
However, the HYBE side insisted that their trip was in the exception of the Act. The company believes that these expenses are all “permission expenses”, within the normal range of the job, so they do not violate the Anti-Bribery Act. However, many senior lawyers disagree with the company’s explanation. According to them, round-trip airfares and hotel rentals for reporters could be interpreted as being outside the normal range. If this fee is paid by the reporter’s agency, it is not illegal. HYBE’s “normal range” in this case is just the cost of the reporter’s shuttle between the hotel and the venue.
HYBE would be in violation of the Act if it paid for a reporter’s airfare. They are only allowed to pay for the transportation of reporters from the hotel to the concert venue
Many critics argue that the unusually large-scale media trip HYBE is supposed to create a positive public opinion when considering BTS’s military service. Currently, the members have reached the age of enlistment but the Government has not yet made an official decision whether they will enlist as normal or be exempted or perform special military service.
During a press conference at the MGM Grand Las Vegas hotel, a representative of HYBE publicly stated their views on the issue of their artists’ military service: “We hope that Congress will reach a revised conclusion. The Shortest Time Military Service Act. Consecutive changes make the artist’s enlistment time unpredictable. So it’s difficult to plan the members. Currently the members are assigned to the military. I hope that the National Assembly will come to a conclusion that benefits both society and artists.”
Although the BTS members affirmed that they were always ready to perform the service, after this statement from the company, the public had a bad reaction on the issue of the group’s military service.