[NEWS] K-ola: Corruption in Korean pop music

WITH its over-reliance on manufactured teen pop, and a leave-nothing-to-chance managerial style reminiscent of Phil Spector (minus the murder), there are obvious parallels between “K-Pop” and the American music industry of the 1950s and 60s. And perhaps now another box can be checked: the practice of bribing one’s way onto the charts. That’s payola, or 증회 in Korean.

Twenty-nine people, mainly radio and cable-TV staff, have been arrested on suspicion of accepting cash payments in return for airplay or fraudulent chart positions. New artists and their managers, keen to start their careers off with a hit, were the most frequent customers: Incheon Metropolitan Police believe that between April 2009 and May of this year, around a hundred wannabe singers paid a total of 150m won ($143,000) to several producers and the chairman of a cable-TV company. Such sums are dwarfed by the 400m won or so allegedly collected by the operator of a website that compiles a chart based on the number of radio plays each single receives. According to police, the unnamed 60-year-old took the money from singers and pop managers, promising six-month stays in his dubious top ten, for a price of 38m won each.

Others received money for songs that nobody ever heard: six employees of one radio station apparently fiddled with playlists in order to add songs to the charts which had never actually been aired. This pay-to-play(-or-not) scandal is especially unfortunate given the banner year that the Korean entertainment industry has been enjoying. Successful K-Pop concerts as far away as Paris have driven the local press into a frenzy, and prompted ordinary housewives to pour their money into shares of labels like SM Entertainment, the price chart of which now resembles that of an internet stock circa 1999.

Corruption though is the one problem that this country seems unable to stamp out. This year, on top of the usual civil service and chaebol naughtiness, no fewer than 46 players from the Korean football league have been arrested over match-fixing. For its extraordinary economic progress and rapid democratisation, South Korea is a smash hit of a nation—but in terms of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, there is a real danger of an imminent drop from the top 40.

Source: The Economist
Shared by: TheJYJFiles

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19 thoughts on “[NEWS] K-ola: Corruption in Korean pop music

  1. “Corruption though is the one problem that this country seems unable to stamp out. This year, on top of the usual civil service and chaebol naughtiness, no fewer than 46 players from the Korean football league have been arrested over match-fixing. For its extraordinary economic progress and rapid democratisation, South Korea is a smash hit of a nation—but in terms of Transparency International’s Corruption Perceptions Index, there is a real danger of an imminent drop from the top 40.”

    Take the first sentence…herein lies a MAJOR problem for So. Korea. If she wants to play with the big guys, she is going to have to do something about this. Not that other countries don’t have their issues, but at least when they are called out on them, they make an attempt to clean up their acts. The problem does remaind static.

    Second sentence, I guess we know how that’s working out…

    Third sentence, and most important…when your standing drops in the international community’s eyes, what are you going to do? One thing is for sure…you cannot maintain the status quo. Either get your act together or find yourself — odd man out. What good will that do you? Continued corruption is like a disease — pretty soon you will be guarantined. Ouch!

    This article piece is a very important one because, this is not a tabloid. Anyone who reads international business media knows, The Economist is a serious pub. Please do not take it lightly.

    • Yes, this is much bigger than the BBC piece earlier in the year. “The Economist” is the major English language business and international affairs weekly publication. (It’s the only one I read. The writing is excellent!) You can’t really brush off any of their pieces as fluff and filler. I also wonder if there is an investigative piece to follow this editorial.

      • This is what I get for commenting before reading the source — the investigative piece was on the football game fixing. This article was an editorial add-on to that one.

  2. There are few other articles that might be of interest:
    Young, Gifted and Blocked It’s an article on Korean entrepreneurs, but I think it’s applicable. And the title….
    Game Over The subject is video games but it says some interesting things about general technology-related censorship.

    The article on hallyu in January 2010 didn’t say anything new, but this quote seems to be timely given what is happening in Japan.
    “It is not clear however that this esteem has increased trade and tourism. Park Jung-sook, a former soap-opera actress and now a scholar of hallyu, thinks the government should relax its aggressive marketing, lest foreigners recoil from the smell of nationalism.”

    Hit the “Topic: South Korea” link at the bottom of any of these pages. It takes you to a full list of articles published over the past few years. “The Economist” is an excellent resource.

    • @Eliza
      “The article on hallyu in January 2010 didn’t say anything new, but this quote seems to be timely given what is happening in Japan.
      “It is not clear however that this esteem has increased trade and tourism. Park Jung-sook, a former soap-opera actress and now a scholar of hallyu, thinks the government should relax its aggressive marketing, lest foreigners recoil from the smell of nationalism.”

      Well, it looks like Park Jung-sook won’t be appearing in anything on KBS any time soon. lol

  3. ¡Oh my God! Corruption is everywhere. Shame over the heads of the ones who pay to put their unknown songs at the top of the charts and shame over the heads of the ones who accept those payments. Shame over the heads of all the corrupt ones in the korean entertainment industry. They are making their country look very bad before the eyes of the foreign public opinion. ¡Outrageous!

    • @shuheilove

      Cheers, to my sister Shuheilove. Yes, it is amazing that in the midst of all of their commendable economic strides and robust development SK is going to let a few bad apples in the entertainment industry who should have been prosecuted LONG before this for similar and allied wrongdoings ruin and taint forever their image as a reputable emerging nation. For a few payoffs to a VERY few compromised bigwigs in government and the media, these deeds seem like the wrongheaded acts of the century, destined to have terrible repercussions far into the future in terms of the long-term prestige of SK.
      Wasn’t there an old saying that wise and reputable Asian businessmen think seven generations into the future when contemplating a strategic move? With this thought as a model, how contemptible and despicable are these few recipients of short-term graft and payola in terms of the overall good of their country?

      • What makes you think this is a few bad apples? As far as I can tell, this is the norm in the K-music industry nowadays. As far as I can tell, at least in idol-dom, nearly everything is fake. We know all of the music show and other minor charts are entirely fictitious – there is such a wealth of evidence to prove it. We know much of the hype involves paying people to show up at events pretending to be fans. Personally I think most of the idol machines are completely corrupt. 😐

      • @Big Picture
        “What makes you think this is a few bad apples? As far as I can tell, this is the norm in the K-music industry nowadays.”

        Oh, call me a cock-eyed optimist. lol

        The state of the Korean music business circa 2011 has been compared over and over again to the U.S’s version and the way things were done here in the beginnings of our own rapidly expanding music business in the 50s and 60s. All manner of shocking rip-offs, rotten deals, royalty stiff-arms and the like were pretty much standard procedure for us too in the beginning. (I swear LSM seems to have stolen the Berry Gordy Playbook and memorized every line.) My friend Don Southerton who is an expert witness focusing on aiding Korean business told me that as far as he knew, the music business in Korea is in its “infancy.” So that told me that it would be a bit unfair to expect much in the way of highly evolved biz practices from the entertainment community. I try to give them a little leeway, babies that they are in all this, but having said that, SM Entertainment busts through my best intentions and reaches new lows with their ethics, duplicity and dirty tactics every damned day, it seems. So perhaps I was attempting to be somewhat diplomatic when I used the phrase “a few bad apples” but where SM is concerned, and as regards pussy-footing around them, all bets are OFF.

  4. “Successful K-Pop concerts as far away as Paris have driven the local press into a frenzy, and prompted ordinary housewives to pour their money into shares of labels like SM Entertainment, the price chart of which now resembles that of an internet stock circa 1999.”

    Am I the only one who read this and thought “Stock bubble scam”?

    • “Am I the only one who read this and thought “Stock bubble scam”?”

      Good point. But the one important ingredient in all ‘bubbles’, they eventually burst! “Pop goes the weasel.”

      • A while back SM released a revenue report that resulting in SM stock going down. Then they held a concert in Paris and (probably) had the media hype it up a lot more than the reality and the stock price goes through the roof. Someone probably made a windfall.
        I think I read somewhere that SM uses SM stock to bribe PDs.
        The whole thing smells really fishy…
        I get the distinct feeling that when the bubble pops the ordinary housewives are going to be the ones losing money not the fatcats who are orchestrating this. I seriously doubt that the Martha Stewarts of Korea are prosecuted.

      • Yes, I noticed that as well. I check Bloomberg from time to time on both SME and AVEX. The last time I looked AVEX was still having issues, which explains the hook-up with YG. Then I looked at SME’s. At first, I didn’t attribute the rise to any one thing special, but yes, the timing is right. And in the stockmarket world, timing is everything. The trick is to stay or go. Decisions! But in any event, since the Kpop market is in a bubble right now, I would venture that bubble will burst. The funny thing about bubbles, they don’t always burst at the most oppourtune times. Yes, the ‘housewives’ who bought, cause remember, they had some heavy duty shareholders dump their shares, will more than likely take the hit. It’s unfortunate, but that’s how it works. Captiol gains losses can only be born, by those with not a lot to lose.

        But again, depending on how large the bubble, the size of the pop of that burst will dictate what kind of recovery can be made. It may sound like a broken record, but remember Enron, and by association, Arthur Andersen. So, all those folks who ponied up and joined forces with SME in this UAM, had better watch their backs. Because nothing is written in stone.

      • @butterfliesarefree
        “So, all those folks who ponied up and joined forces with SME in this UAM, had better watch their backs. Because nothing is written in stone.”

        In the Music Business!!?? Oh, my, I should say not! lol This looks like an opportune place to re-post my Hunter S. Thompson quote from earlier today. Once again, it seems to apply, but then, that’s why it’s so famous.

        “The music business is a cruel and shallow money trench, a long plastic hallway where thieves and pimps run free, and good men die like dogs. There’s also a negative side.”

  5. SME was busted for payola back in the day, before TVXQ….nothing’s changed. LSM’s been convicted of crimes and then let off. Korea does not punish its white collar criminals. To admit something is wrong is, to many, worse than letting things continue to rot. The Korean government will continue to pump its media machine and cover stuff up, and will continue to shove absolute worthless garbage like, um, some of the ‘artists’ its currently promoting down everyone’s throat. If even a publication like The Economist is going on about how successful SMTown Paris was (and somehow missed the extreme amount of local mockery of the entire event and the ticket sales scams), and is basically promoting SM Entertainment as a legitimate company worthy of purchasing stock in, then K-media must be doing a pretty good job. To me this article does more harm than good because no one really cares about payola; they need to show how totally rotten the very core of the K-music industry is.

    Plus, they didn’t even bother to say what crappy groups paid for play! That’s what I wanna know! LOL

  6. This article brings hope for both fans and artistes even it may take a long,long time to be FREE of all these corruptions world wide. More importantly, younger generations must realized what is happening in the pop music world while they are so ‘into’ it and they can be the generations to make changes. Sad to know that not all come to read articles like that. Times change, I hope more people besides JYJ fans come here to widen their horizons. JYJ somehow did contributes the awareness of K-pop ‘dirty-act’ through their huge fanbase together with hard work from members on their actings,musicals and directings. Good job.

    • @RFairdrive

      Yes, it probably will take some time for the changes to occur. Usually what drives anything in business are the demands of the marketplace. The one thing that may make the changes come a bit sooner, will be the willingness of media to expose more of the underbelly of the the industry. That’s where alternative media sources come into play. Online media is going to grow exponentially in the future. So as long as there will be courageous reporters and online portals ready to provide factual information, the faster these changes can occur.

      What all of us can do is to continue praising those who are brave enough now, and let them be the vanguard and mentor those up and coming from the journalism schools. Journalism doesn’t take place in a vacuum, it out there where the stories are.

      • @butterfliesarefree, totally agreed. Just hope there’s more ‘weaker’ side artistes who is willing to stand firmed on their own rights. At the same time more media personels is willing to give rights to the truths and not buried under the carpet.

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