HYBE’s “Las Vegas Fam Tour” For Korean Press Raises Legality Questions, Dispatch Responds
BTS‘s PERMISSION TO DANCE ON STAGE – Las Vegas concert is set to begin on April 8, 2022. While ARMYs are excited for the performances and the city is all borahae-ed up for the group’s visit, HYBE’s “fam tour”—an all-expenses-paid trip deal set up for the invited media representatives—raised some concerns among Koreans.
According to the South Korean press Media Today‘s report, HYBE planned the fam tour for around a hundred members of the Korean press who would “provide media coverage for both the performances and HYBE’s project of connecting the city and the concert.” HYBE has, reportedly, provided the press members with airplane tickets, lodging, food allowances, and COVID-19 tests.
This prompted the question of whether or not the fam tour arrangement violates the South Korean “Improper Solicitation and Graft Act,” also known as the Kim Young Ran Act. This act, passed in 2015 and enforced by 2016, prohibits corruption and bribery—be it in the form of money, gifts, or entertainment.
The law makes it illegal for public officials (including journalists, private school teachers, and their spouses) to accept gifts of more than ₩50,000 KRW (about $40.70 USD), or ₩100,000 KRW (about $81.40 USD) at closed events such as weddings and funerals; it also limits dinner expenditures to ₩30,000 KRW (about $24.40 USD) per person.
In addition, the law also prohibits fifteen categories of ‘improper solicitations to public officials,’ and such solicitations are prohibited even if not accompanied by a ‘payment, offer, or promise to pay or provide, money or a thing of value.’
— The Improper Solicitation and Graft Act (via Wikipedia)
The Media Today report claimed that, on March 17, 2022, HYBE sent emails to various Korean journalists and correspondents who cover the entertainment industry and topics related to economics. The agency reportedly received applications for said sponsorship. For paper and online media, one reporter per outlet was invited, while for broadcasting companies, a total of three staff members covering filming, audio, and reporting were invited.
According to Media Today, the fam tour invitees on HYBE’s fam tour departed Korea on April 7, 2022 to reach Las Vegas on April 8, 2022. The invitees would then cover the second night of the concert and participate in press conferences. The fam tour is scheduled to return to Korea on April 12, 2022, having all expenses covered by HYBE.
Following the questions raised, HYBE explained the reason for their invitations to the media.
The Las Vegas concerts are that big for BTS, but it is significant for HYBE as it actualizes our plan to ‘connect the city and the concert.’ It had been difficult for us to bring this idea to life due to the various COVID-19 preventative measures. As the relevant restrictions have since been removed and the quarantine policies for foreign visitors have also been lifted, we were able to share our vision with the press.
Although arranging large fam tours largely stopped after the implementation of the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, HYBE claimed that it put together the Las Vegas fam tour after consulting legal advisories. HYBE reiterated, quoting the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Committee, that there is no violation of any act whatsoever.
We asked the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Committee after we consulted the legal advisories. 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 Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Committee gave a similar answer to the media and explained that “transport, accommodation, and food provided by organizers to participants at official events” are not counted as part of the “prohibited gifts of the Kim Young Ran Act.”
To those who continued to question why HYBE’s fam tour is considered an exception to the Improper Solicitation and Graft Act, the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Committee responded that “exceptions” exist.
All acts have exceptions. The enforcement of these acts can vary depending on the specific circumstances. We, at the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Committee, cannot go through each circumstance and declare it a violation or not. But we can present standards based on what has been [defined] through manuals and case studies and help with addressing the different circumstances.
— The Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Committee
In addition to the aforementioned officials addressing the legal issues, Dispatch also clarified that not all Korean press organizations accepted the sponsorship from HYBE. Dispatch claimed that “Since 2017, [they] have been covering BTS-related news outside Korea using [their] own funds.” Dispatch also emphasized that they booked their Las Vegas tickets in early March, way before HYBE sent out the fam tour invites.
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