September 6, the Seoul Central District Court revealed that the CEO (also referred to as “A” below) of a contracting firm was sentenced to one year in prison for blackmailing Big Hit Entertainment, threatening to reveal information to the public about alleged illegal marketing by the agency.
According to sources, Big Hit Entertainment hired the aforementioned company for a marketing project two years ago. Earlier this year, when the company started to struggle financially, the CEO anonymously threatened Big Hit, asking for money in exchange for keeping quiet about certain marketing documents.
In the CEO’s email to a Big Hit employee, he said, “I’ve hacked and obtained all your documents regarding the illegal marketing you’ve done for your artists. If you don’t send 330 million won (approximately $291,000), I’ll release the documents to the media and distribute it through messaging services.”
The judge residing over the case said, “This is a severe offense by ’A’ [the CEO; only identified in the article by an initial], who took advantage of a client’s secret.”
Big Hit Entertainment released a statement on the issue, saying that the illegal marketing documents alluded to by the CEO are completely one-sided claims.
“Big Hit has nothing to hide, so as soon as we became aware of the situation, we filed a report with the police and actively cooperated with investigations.” Initial reports stated that Big Hit complied with the blackmailer’s demands and sent him a total of 57 million won (approximately $50,200) across eight different transfers. Big Hit explained that the agency never sent money to A: “The money that was transferred to [A] was the inevitable result of a personal attempt by the Big Hit employee in charge [to whom the threats were initially directed] to protect our artists’ images. The agency itself never gave money to the blackmailer.”
Continuing, Big Hit stated, “If Big Hit’s reputation ends up being damaged by these claims and reports, despite the our immediate handling of the situation by filing a report and cooperating with police, then there will be no entertainment agency in the future that can take appropriate measures in the face of blackmail.”
Closing, the agency apologized: “We’re very sorry to the BTS members and ARMY for the alarm that was caused with this issue. We will do everything we can and carefully manage our business partners and contractors to prevent something like this from ever happening again.”
Update September 7 KST:
Following the release of this statement, an article from local news source Xportsnews was published that placed suspicion on BTS’s Billboard Top Social Artist award. It claimed that netizens were suspicious of the legitimacy of the award and even suggested that BTS return the award if it was not legitimate and “part-timers” had been used to help the group win. The article has since been deleted.
In response to such accusations, BTS fans have trended the hashtag #엑스포츠_전원기자_사과해 (#xportsnews_JunWonReporter_apologize) worldwide, demanding an apology for the speculations and to show how they were able to mobilize together to achieve the social support that brought BTS the Billboard award.
Update September 7 KST:
Xportsnews has responded to BTS fans’ demands for an apology. Read what the news outlet says here.