A Korean reporter sparked fury after questioning BTS’s eligibility for the Top Social Artist Award it won at this year’s Billboard Music Awards following allegations of illegal marketing practices by its agency.
Journalist Jeon Won of Xports News wrote an article about a blackmailing controversy involving BTS’s agency, Big Hit Entertainment, and a CEO of a marketing firm surnamed Lee, on Sept. 6.
For context, CEO Lee, who found his company in financial trouble, threatened to expose Big Hit’s “illegal marketing” practices if the agency didn’t turn over 330 million Won ($293,000).
Toward the end of the article, Jeon, however, added a statement pointing at BTS’s Billboard Music Awards win in May, arguing that if Lee’s allegations were true, BTS must be stripped of the award.
The reporter wrote (translation via Allkpop):
“With the accusations of illegal marketing practices, BTS’ eligibility for the ‘Top Social Artist’ award comes to suspicion. The winner of the award is determined by the hashtag votes and BTS has received more than 300 million. However, some netizens are now questioning the legitimacy. If the marketing took place with the use of part-time employees (to increase votes), then it’ll be fair for BTS to return the trophy.”
Jeon’s words quickly drew heavy flak among BTS’ fan base, known as ARMY, demanded an apology and made #엑스포츠_전원기자_사과해 (#Xportsnews_reporter Jeonwon_apologize) a top worldwide trend on Twitter.
ARMYs around the world commented:
For its part, Xports News responded to the controversy by explaining that the article was, in fact, meant as an opinion piece.
The news outlet wrote (translation via Soompi):
“At 7:30 p.m. on September 6, 2017, Xportsnews released an ‘X’s Focus’ article about BTS.
“The article was a column containing a reporter’s opinions. Immediately following the article’s publication, [Xportsnews] determined that the content of the article was problematic, and deleted the piece from our site at 8:15 p.m, after which it was also removed from various portal sites.
“The article in question made leaps in logic; we apologize for the article containing the potential for misunderstandings that we were devaluing the artist’s and fans’ efforts, and also for hurting the artist and their fans.
“In no way did [Xportsnews] intend to belittle the efforts of [BTS and BTS’s fans]. However, in the end, we did hurt [BTS and their fans], and for that we sincerely apologize.
“Taking this incident as a lesson, we will do our best to release accurate and fair reports in the future. Thank you.”
According to Soompi, some fans, however, are still calling for a direct apology from Jeon. Others are reportedly criticizing the news outlet’s wording of its apology, which appears to be displacing fault at the readers.
Meanwhile, CEO Lee was sentenced to one year of prison by the Seoul Central District Court after Big Hit’s blackmailing charge.