Extra! Korea

June 25, 2010

Lee Hyo-ri’s plagiarism scandal begins to envelope other artists

Filed under: intellectual property, music — extrakorea @ 6:32 am

Recently, several songs on Lee Hyo-ri’s latest album, H-Logic, have been accused of being plagiarized. After initial denials by Lee’s agency, Mnet Media, she admitted that they were, perhaps the first time that a K-pop artist has ever done so, and then ended promotions for the album.

(The Joongang Daily has a summarized history of artists previously accused of plagiarism, including Hyo-ri herself, and you can go here to listen to samples of Hyo-ri’s songs and those that they’re supposed to have been plagiarized.)

The songs were submitted to Mnet by a seven-member songwriters’ group called Bahnus Vacuum, led by Bahnus (Lee Jae-young), who tried to prove his innocence by providing documents that were later found to have been forged.

Since many K-pop artists don’t write their own songs, and rely on people like Bahnus, the scandal is threatening to envelope other artists like Lee who relied upon Bahnus and his group.

Columnist Choi Seung-hyun elaborates:

The larger problem is how frequent [accusations of plagiarism] such are. Many if not most singers releasing new albums these days are accused of plagiarism. This is because singers have become cash cows rather than artists who are able to communicate with the public. Singers who present original songs about their own emotions are an endangered species, while a handful of composers contracted by powerful management companies dominate the tunes that top the charts. This increases the risk of plagiarism as each one of these composing machines churns out more than 50 songs a year.

Lee’s biggest mistake was in fact her failure to take charge of her songs and her album, contrary to what she has been saying in public. If a 13-year veteran of the entertainment industry and Korea’s reigning queen of pop is in such bad shape, things must be even worse for the younger singers who are being groomed by their agencies. Veteran rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Shin Jung-hyun said in a recent interview, “There is no real music on Korea’s pop music scene these days. There is only greed.”

Music critic Park Eun-seok would agree:

“It is highly likely that the management agency was fooled by the composer as the original songs are mostly non-mainstream,” music critic Park Eun-seok said. “However, this case clearly shows the abysmal reality of mainstream K-pop culture where songs are manufactured rather than created.”

(emphasis mine)

So why is the nation’s music industry so vulnerable to plagiarism scandals?

As it turns out, Korea has no established system to handle such disputes. The Performance Ethics Committee oversaw plagiarism cases in the past, but since being renamed the Korea Media Rating Board in 1998, no single body has been responsible for resolving plagiarism issues.

Almost all cases are handled through informal negotiations, although copyright holders can bring cases to the Korea Copyright Commission or to court. Those convicted can be sentenced to up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of 50 million won ($42,000), but few cases, if any, have involved court rulings.

[ snip ]

“There is a widespread idea among fraudulent songwriters that they can get away once they take money,” Baak Eun-sok, a pop music critic, said.


  1. […] extrakorea @ 9:33 am You might recall how some of the songs on Lee Hyo-ri’s album have been accused of being plagiarized. In addition to admitting that they were copied (unprecedented in Korea), she has now announced […]

    Pingback by Lee Hyo-ri deletes 7 songs from album due to plagiarism accusations « Extra! Korea — June 28, 2010 @ 9:43 am

  2. the only thing that I keep asking is how can anyone with her experience and with how long she’s been with the industry–how the hell did it happen to her TWICE. And how can she claim that she didn’t know? I don’t care how corrupt it is in Korea, she was able to choose her songs from the list that Bahnus gave her. It doesn’t make sense, don’t you think she’d be more careful the second time around? The first time with Britney, she said she didn’t know and then it was blown over..but this time, with 7 songs copied… omg. She needed to say something.

    Comment by Mai E. — July 1, 2010 @ 10:59 am

    • Well its pretty obvious, first of all the problem lies in the fact that k-pop artists rely on others to write their songs, like, for example Lee Hyori. Now here’s the problem there is no system whatsoever that can scan music ad detect any sign of plagarism, so its nearly impossible to check manualy without taking a huge period of tie and manpower, meanwhile revenue within the company and Hyori’s bank is running out. Also, the songs tat were plagiarized were very OBSCURE AMERCAN songs, which, i dont have to explain, Lee Hyori lives in Korea. People are telling her to check. Well there are thousands of song, artists, all over the WORLD, checking to see if the songs is a waste of time and energy, so one must trust in either their songwriter’s honesty or ones own ability to make songs without copying other songs. Of course Hyori deserves a little bit of punishment, but if anyone should take the hammers blow, it’s logically Hyori’s songwriter.

      Comment by Derek — August 5, 2010 @ 12:59 am

  3. […] Generation, and f(x) (all of SM Entertainment) use the same songwriting/production company. Uh-oh. We know what that could lead […]

    Pingback by BoA, Girls’ Generation, and f(x) use the same songwriting company. Uh-oh « Extra! Korea — July 2, 2010 @ 12:55 pm

  4. […] in America, but are par for the course in South Korea, where the music business has become more business than music. Said tutor allegedly wrote a letter to K-pop blog PopSeoul. In an attempt to gain some […]

    Pingback by Netizen pranksters are trying to sent Justin Bieber to North Korea « Extra! Korea — July 5, 2010 @ 3:41 am

  5. […] about Korean music? Filed under: music — extrakorea @ 2:47 pm You might recall this post, which had this quote: Veteran rock guitarist and singer-songwriter Shin Jung-hyun said in a recent […]

    Pingback by Who’s Shin Jung-hyun and why can he speak with authority about Korean music? « Extra! Korea — July 22, 2010 @ 2:47 pm

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