11 people charged with chart manipulation of 15 K-Pop songs, including a CEO

Chosun has named 3 of the 15 songs.

Eleven people, including the former CEO of an entertainment agency, have been charged without arrest for allegedly manipulating music charts to inflate the ratings of 15 K-Pop songs, according to chosun.

On May 21, the Seoul Central District Prosecutor’s Office, headed by Chief Prosecutor jeong Ji Eun, announced the indictment against Kim, the former CEO of an entertainment agency, along with ten other people. They are accused of interfering with business operations using computer systems.

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Photo for illustrative purposes only. | Shutterstock

Three entertainment agencies are said to have requested Kim’s services, and songs by artists from Kim’s own company were also manipulated. Among the affected songs were young tak‘Why are you leaving there?’ NATURE“Oopsie (My Bad)” and KCM‘Between love and friendship’.

Kim and his team are believed to have assigned IP addresses to many virtual PCs and split access across multiple accounts to evade detection by music sites’ anti-abuse systems.

The list of defendants includes Mr. Lee, former CEO of trot singer Young Tak’s agency, who is suspected of soliciting manipulation of the lists. Young Tak himself has been cleared of any wrongdoing.

Kim and his associates are suspected of manipulating the rankings of major Korean music sites by employing numerous accounts to stream 15 songs more than 1.72 million times. To execute this plan, they allegedly used more than 500 virtual PCs and illegally obtained 1,627 personal data.

Investigators discovered that Kim, who ran an entertainment and public relations agency, received chart manipulation requests through a business intermediary. It is reported that she charged between ₩30.0 million KRW (around US$22,100) and ₩160 million KRW (around US$118,000) per song for her services. If the manipulation had little effect, she allegedly returned some of the money.

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Young tak | Yonhap

Prosecutors began investigating the case in October 2022, calling it complex, with numerous stories involving manipulation and more than 130,000 pages of criminal records.

Police initially did not refer Young Tak’s case for prosecution, saying there was no evidence he was aware of the tampering. However, a complaint was filed in November 2021, which led to a more thorough investigation that confirmed the initial conclusion. Consequently, the prosecution dismissed the charges against Young Tak the previous day.

The prosecution emphasized that this case reveals the systematic nature of music chart manipulation, a long-standing problem in the industry. They promised to ensure that appropriate sentences would be handed down for the crimes committed by the accused.