K-pop companies, artists, and fans have been crying about sajaegi (companies bulk buying their own releases to manipulate charts) for a while now, so the Ministry Of Culture, Sports, And Tourism (MCST) has finally passed a law to address it. Hooray, right? Probably not, as the law right now counts group purchases of all kinds as sajaegi, including ones done by fans.
According to the “Promotion of the Music Industry Legislation” clause of the law, producers and distributors, as well as consumers, can face punishment for the bulk purchase or sale of music. Specifically mentioned in the law is “fan-mobilized group activities through [music] agencies,” leaving people wondering if the fans can be punished for voluntary group consumption of music. The biggest concern with the law is how it will be interpreted when actually implemented. This is because it is hard to determine whether the group purchases are for the benefit of the company with the shared goal of promoting the artist, or whether they are done out of just being a fan.
Yeah, not many are complaining about albums sold to fans at signings or sites putting together bulk buys or anything of that nature. So while this law would hypothetically crack down on companies fucking around, the situation could actually end up being made worse overall (especially for international fans).
Of course, government representatives say they will be working with companies to figure out the best way to implement the new law, but that’s not exactly reassuring.
A representative for the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism stated on March 3, “The government will be working with representatives from the music industry to arrange guidelines for the application of the law up until it goes into effect. We will make every effort to ensure that the law is enforced according to the process of discussion and to avoid excessive regulation.”
Anybody can say they’re going to enforce a law one specific way or another, but as long as the law technically reads the way it does, that always leaves the option open to enforce it at random, and that still leaves the system open to corruption.
All that said, I do believe they’ll find a way to continue to allow fans to bulk buy, because if there’s one thing you can count on, it’s human greed. It’s in the best interests of both the companies and the MCST to not limit the amount of money people can spend, both for reasons of monetary gain and public relations.