Lawmaker revives issue of Korean government’s delay in paying $592,000 to BTS for UN mission

An opposition lawmaker in South Korea resurrected the alleged delay of the Korean government in paying K-pop superstars BTS for their official trip to the United Nations (UN) as special envoy.

During a parliamentary audit at the National Assembly on Oct.14, Rep. Kim Seungsu of the People Power Party asked Park Jung-youl, director of the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS), if the Korean government already paid BTS for expenses related to their appearance at the UN last month.

(Clockwise from top left) Rep. Kim Seungsu, BTS speaking at the SDG Moment at the UN, BTS with First Lady Kim Jung-sook at The Met and Blue House protocol secretary Tak Hyun-min (Facebook, Cheong Wa Dae) BTS87

Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed BTS as Special Presidential Envoy for Future Generations and Culture and their first duty was to attend and speak at the second Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) Moment of the Decade of Action meeting held in the UN General Assembly hall in New York City on Sept. 20. President Moon also spoke and introduced BTS at the event.

BTS also filmed a video of “Permission to Dance” performance in the UN hall and surrounding areas, which was shown during the SDG Moment meeting. In addition, they also visited The Metropolitan Museum of Art, or The Met, with Korean First Lady Kim Jung-sook, and the Korean Cultural Center (KCC) New York, a government agency under KOCIS.

Rep. Kim asked Director Park if the government has already paid BTS for their official trip to the UN. Park replied, “Not yet.”

“On September 30, a Blue House said the payment had been made and Tak Hyun-min, secretary of the Blue House, also appeared on social media and on broadcast on October 1 and said the payment had already been completed. Did he lie to the entire nation even though he knew the facts or was it a false report that it was paid?” said Kim, to which Park replied, “It’s a matter that we do not know very well.”

Last month, Korean media reported that the Korean government did not pay any travel expenses such as airfare, accommodation and food to BTS.

The media reported that the government was to pay 700 million won (about $592,000) to BTS for expenses related to their UN trip as special envoy. The payment would come from the funds of KOCIS.

In a social media post last Sept. 30, Tak Hyun-min, who is the protocol secretary of the Blue House, lambasted politicians and Chosun Ilbo, which reported the BTS payment issue, posting, “Personally, I do not even know how much the Republic of Korea should pay for the hard work of BTS at the last UN tour.”

He said BTS’ participation in the UN trip had already been paid and said he felt sorry that the government could not do more because of rules and regulations. He said the government shouldered the flight, accommodation and food expenses of BTS and their staff in the form of “post payment” and the amount was negotiated in advance.

“It goes without saying, however, that these costs are the best the government can afford to do within the rules and not a justifiable cost for their dedication and hard work. If the activities of the special envoys are calculated as ordinary contributions, it would be at least several billions of won, and the government would not be able to afford it due to regulations,” said Tak Hyun-min.

He clarified that “neither the agency nor the special envoys wanted that amount of money. Rather, they were grateful for giving them the opportunity to contribute.”

After the National Assembly hearing, Tak Hyun-min posted online to make another clarification against Rep. Kim’s tirade.

“The related contract was already completed before the BTS-related event, and after the event was over, the government administrative procedure was already completed, but the report prepared by BTS’ agency HYBE was submitted on October 13,” he said.

Based on government procedures, he said, a request to deposit the amount from HYBE should be made. If HYBE requests a deposit, the amount will be deposited after three days, he added.