Korea’s culture ministry says payment to BTS for UN appearance to be made soon

Published October 17, 2021, 12:11 PM

by Jonathan Hicap

South Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (MCST) clarified that the payment will be made soon to K-pop superstars BTS for their mission as special envoy to the United Nations in September.

This after opposition lawmaker Rep. Kim Seungsu of the People Power Party made a ruckus on Oct. 14, questioning why Korean government officials previously announced that payment to BTS was already done but it turned out otherwise.

BTS speaking at the SDG Moment meting in the UN General Assembly hall (top) and their diplomatic passports (Cheong Wa Dae)

During a parliamentary audit last Oct. 14 at Korea’s legislature, the National Assembly, Kim asked Park Jung-youl, director of the Korean Culture and Information Service (KOCIS), if the government already paid BTS for their official trip to the UN, to which he replied, “Not yet.”

In a statement issued on Oct. 14, the culture ministry said KOCIS signed a pre-event service contract for BTS’ UN performance.

“And on September 20, when the UN performance was shown, the service was completed and the payment was already decided. We would like to inform you that the follow-up administrative procedures have been completed and that the payment will be made soon,” said MCST.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in appointed BTS as Special Presidential Envoy for Future Generations and Culture in July.

BTS’ 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.

When BTS arrived in New York City, they filmed a performance video of “Permission to Dance” in the UN hall and surrounding areas. The video was shown during the SDG Moment meeting.

In addition, BTS also visited the 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.”

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

It was revealed that the Korean government was to pay 700 million won (about $592,000) to BTS for expenses related to their UN trip as special envoy.

In an online post last Sept. 30, Tak Hyun-min, protocol secretary of the Blue House (presidential office), said payment to BTS was already done and added that 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 [HYBE] nor the special envoys [BTS] wanted that amount of money. Rather, they were grateful for giving them the opportunity to contribute.”

On Oct. 14, he posted, “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 added that based on government procedures a request to deposit the amount from HYBE

should be made. If HYBE requests a deposit, the amount will be deposited after three days.

Diplomatic passports for BTS

Last Sept. 14, President Moon met BTS at the Blue House to give them their appointment papers and diplomatic passports as special envoy.

BTS’ appointment as special envoy was in line with Korea’s aim to lead the global agenda for future generations, such as sustainable growth, and expand diplomatic power in line with Korea’s elevated status in the international community.

Diplomatic passports are issued in South Korea to a select group of people. Under Korea’s law Enforcement Decree of the Passport Act, among the persons entitled to be issued diplomatic passports are “special envoys, representatives of the Government and members of a mission headed by special envoys or representatives of the Government.”

BTS’ diplomatic passports were displayed at HYBE Insight, a cultural museum featuring HYBE artists including BTS.

Last Sept. 29, HYBE Insight issued a notice, saying, “We would like to inform our visitors that due to a change in the schedule for returning the diplomatic passports provided to BTS, we will be required to end the exhibition ahead of schedule. The passports will be available for viewing until Thursday, September 30.”

Why did BTS return their diplomatic passports? Under Article 12 of the Enforcement Decree of the Passport Act, the term of validity of a diplomatic passport is five years but for special envoys, it is “one or two years according to the period required for performing a diplomatic mission.”

According to Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, “All citizens cannot have two passports,” the Sports Kyunghyang newspaper reported.