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South Korea: K-Pop Icon Hyo-ri Brings the Plagiarism Issue Up To the Light

South Korean pop queen Lee Hyo-ri’s fourth album reignited discussion on the country’s plagiarism over the internet as Hyo-ri came to admit that six songs from her fourth album ‘H-logic’ are the illegally copied. Bloggers are debating over what really happened, who is to blame and why plagiarism is plaguing the nation’s music industry.

A photo of Lee Hyo-ri taken by a fan.

Lee Hyo-ri is South Korea’s pop icon and show business’ 13 year veteran, who is earning almost 10 billion Korean Won(USD 8.1 million) a year, according to local news report. She has a wide scope of fans from her active appearances at numerous hit variety shows and commercials. Hyori's fourth album ‘H-Logic’ made a instant hit after release, but at the same time immediately draw suspicions that some of her songs are too similar to be her original tunes. Hyori’s agency has denied the allegation till Hyori came clear on June that six songs she got from a songwriter group Bahnus Vacuum are plagiarized from foreign songs. In an official statement Hyori posted on her fan cafe, she admitted the disputes songs were indeed illegal copies and she apologize for anyone who had been hurt from her acts and she will be taking a hiatus from music activity for the moment. Bahnus who gave her the songs have not made any public appearance after the revelation.

Even though the plagiarism itself is frequently brought up issue in Korea, a full-out confession by the singer is rare. Majority of the internet bloggers praised Hyori’s confession as a courageous act. A blogger Eunkoung8072 commented that the plagiarism is a shameful deed and other singer's reaction to it is a disgrace, while Hyori has shown a good precedent.

그래도 자신의 잘못을 인정하고 모든 것을 밝힌 이효리의 용기는 인정할 만 하다. 물론, 박수 받을 만한 사건은 아니다…다만 나는 많은 이들이 표절을 하고도, 이를 인정하지 않거나 잠적해 버리는 많은 이들에 비해 공식적으로 사과문을 발표한 이효리가 그래도 대단하다는 것이다.

The courage Hyori has shown by admitting her fault and coming clear on everything needs to be acknowledged. However, this case itself is not something to be applauded. This is quite contrary to other musicians’ reaction who never admit their deeds and suddenly disappear when allegation broke out. It is great of Hyori to make an official apology.

The resemblance of her disputed songs with the original tunes was quite uncanny enough to raise suspicions. Six songs confirmed as plagiarized are ‘Bring it Back’ (plagiarized from Canadian girl-group Cookie Couture's ‘Boy Bring it Back’), I'm Back (copied Canadian indie-singer Lil Precious’ ‘So Insane’), ‘Memory’, ‘Feel the Same’, ‘How Did We Get,’ ‘Swing’ and `Highlight’. To check the music yourself click here. Hyori’s disputed songs are followed by each of their original counterparts.

Critics are blaming Hyori and her agency, Mnet, nation’s one of biggest music cable television for ignoring the suspicion rose from this indisputable resemblance. A blogger Ourvillage commented the investigation and the apology are long overdue after they profited from the album's for two lucrative months.

4집 앨범이 발표되었을 때 이미 많은 사람들이 4집 앨범의 곡들을 표절이라고 비판했지만 이효리측과 엠넷 미디어는 곡들의 표절 여부를 철저하게 조사하지 않았다. 그야말로 안일한 대처였다. 이렇게 석연찮은 태도를 보여놓고 이제 와서 표절이라고 공식 언급을 하고 활동을 중단하겠다는 이효리 측이나 엠넷 미디어가 너무 무책임하게 느껴진다.

When the fourth album was released, many people raised suspicions that the song are plagiarized tunes, but Hyori side and Mnet have not made a thorough investigation on that, instead they just sat back idly. Now they are making an official statement and calling a hiatus, well after this unconvincing risk management. They are really irresponsible.

Plagiarism has long plagued Korean pop music, from1960’s Lee Mi-ja’s ‘Island Teacher’ which copied a Japanese song to the most recent cases of a boy band CNBLUE and G-Dragon of the Big Bang(K-pop idol group). CNBLUE’s single ‘I’m an Outcast’ has been accused for copying the Indie band’s song ‘Blue Bird’ and Big Bang member G-Dragon’s solo hit ‘Heartbreaker’ was criticized as plagiarized song from American rapper Flo Rida’s ‘Right Round’.

The plagiarism allegation is more frequently erupting nowadays. Many people see this as the internet endowing people opportunities to listen to foreign musicians’ tunes, making it much harder for songwriters to fool the audience. A blogger Liveblog commented that the internet users can immediately detect a copied tune and any plagiarism attempt will be thwarted.

최근 네티즌들의 안목이 높아지고 인터넷이 발전함에 따라 비슷한 노래를 베끼면 바로 비슷하다는 글이 올라온다…절대로 표절을 해서 잘 될 것이라고 보면 안된다.

As netizens are obtaining more refined taste (in music) and as the internet developed, if anyone plagiarize a song, a comment pointing out the similarity sprang up immediately…There is no way you will ever succeed in copying other’s songs.

There is no established legal body to prevent the plagiarism in Korea. Though copyright holders can sue the convicted in the Korea Copyright Commission or in court, nearly every plagiarism disputes are customarily settled through informal negotiations.

A blogger Conte0303 analyzed the plagiarism is not the issue limited to music industry, many sectors in Korean society are infected with it and people’s generosity and the ignorance on the seriousness of the issue are aggravating the situation.

“왜 같은 문제가 반복되는가?”는 질문에 대처하는 아주 상식적인 답은 이거다. “발각 된들 손해날 것이 없기 때문에.”…이미 특허가 등록된 남의 기술을 무단으로 도용하다가 까무라칠 배상금을 물어낸 기업들이 있지만 그들조차 “재수가 없었다”라고 생각하지 발상부터 도덕적으로 옳지 않았음을 자인하지는 않는다. 대중 음악계의 상황도 비슷하다. 표절 논란에 휩싸였던 가수들 대부분이 별 타격 없이 활동하고 있다는 것이 문제의 근원이다. 즉 표절 여부가 인기의 등락과는 무관하다는 것이다. 표절 시비에…자존심 상하고 이미지 먹칠하고, 심지어 이미 받은 상까지 반납하란 여론에 시달려야 하는 서구의 문화와는 많이 다르다.

To the question “Why this problem so repeatedly occurs?” a commonsensical answer to this is: “there is nothing huge to lose even after being caught.”…The (business) people who forced to pay shockingly heavy fines for appropriating other's patented technology illegally, still think ‘that was one bad luck’ without sincerely admitting that they had wrong notion (on copying). Simliar things happen in pop music business. Singers involved in plagiarism allegation went back to business without seriously burnt from it. The plagiarism does not affect their popularity. It is very much different to the Western case where a singer's pride got scratched, his image got stained and even got harassed by media forcing him to return the already received awards.

Discussions on the plagiarism are activated over the internet ever, most of them hoping this vicious cycle of plagiarism to halt, at least brought to light by Hyo-ri's hard learnt lesson.

5 comments

  • ElenoreRae

    I think the main problem is that I have seen is that the fans of theses artists not only perpetuate the notion that it is okay to steal another artists song but that their respective band/singer actually performed the song better.

    It has become quite redundant and common to see various Kpop artists who have blatantly ripped off foreign (usually American hip hop and R&B) singer’s music, concepts, choreography, etc. and claim it as their own. Only to later be hailed by their grossly prejudiced fans.

    And when plagiarism and other failings are pointed out (and justified with conclusive proof), the outcry of denial is near deafening.

    It is sad, and hopefully the climate of Kpop and their fandoms will change or the industry, which is already on shaky ground, may implode.

  • I don’t know…
    I’ve never really like her anyway.

    please visit gokpop.com ! ^^

  • […] ‘how much of it is original?’ The last six months alone has seen one of Korea’s biggest musicians admitting to singing plagiarized songs; less than 18 months ago, that ‘nifty marketing’ was essentially copying the style of a […]

  • […] latte and Kicker candy bar, listening to G-Dragon’s “Heartbreaker” or maybe some Lee Hyori while shopping at TOMMYATKINS and maybe hang out with my friends at Chanel Business Club, the BMW […]

  • […] latte and Kicker candy bar, listening to G-Dragon’s “Heartbreaker” or maybe some Lee Hyori while shopping at TOMMYATKINS and maybe hang out with my friends at Chanel Business Club, the BMW […]

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