Korean Charts Under Scrutiny

The Korean hit chart system has come under scrutiny after several media outlets reported on the practice of “hoarding,” which describes actions carried out either by fans or “brokers” to help a song travel quickly up the charts just after it is released. 

Photo: AP Photo / Lee Jin-man
Olympic Park Gymnastics Arena, Seoul, South Korea

Real-time music charts are refreshed constantly, which means an artist can claim to have had a “No. 1 hit” even if its song occupied that position for an hour, according to the Korea Herald.

These rankings play a major role when TV shows and other music-related media, such as awards ceremonies, make lists of artists to feature.

At issue are music service providers and “brokers” who, for a fee, offer to help manipulate charts in the customer’s favor.

Four of the country’s biggest entertainment agencies asked a government ministry to investigate the practice but the case was rejected due to “insufficient evidence.”

Streaming services can rig their systems to push certain songs up the charts, allowing management companies behind these songs to earn more streaming revenue and gain more traction for media appearances.

The entertainment agencies dispute this interpretation and say they ask the service to simply “curate” their songs by means of “recommendations.”

At least one entertainment company, CJ E&M, has said it would remove the recommendation service from its own streaming affiliate, Mnet.com, to allay any manipulation suspicions. Another streaming service has said it has developed a “filter” to prevent hoarding by fans and brokers.