Even though the South Korean Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism officially cleared girl group MOMOLAND‘s “Sajaegi (사재기, chart manipulation)” suspicion after two stages of investigations, some Koreans are unhappy with how the case was resolved.
“Sajaegi” is the act of manipulating music chart rankings, usually by artificially inflating album sales numbers by purchasing (or outsourcing the purchase of) large volumes of albums.
The suspicion involved a hiked record of selling 8,261 MOMOLAND’s “GREAT!” album copies in one day. The girl group’s managing agency MLD Entertainment, formerly known as Duble Kick Entertainment, explained it was “due to an increase in demand from fans overseas, after the official announcement of the group’s Japanese promotions.”
Since then, the agency submitted and publicly released the invoices from the record sales company as evidence to show the albums have actually been sold to Japan.
While the agency expected these invoices to quiet the issue down, it only added to the fire when Koreans noticed the “SWIFT CODE” is void, the phone numbers are incorrect, and the “receipt” doesn’t quite display information that can serve as a receipt. Suspicion grew even wilder when netizens alleged that these documents were possibly even forged.
Once the agency used the “bulk sales to Japan” to explain the sales hike, Koreans nitpicked at it for several reasons — two of which claimed that one, most bulk sales often take place online and two, no single store could have had over 8,000 copies of the same album in stock to sell in one day.
They also pointed out, even if such an extreme bulk sale may have been possible, it would have caused a tremendous amount of trouble to ship the 8,000 copies of the physical albums outside of Korea, making this a quite unreasonable thing to do for any agency or sale company.
Hanteo Chart officially filed with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism to investigate, leaving Koreans to believe all the mysteries will soon be solved and suspicions clarified.
When the first round of investigation concluded in May, however, denying all accusations of MOMOLAND being involved in any chart manipulation, Hanteo Chart appealed and kicked the investigation back into a second round.
Since then, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism has reviewed the case and notified the agency of the second investigation results. MLD Entertainment, on behalf of what the ministry announced, now claims the first and second rounds of investigations have concluded there was no manipulation involved.
“The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism concluded, after its two rounds of investigations, that there is no case of chart manipulation involving MOMOLAND’s album sales. We are glad to have been cleared of such accusations. We thank the fans who trusted us and supported us through this. We hope the investigation results will finally put an end to all the rumors. MLD Entertainment and MOMOLAND will continue to work hard in our positions to contribute to the culture of K-Pop.” — MLD Entertainment
Mihwadang Record, which is the offline merchandise sales company that sold the 8,000+ albums in question, also posted an official apology statement for causing MOMOLAND’s “sajaegi” suspicion.
“We reported the bulk album sales to Hanteo Chart on a single day. Hanteo Chart filed for an investigation, in which we answered to the best of our abilities and provided all data and documents as requested.” — Mihwadang Record
The agency and the record sales company both emphasized that the investigation concluded this wasn’t a case of “sajaegi”.
“We received the final statement from the first and second investigations by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism which concluded that the album sales in question do not violate Section 26 of the Music Industry Promotion Act which states that “No business entities related to music records or music video products shall unfairly buy up music records, etc. manufactured, imported, or distributed by business entities related to music records or music video products for the purpose of increasing their sales volumes.”” — Mihwadang Record
Unfortunately, some Korean netizens are unhappy with the investigations. They argue such results do not clear up any the suspicions one by one and therefore a lot of suspicion still remains. Some continue to be convinced that the whole “bulk sales to Japan” is a scheme and so the ministry can’t clarify anything either.
“Look how the results come out just in time for the group’s comeback, huh?”
“This doesn’t even explain what exactly happened, or anything. It simply denies the suspicion.”
“A Japanese marketing partner came to Korea to buy albums in bulk to increase the group’s domestic sales. If this isn’t sajaegi, then what is?”
“A group that sold 1,000 copies in the first week sold 8,000 copies by the sixth week… Does anyone else not get this?”
“This is why everyone tries to manipulate the charts. The criticism is short, but the hype lives on.”
MOMOLAND’s Yeonwoo personally spoke up about the group’s manipulation allegation and investigations that followed. She claimed the experience helped the members set higher goals for themselves and the group as a whole.
“It’s great that the suspicions have been cleared. The members weren’t too troubled by the investigation. We just tried to focus on working hard at what we do best. We weren’t sad about what happened. We simply realized that we have to try harder to become even better.” — Yeonwoo
As hateful rumors and comments continue, fans urge the agency to now respond by taking legal action.
“If people aren’t going to believe the investigation results, why did they request an investigation at all?”
“Now that the results are out, I hope the agency starts responding to these rumors by taking legal action.”
“I’m sure the agency monitors these comments. I beg you, please take legal action against the haters who leave malicious comments!”