Are Kpop superstars BTS plagiarizing their way to the top? That question is getting renewed attention following a confession by Rap Monster.
BTS is now enjoying unprecedented growth, particularly in mega-markets like Japan and the US. But ugly accusations are putting a drag on that success.
Now, South Korea’s hottest export is facing renewed allegations of plagiarism.
According to details shared with Digital Music News this weekend, BTS star Rap Monster has admitted to directly copying lyrics from other rappers. The allegations started in 2015, when Twitter user @wevebeenhere clearly pointed to an instance of plagiarism involving Rap Monster.
A copy of a subsequent confession to fans, first written in December of that year, was supplied to DMN via email. Rap Monster, whose real name is Kim Nam-joon, is the lead rapper of BTS.
Tip of the iceberg?
So how much was ultimately ‘borrowed’ without permission? In repeated attempts leading up to 2016, the Twitter user was clearly able to prove that the following lyric was lifted:
“I will become your underline because you’re that important.”
Other lyrics and poetry lines were also found to be plagiarized, suggesting a far broader practice of poaching. Indeed, @wevebeenhere quickly pointed to stolen lines from @radiordinary as well. That includes this verse, undoubtedly memorized by thousands of BTS followers.
“When you lie in bed with loneliness the bed gets bigger.”
Sadly, this appeared to be the tip of a dirty iceberg, with @wevebeenhere declaring:
“I hate people who take lines that represent another’s life and use it as if it were their own. What do they get out of it? I was furious when those I cherish were made victim of such actions and I will not give up my work in such a way. I tweeted the line ‘I will become your underline because you’re that important’ back in 2014. One Twitter friend informed me of this today and I am at a loss of words. Rap Monster wrote these lyrics. This guy has done this multiple times.”
‘Everything is my fault…’
Rap Monster ultimately confirmed those allegations, but only after repeated accusations and attention. Here’s a statement first issued in December of 2015, and now getting re-circulated as attention surges around the group.
“First, I would like to sincerely apologize. Even though I am just at the start of my career, as an artist I often feel the pain of creating something. When I feel unable to write music out of my own inspiration, I get my inspiration from talking to friends, reading books I like, watching movies, interviews and letters from fans. Whenever a line leaves an impression on me, I write the line down in my memo.”
“Most become forgotten over time, but after being pointed out, I realize I subconsciously made a mistake. I focused on simply writing the song without paying attention to finding out the true sources for my lines. Everything is my fault and I realize that the original creator of the quotes must feel very offended.
I will personally contact and try to take responsibility. I’d also like to apologize to everyone who pointed out my mistake and who were hurt by my actions. I’m sorry and thankful to all the fans who love me even though I am a man of many faults.
As I know the pain of creation, I will from now on think of the responsibilities of being an artist before anything.”
The allegations — and admission — follows a major controversy at the Gaonchart Music Awards last year. Specifically, BTS was blasted for using the same pre-show intro reel as Big Bang, specifically a ‘no signal’ TV theme. Ultimately, BTS denied all responsibility, with Gaonchart organizers taking the fall.
That didn’t satisfy Big Bang VIPs, however. And as the bad blood simmered, Big Band ‘VIPs’ subsequently accused BTS of ripping off an idea to sell branded hand creams. Those accusations carried far less weight, with Kpop groups routinely marketing creams and other creative merchandise.
Legal action ahead?
Whether BTS now faces legal action for lifted lyrics is uncertain. One problem is that a tweet might be difficult to copyright. And global litigation can be expensive and exhausting, especially against a corporate-backed kpop artist.
Regardless, as BTS continues to grow, the group will undoubtedly face increased scrutiny — especially in major league markets like the US and Japan.
Stay tuned for more developments.