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Fake K-pop merchandise faces tougher crackdown

Logos of Korean Intellectual Property Office (left) and Korea Music Content Association
Logos of Korean Intellectual Property Office (left) and Korea Music Content Association
The Korea Music Content Association has joined hands with the Korean Intellectual Property Office to crack down on online sellers of counterfeit K-pop merchandise, according to the association on Monday.

Amid the global popularity of Hallyu content, an increasing number of items that violate trade marks and other rights of entertainment agencies are being sold online. Frequently pirated items include light sticks, photo cards and clothes.

Major entertainment firms such as Hybe, S.M. Entertainment, JYP Entertainment and YG Entertainment have submitted a list of their trademark rights to assist the Korea Intellectual Property Protection Agency in monitoring of violations.

If online counterfeit items are discovered, the entertainment firms will inspect the merchandise to verify their authenticity. Illegal sellers’ online promotional posts will be taken down.

“Recognizing the need to manage intellectual property rights and tackle such illegal activities, we’ll actively support the local entertainment industry,” Choi Kwang-ho, secretary general of KMCA, said in a statement.

The latest crackdown is part of the KMCA and KIPO’s ongoing effort to tackle counterfeit K-pop merchandise sellers. They conducted the first crackdown in late 2020 and took action on 8,000 cases of illegal online sales.

“After a series of discussions on the seriousness of the illegal sales, KMCA and KIPO decided to resume the crackdown this year. We’re planning on conducting three more large-scale clampdowns this year,” KMCA’s policy & law lab Chief Director Kim Hyun-sook told The Korea Herald.

According to Kim, a greater number of fake K-pop items are sold around the time of big-name artists’ offline concerts. But the buyers, most of whom are relatively young, find it difficult to distinguish counterfeit products from genuine items, she said.

Ahead of the latest clampdown which began last month, both KIPO and KOIPA started their probes into online sales of illegal K-pop merchandise taking place overseas as well as offline sales of such products. Kim said taking action against online sellers of counterfeit goods is more complicated than punishing offline sellers.

“Although (sales of the counterfeit K-pop merchandise) is a very serious issue, it’s very hard to regulate it. Securing all the evidence online is not that easy. An entertainment agency has to file a suit directly against an individual illegal seller, so agencies often think that they can’t gain by doing so,” Kim said.

By Jie Ye-eun (yeeun@heraldcorp.com)
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