Article Repost: BTS and Airport Photos in South Korea

This is a repost of the article I wrote and then took down on the app ARMY Amino. 

I’ve seen some confusion over the topic of taking photos of BTS outside of the airports so I decided to delve into it for myself.


what is a right to privacy?

To answer that question first let me explain personality rights (초상권).

Personality rights are guaranteed under the Korean Constitution (Articles 10 and 17). They are broken down into two things:

1) Right to Privacy

2) Right to Publicity

The important one for us is Right to Privacy.

<Right to Privacy>

1. It is the right to be left alone and not have one’s likeness (e.g. face, body part) represented publicly without permission.

2. The “face” or “body part” must be attributed to a specific person. In other words, the pictured/photographed face or body part must be recognizable/identifiable. Permission, meanwhile, can be presumed. For instance, deliberately walking into an area where one should have known a TV show was being shot.

3. Infringement can occur either by:

a) Taking pictures/photos without permission, or

b) Making public such pictures/photos without permission.

4. Factors for Consideration:

a) Did the person pictured/photographed give permission? (expressed or implied)

b) Did the picture/photo single out the person?

c) was the person photographed in an objectively unfavourable light?

d) Is the person a public figure? If so, was the photo taken in a public place?

e) Does the photo serve a public purpose?

Sources: Juwon Kang, Korea Legislation Research Institute

Now, this all probably seems like just a bunch of legal jargon to most of you. It could be easily misinterpreted as ‘taking photos of BTS is illegal’ but it’s not.

Here is why as explained by an SBS employee:

BTS, as idols, are considered public figures. As long as you aren’t slandering or using their photos for profit (e.g. Using their faces to advertise a makeup product) it’s perfectly legal.

This is also the reason that managers/people around BTS are edited out/have their faces blurred. Since they are not public figures all the laws stated above apply.

Another thing you could argue is that BTS are knowingly walking into a public space where they know there will be cameras so as stated above it’s implied consent but this isn’t really needed to prove the legality.

Now, this changes if you were to take a photo inside security at an airport because that would actually be illegal but outside in the public it’s perfectly fine!

Other cases when it’s considered illegal:

1) photos taken are/were sexual in nature

2) photos were defamatory in nature

Source: SBS employee (didn’t wish for their name to be publicized)

So basically the conclusion is are airport photos illegal?

The answer is no, unless it’s behind security, sexual or defamatory.

Should people rush BTS outside of airports to get their photos?

Probably not the nicest thing you could do.

Let’s leave the photography to our fan sites and news reporters.


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