Bodyfriend, a massage chair brand promoted by BTS, has been indicted for false advertising, according to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office.
|Bodyfriend, a massage chair brand promoted by BTS, has been indicted for false advertising, according to the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office. / Courtesy of Bodyfriend|
The firm is suspected of promoting its HighKey massage chair using exaggerated claims and false information from January to August 2019.
HighKey is a high-end massage recliner for adolescents, priced at 4.6 million won ($4,050) on its website. Since its launch in January 2019, the chair was widely advertised through portal websites, newspapers and magazines.
The description in the ads read that the chair stimulates teenagers' growth through its "brain massage" function. The ad also claimed that the chair improves their cognition skills and enhances their memory, concentration and learning abilities.
The ads included specific figures to describe the supposed medical benefits such as "Brain recovery is improved by 8.8 times, concentration ability by 2.2 times and memory by 2.3 times," citing a report paper based on clinical trials.
The recliner gained a lot of attention after it was advertised through product placement in JTBC's hit drama "SKY castle" aired in December 2018.
However, earlier in July, the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) found that the effectiveness of the product had not been proven through proper clinical trials.
It turned out that Bodyfriend had conducted the trials on 25 of its employees in 2017, even though the product targeted those aged from eight to 19, between 120 and 170 centimeters in height.
The FTC fined the firm 22 million won and referred the case to the prosecutors' office, which is the strongest measure it can take, according to FTC officials.
After three months of investigation, the authorities found that the CEO was complicit and indicted both the corporation and Park.
"This is a serious case of disruption of fair trade. They have hindered consumers from making rational choices by putting out ads using exaggerated claims and false information," said an official at the prosecutors' office.
Under the current laws, violators of the Act on Fair Labeling and Advertisement can be fined up to 150 million won or imprisoned up to two years.
Bodyfriend is a Seoul-based global wellness company established in 2007 that produces luxury massage chairs. The members of K-pop boy band BTS were named as the firm's promotional models in April 2020.