The K-pop world has been rocked following recent revelations tying five popular K-pop idols to illegal sex scandals.
Three of the five K-pop stars, BigBang’s Seungri, Drug Restaurant’s Jung Joon-young, and FT Island’s Choi Jung-hoon, have announced that they will quit the entertainment industry since being investigated for related sex scandals due to the release of problematic group chat messages by SBS News.
“Dude this is like a movie,” read one message. “Think about it for just 5 minutes. We haven’t murdered anyone, but we could get arrested for so much.”
The group chat in question was full of messages about seducing and sexually assaulting women, along with videos of them actually doing it. These stars could face up to five years in prison for their actions, according to South Korean law.
They are not the only K-pop idols involved in this case though. Also tied up in this are Highlight’s Yong Jun-hyung and CNBlue’s Lee Jong-hyun.
Two of the men, Seungri (real name Lee Seung-hyun) and Jung, were questioned by investigators on Thursday for over 20 hours until early Friday morning, and reluctantly handed over their phones. The two publicly apologized for their wrongdoings and agreed to comply with the investigation. Fans, citizens, and the media have been condemning their actions severely. Seungri even called himself the “nation’s enemy” on his Instagram post.
Seungri, 29 and a member of K-pop royalty BigBang, has also been accused of breaking South Korea’s prostitution laws by trying to arrange sexual services for his business investors and overseas executives through his nightclubs. He is not only a K-pop idol, but is well-known for his business endeavors like in owning nightclubs and ramen restaurants among many others.
Although he denied the allegations, the singer still left BigBang and his company, YG Entertainment, home of K-pop stars like BlackPink and iKon. Some are speculating that the company kicked him out as opposed to him leaving on his own.
The singer was supposed to enlist in the Korean army this year for his mandatory military service, but is now looking to postpone it because of the investigation. The remaining BigBang members (G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, and Daesung) who are all currently serving in the military, have yet to comment on the situation.
Although CNN says, “Seungri has for years maintained the squeaky-clean image required of South Korean entertainers,” Seungri has a far from clean track record, and has been involved in small-scale scandals since 2012, but nothing of this caliber.
“In this situation, no one will believe me even if I tell the truth,” Seungri said in a recent interview with Sisa Press. “This controversy began with the KakaoTalk conversations… We were just idiots who were exaggerating and bragging among friends… I was wrong. I shouldn’t have been involved with those people or done those things.”
Jung Joon-young, 30, on the other hand, admitted to his actions and announced his retirement.
Jung from the band Drug Restaurant and cast member on the popular show “2 Days, 1 Night” has been accused of illegally filming women–allegedly fellow entertainers–without their consent, and then sharing the videos in the group chat with seven other men. He is also faced with prostitution allegations.
“2 Days, 1 Night” has since gone on an indefinite hiatus. Through Jung’s phone, it was also discovered that two of the show’s cast members, Cha Tae-hyun and Kim Joon-ho, were involved in gambling, and Cha has since stepped down from all of this TV shows.
Over 200,000 text message of Jung’s are now being investigated after he handed his phone over to police. The SBS reporter who revealed them, Kang Chang-wan, recently said on a radio program, “I thought very hard about how much information I should deliver. There were things that were worse than the content that has already been reported, things that are simply unspeakable.”
“And by the looks of his behavior, it does not seem like a crime that was committed during a specific time period,” the reporter said, “but rather a habitual lifestyle almost.”
This is not even the first time Jung has been accused of sexual assault. Back in 2016, an ex-girlfriend made a similar allegation against him, but the charges were mysteriously dropped.
It was also recently discovered that Jung was already being investigated for hidden camera filming in November 2018, but police couldn’t receive a search and seizure warrant from the prosecutors office.
After only six days and two rounds of questioning, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency has revealed that they plan to request an arrest warrant for Jung Joon-young. He could face up to 7.5 years in prison if proven guilty.
FT Island’s Choi Jong-hoon is another K-pop star involved in the scandal. He’s being accused of “sharing illegal hidden camera photos and footage” as well as a DUI cover-up in 2016. He has already announced his retirement from the entertainment industry.
His company FNC Entertainment have released this statement, “Choi Jong-hoon, who has aroused criticism due to his involvement in recent scandals, has decided to depart from FT Island as of today. Choi Jong-hoon will faithfully participate with police investigations within this week. He will permanently leave the team and retire from the entertainment industry.”
The other K-pop idol tangled up in the mess is Highlight’s Yong Jun-hyung. He has recently announced his departure from Highlight for being “a silent bystander, knowing fully well what was happening in the group chat,” according to E! News. CNBlue’s Lee Jong-hyun was not in the main chatroom, but was involved a different one, and has admitted to seeing Jung Joon-young’s videos. His company, FNC Entertainment, has confirmed his involvement in the chat as well as his hiatus. But fans are demanding more than a hiatus, wanting him to leave his group and the industry all together.
It’s being alleged that Yuri Holdings CEO Yoo In-suk (husband to actress Park Han-byul) has been protecting the men in the chat when they run into trouble with the law, including covering up Lee’s DUI back in 2016. It has recently come out that the two have close ties to a high-ranking police officer who helped them.
AllKpop reports, “Yoo In Suk is alleged to have given out multiple instructions to “prepare women” for a Christmas party in 2015, stating, “We’re the ones who’ll re-create ‘The Great Gatsby’ movie. Let’s call all the girls we know that day. To the point there aren’t any girls left in the clubs.””
He has since resigned from his company.
The group chat in question, full of disgusting and degrading statements about sexually assaulting women as far back as late 2015, has been the center of the scandal as more and more layers are pulled back–which is what started the investigation in the first place. Police say there are more group chats as well, with more people involved, but this one is the worst.
Seungri, Jung Joon-young, Lee Jong-hyun, and Yoo In-suk are confirmed to be members of the chat. Other members include former Burning Sun club employee Mr. Kim, a former employee of YG Entertainment, a relative of a girl group member, and a friend of Jung Joon-young’s.
Before the group chat though, was an investigation into a nightclub affiliated with Seungri, called Burning Sun.
Last month, an investigation into the Burning Sun nightclub and it’s CEO Lee Moon Ho had began. The staff was allegedly drugging women then sending photos of them to VIP members in return for “big tips” saying that they were “ready,” so the VIPs could sexually assault them. Police are also being accused of protecting the club after receiving bribes in this case as well.
Many women have been coming forward in the recent months claiming that they have been victims of this. Now the club and its CEO are facing claims related to bribery, harassment, prostitution, drug trafficking, and drug use.
This case is much bigger than the group chat though. It is being alleged that the police are involved in covering up many aspects of this case, revealing that the corruption is running much deeper than people think. And South Korea is no stranger to corruption. The country’s previous president, Park Geun-hye, was impeached due to abuse of power and corruption back in 2017.
It is also a problem dealing with hidden cameras, prostitution, and sexual assault against women, mainly at the hands of powerful men in South Korea. The group chat proves the deep dehumanization of women and the misogyny built into Korean culture and in today’s world in general.
“This is a male problem, not a K-pop problem,” said one Twitter user.
Another tweeted, “Everyone that is saying “what’s going on with K-pop” is misspelling “why have men in power gotten away with abusing so many women for so long.”
“They revealed the idols but where’s the conglomerates/businessmen/police officers?” said another.
Joseph Kim, a journalist in Seoul, said on Twitter, “While everything coming out of the investigation is important, this revelation comes at a time when the hidden camera issue is endemic in S. Korea. The no. of hidden camera cases, usually against women, has sharply risen so there are workers who check public bathrooms for cameras. This has led to many women is S. Korea to feel unsafe. This is why Seoul saw its biggest women’s protest last year…”
Tens of thousands of women gathered last year to protest the lack of safe spaces for women and the growing amount of hidden cameras plaguing the country.
“The core of the issue seems to remain in the ongoing abuse of power, and the systems that permit it all,” said Joseph Kim.