Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth
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Sex. Celebrity. Politics. With Teeth

What the Hell Is Happening With the Ongoing K-Pop Drug and Sex Crimes Investigation?

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Yang Hyun-suk, Founder/Head of YG Entertainment
Yang Hyun-suk, Founder/Head of YG Entertainment
Image: AP

On March 13, I wrote about the details of sex crimes investigation that shook the K-Pop industry, a music entertainment engine often viewed publicly as virtuous and clean-cut. Seungri, member of mega-popular boy band BIGBANG (consider them BTS four years ago), was booked for supplying investors at the Seoul nightclub where he worked as a public relations director, Burning Sun, with “drug-addled” women to have sex with for money. As a result, he quit the industry, but the investigation into Burning Sun continued. During the probe, Korean singer-songwriter and TV celebrity Jung Joon Young admitted to filming women in sexual situations without their consent (which is prevalent enough in South Korea that there’s a specific word for it: molka). In the months since, the controversy has only continued to implode—which brings us to the latest news: Yang Hyun-suk, founder and head of YG Entertainment—one of the big three entertainment companies in South Korea, known for representing Psy, BIGBANG, BLACKPINK and 2NE1—has resigned from his position, Variety reports.

Because there are so many moving parts—and accusations and arrests spanning a range of drug and sex crimes—the best way to grasp what’s going on is by an abridged timeline. There are nearly 40 performers and industry professionals being questioned and accused, that we know of, so here are few bullet points to better acquaint yourself:

March 2019:

  • Seungri is accused of supplying “drug-addled” women to his nightclub clients. He quits the industry the next day, writing on Instagram, “At this point, I think it would be best if I retire from the entertainment industry. I decided on retiring from the entertainment industry as the issues that I caused a societal disturbance with are too major. Regarding the issues that are being investigated, I will be investigated diligently and reveal all the suspicions.” His compulsory military service, standard for adult men in South Korea, is postponed as a result. On March 28, he is booked for “distributing secretly obtained obscene photography with a group chat” in addition to his existing prostitution charges, Billboard reports. He admits to spreading images but not taking them himself.
  • Jung Joon Young admits to filming women in sexual situations without their consent. He also retires from the industry. On March 13, both his and Seungri’s contracts are terminated. Both are questioned by Seoul police. On March 21, Young is arrested. According to Billboard, he is charged with “destruction of evidence for resetting one of his three phones, among other charges.”
  • HIGHLIGHT (formerly BEAST) rapper Yong Junhyung admits to accepting molka from Young. He retires.
  • South Korean President Moon Jae-in, recognizing the scope of the scandal, orders a thorough investigation into Burning Sun.

April 2019:

  • The Korean Herald reports that Seoul police has witnesses saying that Seungri arranged prostitution services for the club’s patrons, and that he is still under probe over allegations of sexual violence and illegal drug use at Burning Sun. Police also reveal they’ve booked “a senior police officer, identified only by his last name Yoon, on the charge of violating the anti-graft law, as he received tickets to K-pop concerts from Seungri.”
  • Seungri is also booked for embezzlement, adding to an ever-increasing roster of charges.
  • Singer Roy Kim, allegedly a member of the aforementioned group chat, is charged with distributing molka. Kim, who was currently studying at Georgetown in D.C., returns to South Korea for questioning. Students at his school launch a petition to get him suspended.
  • A woman alleges FTISLAND’s Choi Jonghoon (who was also part of the group chat) drugged her with GHB and raped her in March 2012 in the United States. His lawyer denies the claims, and calls them “blackmail.”
  • Another woman alleges Choi Jonghoon and Jung Joon-young raped her, along with three other men, in a hotel room in 2016.
  • Seventeen women are booked for prostitution related to Seungri’s allegations—police suspect they were hired by the BIGBANG singer to perform sexual services for “a foreign investor at Club Arena in 2015, for Japanese investors at a Christmas party in 2015, and at his birthday party in Palawan in 2017,” Soompi, an English-language K-Pop news source, reports.

May 2019:

  • According to Yonhap, a Korean news agency, Choi Jonghoon was arrested over allegations that he participated in the gang rape of a woman in 2016 along with four other men. He denies the allegations.
  • Jung Joon-Young pleads guilty to all 11 charges of filming women without their consent and distributing molka against him, E! reports. He hopes to settle with the victims—and if he does, won’t face any jail time.
  • Joon-Young is still under investigation for the 2016 gang rape. He denies the accusation.
  • Yang Hyun-suk, founder and head of YG Entertainment, is accused of being involved with sexual bribery for foreign investors, Forbes reports. YG calls the reports “groundless,” according to the Korea Herald.

June 2019:

  • Yang Hyun-suk resigns from his position after being accused of using his police connections to cover up his performers’ drug scandals. He wrote in an official statement (via Korea Joongang Daily), “I am sincerely sorry to all the fans who love YG and the agency’s celebrities. I have dedicated 23 years, half of my life, into building YG. It was my greatest pleasure in supporting the best music and the best artists, and I considered it as my only bidding towards society and the fans. But today, I let go of every position and role I have at YG.”
  • According to Billboard, when YG artist B.I (born Kim Han-bin) from the group iKON attempted to purchase LSD in 2016, Yang Hyun-suk allegedly stopped the police investigation. After resigning earlier this month, his brother Yang Min-suk took over YG as CEO for less than two weeks before also resigning. He was replaced by Hwang Bo-kyung on Thursday, June 27. According to Variety, YG’s share price is down 30 percent this year amid the controversy.
  • Also on the 27th: according to Yonhap, both Choi Jonghoon and Jung Joon-Young denied rape charges during their first court hearing Thursday. Jung’s lawyer said: “Jung admitted to having sex with a woman at a party in 2016 but the sexual act was done by mutual agreement. The act was not premeditated and the victim was not disabled at that time.” Choi’s attorney added, “Even if other defendants had sex with a female participant (in the 2016 party), it was unlikely that the sex was had against her will.”
  • Variety reports that “Gangnam Style” singer Psy, who is signed to YG, has been “summoned as a reference witness” for Yang’s prostitution allegations. He denies having any knowledge of illicit behavior.

As the breadth of these accusations reach deeper into the K-Pop industry, they serve to highlight systemic issues within it: clearly police corruption is no longer enough to obscure what seems to be an ever-widening abusive underbelly.