This past week, news emerged that Big Bang member Seungri is being investigated by the police over his involvement in providing prostitutes for businessmen in a Seoul nightclub.
The initial investigation has now broken open the floodgates to a much bigger sex scandal involving major players in the K-Pop industry, with potential of more people being named.
The scandal, was initially referred to as the “Burning Sun Scandal,” the name of the nightclub owned by Seungri and Yoo In Suk, CEO of Yuri Holdings. Back in January, MBC’s News Desk revealed CCTV footage from the club showing the assault of a man by security.
A subsequent investigation into the club shut it down and revealed accusations of Seungri soliciting prostitutes.
As the investigation progressed, the existence of a Kakao Talk chatroom was revealed. In the chat room, Seungri and seven other members shared videos of sexual encounters with women without the women’s consent. The conversations that took place in the chat have raised speculation that some of the women may have been drugged.
According to Soompi, the other members of the chat room have been identified as Yoo In Suk, singer and TV personality Jung Joon Young, FTISLAND member Choi Jong Hoon, a man known as Mr. Kim, a girl group’s relative, a former YG Entertainment employee, and a friend of Jung Joon Young.
Two male idols have also been named in the scandal, although they were not part of this specific group chat. Yong Junhyung of Highlight and Lee Jong Hyun of CNBLUE engaged in one-on-one Kakao Talk conversations with Jung Joon Young. Since the scandal broke, Yong Jun Hyung has left Highlight, and CNBLUE fans have called for Lee Jonghyun’s removal. Yoo In Suk has resigned from his CEO position and Seungri’s contract with YG Entertainment has been terminated.
South Korean laws regarding sex crimes and unlawful recording carry a sentence of five years or less in prison or 30 million won (approx. $26,500) in fines.
The K-Pop industry is in the middle of its own #MeToo moment. This scandal reaches all levels, from artists to executives, and to average citizens. Reports are speculating that the women in the videos had been promised jobs in the entertainment industry if they had sex with the men in question. It is an abuse of power unfortunately not uncommon in the entertainment industry.
The K-Pop industry is no stranger to controversy. Entertainment companies are notorious for working idols like slaves and controlling practically every aspect of their lives. Idols, or trainees who wish to debut as idols, have to give up everything to have their voice heard. Despite this, K-Pop is more popular than it has ever been, with artists like BTS topping the mainstream charts in the U.S. That begs the question: What will happen to these idols?
After the news broke, Yong Junhyung of Highlight left the group and retired from the entertainment industry altogether. Seungri and Lee Jong Hyun of CNBLUE had fans of their respective groups demanding that their labels drop them. Seungri was dropped by YG Entertainment, but Lee Jong Hyun’s future is unknown at this point. K-Pop fans are dedicated and many are taking this personally. Many are also doing everything in their power to show that they do not condone this behavior.
The Western music industry is facing a similar dilemma with R. Kelly and Michael Jackson. Despite the horrendous acts of which both men were accused, their sales numbers jumped after the release of the telling documentaries highlighting their abuse of minors. Jackson fans are fervently defending him from those who believe the pedophilia accusations. Fans are so invested that the person they adore seemingly becomes more than human. Therefore, they can do no wrong.
This scandal will most likely reach far in the K-Pop industry. Despite this, some fans’ dedication is so ingrained that they will continue to support these men, regardless of what they’ve done. Today’s fan culture is more personal than ever before. Idols cater to the fans in everything that they do, and that leads fans to entirely devote themselves to that idol. Often this means they sweep the questionable things an idol does or says under the rug.
“Burning Sun,” while damaging to the industry, won’t stop the problem at hand. We fear that, like the #MeToo movement, this issue will be pushed aside, warped, or practically forgotten in a few months to a year. One can hope that this serves as an example and will create zero tolerance for people like this in the industry. The K-Pop industry is on the global stage now, and only time will tell if it will do the right thing.
Featured Image: Instagram (@seungriseyo)