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Sex, money and drugs: The controversy that ended Seungri’s career explained

Yim Hyun-su

The Korea Herald/Asia News Network

 /  Thu, March 14, 2019  /  02:31 pm
Sex, money and drugs: The controversy that ended Seungri’s career explained

This picture taken on February 27, 2019 shows Seungri, a member of popular K-pop boy group Big Bang, arriving for questioning over criminal allegations at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency in Seoul. (Yonhap/AFP/File)

Seungri has decided to retire while on top of his game, after becoming mired in a slew of serious accusations that include soliciting prostitution and watching spycam porn.

A Big Bang fan community on the DC Inside internet forum began a petition to expel the singer from the group, saying he had damaged its reputation beyond repair in a statement. Not long later, he announced his sudden retirement in a lengthy Instagram post Monday where he acknowledged that the nuisance he had caused was “too big” to ignore. 

“I thank my fans at home and abroad for the love over the last some ten years from the bottom of my heart, but for the sake of YG and Big Bang’s reputation, I think this is where I’ll have to draw the line,” Seungri wrote in a statement.

He is expected to enter the Army later this month for his compulsory service, but investigations will continue regardless, according to police, as they have banned him from leaving the country in a further sign of the seriousness of the case.

The singer has since been met with an onslaught of public scorn and online mockery, including unearthed clips of him on TV in the past that have taken new light in retrospect.

A story ‘straight out of a film’: Timeline of the events

The scandal has been described as “something straight out of a film” on Twitter, given the dramatic turn of events.

Read also: Police to question Big Bang’s Seungri, singer Jung Joon-young in mounting sex video scandal

Jan. 28: Video that started everything

It all began with a short video clip on Instagram uploaded by Kim Sang-kyo, a 28-year-old South Korean man. The footage alleged violence that went on in November 2018 at the club Burning Sun, where Seungri sat on the board of directors. 

Kim alleged that police treated him unfairly. He went public with his story and drew media attention, prompting investigations into the venue over drug use and sexual assault. 

Feb. 26: KakaoTalk messages show Seungri in sex bribery

While the Burning Sun club scandal was in full swing, KakaoTalk messages obtained by local broadcaster SBS funE showed the singer apparently procuring prostitution for VIP clients. 

Speaking to other members of a group chat, he said to prepare ones that ‘put out easily,’ while another member explicitly used the word “prostitute.” 

Feb. 26: YG denies sex bribery allegations

YG entertainment swiftly denied the report in a statement on the same day in which they claimed the KakaoTalk messages were fabricated, citing Seungri himself. 

The agency also threatened to “take strong legal action” against “fake news and rumors,” siding with the singer. Only two weeks later, the label would say it was “deeply sorry” for failing to properly manage its artist.

March 11: Seungri retirement announcement

The singer took to Instagram to announce he would retire from the entertainment industry. Two days later, YG Entertainment officially cut ties with him at his request.

In a lengthy post, the singer said he had become “the enemy of the people” over the last month and a half and wanted to stop hurting others around him by retiring. Though he apologized and promised to cooperate with investigations, he did not confess to any charges. 

YG faced criticism over its dramatic change in position on the scandal surrounding Seungri. Many commenters in online communities accused the label of abusing the law to restrict expression. 

March 13: National police chief vows to investigate corruption allegations

In an emergency press conference Wednesday, National Police Agency Chief Min Gap-ryong said police had discovered messages from a group chat room from 2015 that seemed to claim the chief of police was “looking after” the members of the room, and “not to worry.” Seungri was among those in the group chat.

Min said police would investigate the corruption allegations at all costs. 

Read also: Clean-cut K-pop embroiled in South Korean sex scandal

March 14: Seungri questioned as suspect on sex bribery 

Seungri arrived at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on Thursday afternoon to be questioned over allegations of sex bribery as well as his connection to scandals surrounding the Burning Sun club and possible police corruption.

“I deeply apologize to the public and everyone around me who was hurt by me,” Seungri said with a solemn look to press before he entered the building. 

Earlier in the day, singer and actor Jung Joon-young arrived to be questioned over charges of illegally filming sex videos without consent and sharing them in a group chat that Seungri was also part of.

Yong Jun-hyung of boy band Highlight also announced he was leaving the group on the same day after admitting he had viewed some of Jung’s sex video clips.

What charges could Seungri face?

Seungri is being investigated over charges of procuring prostitution after messages in 2015 allegedly showed him arranging sex for clients came to light.

Lawyer Lee Sue-yeun, a communication director at the Korean Women Lawyers Association, says people who are caught arranging prostitution can face up to three years in jail or a fine of up to 30 million won ($26,400) in Korea.

When it comes to another allegation that Seungri allegedly watched revenge porn shared by Jung in a group chat, she says it is “unlikely” he would face punishment.

“It’s difficult to prosecute someone for merely watching (spycam porn), unless the person made plans beforehand or encouraged uploading the videos, which could make them an accomplice, which seems unlikely (in this case).”

What happens to Big Bang now?

Big Bang is still a four-piece band after YG Entertainment announced it had accepted Seungri’s request and terminated his contract Wednesday. 

All the other bandmates are currently serving in the military, with T.O.P set to be discharged first in June while G-Dragon, Daesung and Taeyang are to complete their military service later this year. YG has yet to comment on the future of the group.

The other bandmates are not all strangers from the law. T.O.P was given a 10-month prison sentence suspended for two years for multiple uses of marijuana in 2017. 

This article appeared on The Korea Herald newspaper website, which is a member of Asia News Network and a media partner of The Jakarta Post