South Korean police yesterday questioned two K-pop stars as allegations of sex videos, prostitutes and secret chats about rape rocked South Korea’s music world and hit entertainment stocks.
The allegations against the boyish stars who epitomize an industry that has put South Korean pop culture on the global stage has triggered a blame game, with accusations the business has neglected morality in the lust for fame and fortune.
Singer Lee Seung-hyun, 28, better known by the stage name Seungri, is suspected of paying for prostitutes for foreign businessmen to drum up investment in his business.
He has denied any wrongdoing and said that he would cooperate with a police investigation when he arrived at Seoul’s Metropolitan Police Agency.
“I am sorry to the nation and everyone who has been hurt,” Lee told reporters.
He did not elaborate.
Lee, a member of the group BIGBANG and nicknamed South Korea’s “Great Gatsby” for his lavish lifestyle, is suspected of what is known as “sexual bribery,” police have said.
Lee on Monday said that he was leaving the entertainment industry to fight the accusations.
Another singer and TV celebrity, Jung Joon-young, is also in trouble.
Jung on Wednesday admitted to having shared videos he secretly took while having sex with women.
He earlier yesterday appeared at the same police station to help police with an investigation into suspicions he distributed the videos.
Jung’s agency, MAKEUS Entertainment, has terminated his contract and he has been barred from leaving the country while police question him.
Lawyers for Jung could not be reached for comment.
Lee and Jung were both members of online chat groups where secret sex videos were shared and men joked about drugging and raping women, Seoul Broadcasting System reported.
A third performer, Yong Jun-hyung, expressed remorse in a post on Instagram about watching a sex video shared by Jung and making inappropriate comments on it.
“I was stupid,” he said, while denying that he made or shared any illegal recordings.
Yong’s agency, Around US Entertainment, said that he would quit boy band Highlight “to prevent the group’s reputation from being damaged.”
K-pop had largely escaped scandals as South Korea’s #MeToo movement ensnared political, sports and other figures, but that is clearly changing.
Industry commentators have taken aim at business managers, notorious for demanding the strictest of training regimes and controlling every aspect of young stars’ lives.
The focus on finding the winning song and dance formula has come at the cost of the performers’ “moral education,” entertainment commentator Ha Jae-keun said, adding that many companies covered up problems until it was too late.
“If the agencies do not give sufficient care to their stars, including education and stress management, they will end up raising walking time bombs,” industry commentator Kim Sung-soo said.
A petition calling on South Korean President Moon Jae-in to crack down on predatory and corrupt practices the scandals have exposed has gathered more than 200,000 signatures.
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