Former K-pop idol Seungri has been indicted on charges including prostitution and habitual gambling, about a year since allegations first came to light in a sexual abuse scandal that has rocked South Korea’s entertainment industry.
The former Big Bang singer was indicted without detention for allegedly organizing prostitutes, habitual gambling, and illegal foreign currency trade, a PR official from the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ office confirmed to CNN Thursday. CNN has reached out to Seungri’s lawyer for comment.
The 29-year-old – whose real name is Lee Seung-hyun – was one of K-pop’s biggest stars before he dramatically quit the entertainment industry in March last year after it emerged that he was under investigation.
“I just cannot bear causing any further damage to people around me, while being hated and criticized by the public and being treated as a nation’s enemy during the investigation,” he wrote in an Instagram post at the time.
Seungri’s indictment is the latest development in the so-called “Burning Sun scandal” over a nightclub in Seoul’s glitzy Gangnam neighborhood. Seungri sat on the board of the club, and oversaw its publicity.
According to the Seoul Metropolitan Police, Burning Sun was the site of bribery, violence against customers, securing prostitutes for VIPs, rape, drug trafficking and drug use. Numerous women have come forward with claims of being assaulted or drugged at the club.
Burning Sun scandal
Since the allegations, Burning Sun has closed – and a handful of stars have been affected by the scandal.
During the course of the investigation, police discovered an online group chat that shared sexually explicit videos of women filmed without their knowledge and consent. In March 2019, police named several high-profile K-pop stars as members of the group.
In November last year, two members of the chat group – singer-songwriter Jung Joon-young and musician Choi Jong-hoon – were convicted of conspiring in the sexual assault of a woman who was incapable of resisting, according to the Seoul Central District Court. Jung was also found guilty of filming women against their will and sharing the sexually explicit material to members of an online group chat. Jung was sentenced to six years in jail, while Choi was sentenced to five years.
People outside the entertainment industry have also been brought down by the Burning Sun scandal.
A former police officer was sentenced to one year in jail in August for accepting 20 million won ($17,300) to stop investigating allegations of a minor entering the club, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
According to Yonhap, Burning Sun’s operator, Lee Mun-ho, was sentenced to one year in prison in November for illegal substance use, while another employee – surnamed Cho – was sentenced in December to four years and six months in prison for illegal substance possession and drug trafficking.
The scandal has prompted questions over how stars in South Korea’s multibillion-dollar entertainment industry treat women – and whether the industry is as squeaky-clean as the image it projects.
K-pop labels often restrict who stars can publicly date, what they wear, and how they behave in public. Celebrities caught with even small amounts of marijuana can find themselves suspended by labels or forced to make public apologies.
But the scandal also resonates with broader issues of illicit recordings, sexual harassment and voyeurism in South Korean society.
In March last year, South Korean police announced that about 1,600 people had been secretly filmed in motel rooms – and that footage had been live-streamed online to paying customers.
In 2018, tens of thousands of women took to the streets of Seoul and other cities to protest against the practice and demand action, under the slogan “My Life is Not Your Porn.”
CNN’s Jake Kwon contributed to this report.