Korean singer and actor Seung-ri, known by his stage name V.I. in Japan, was charged recently with providing prostitutes in a sex ring late last week. Despite denying these charges, the 28-year-old announced his retirement from Kpop in order to protect Big Bang and his company YG Entertainment.
The charges, which could lead to a three year prison sentence, came after a police raid of a nightclub in Seoul, one that Seung-ri, who’s real name is Lee Seung-hyun, controls. As a result, YG shares collapsed by a whopping 14 % the next morning.
The police raid, and the new charge, comes after a nightclub assault committed by him in January. Police began investigating into allegations such as supplying drugs to patrons, and giving drug-addled drinks to women to have sex with. The allegations don’t just extend back a few weeks, however. Text messages in 2015 between Seung-ri and three others discussed supplying prostitutes to potential investors to encourage them to invest in his club.
Although Seung-ri made claims that the text messages were fabricated by the journalist that exposed them, but that didn’t stop concerts in Osaka, Japan, and Jakarta, Indonesia from getting cancelled for Big Bang.
Korean Media has also exposed that YG has been throwing out shredded information, although the company denies that none of the information is related to the case.
The allegations at the moment come at a time when Seung-ri was both set to star in a sitcom produced by both YG and Netflix, and was a few weeks from going on leave to perform his mandatory military service. This leave will be postponed while the investigation goes on.
Despite the seriousness of these allegations, some staunch fans still avidly support Seung-ri, actively denying the allegations and getting aggressive towards the investigation, insisting that any and all victims were simply lying. Such fanaticism is both interesting and harmful, as it would make any victims feel unsafe speaking out, and would put Seung-ri on a pedestal. Perhaps the defensiveness comes from Big Bang’s legacy, which is both widespread among old-age Kpop fans and extremely positive, as members are known for being very kind. The allegations starkly contrast the reputation of the band, and threaten the legacy of it as well. Such threats trigger fans to get defensive, even if these allegations prove to be true (which at this rate, most likely are).
Now, it’s important to note, while Seung-ri may be the face of this scandal, he is merely alleged to be part of a high-scale and very large ring that involves both politicians and conglomerates in a class-A scandal that seems to deeply involved with nightclubs in Gangnam. Even as the police investigate into the ring, they are also enmeshed in the scandal, with some high-ranking positioned officials having been paid off to not look into the politicians and conglomerates. This relationship is not a one-time occurrence, either. It seems to be entrenched in South Korean politics, which has somewhat of a record for corrupt and closed-door practices, particularly in dealing with business. So, it’ll be interesting to see how the case develops, especially with the police being in a position as both the justice-bringers and as part of the corruption.