Seungri's 'Burning Sun' scandal, Jang Jun-young's sex tapes, Jang Ja-yeon's suicide: South Korea's #MeToo movement takes off
The #MeToo movement kicked of with Seungri being accused of prostitution and actor Jang Jun-young being accused of secretly filming women and distributing videos in a chat group
The South Korean entertainment industry was in for a shock when Seungri of boy band Big Bang was accused of prostitution earlier in March. Days later, reports emerged accusing actor Jang Jun-young of secretly filming women and distributing videos in a chat group, forcing the actor to issue a public confession and an apology.
In the backdrop of both the scandals were Seungri's nightclub called 'Burning Sun' and the Kakao Talk chat group where discussions about prostitution, porn distribution, and drug distribution took place among eight core members. It was through the chat group that Seungri arranged for escorts to accompany potential foreign investors. These text messages were reportedly shared by a whistleblower with SBS (Korean news outlet) funE reporter Kang Kyung-yoon who broke the story. The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency investigated the messages in late February and filed charges against Seungri and Jun-young on March 10.
Dating back a few years, the text messages featured conversations about providing women to potential clients and business interests of the singer. There chat room saw the distribution of footage of women who were secretly filmed while having sex and more.
Other than Seungri and Jun-young, Yong Junhyung also announced his departure from HIGHLIGHT as he had prior knowledge about what Jun-young was up to. FTISLAND’s Choi Jonghoon, who was reportedly part of the Kakao talk group, also retired and was later booked on charges of sharing illegal photos.
The Kakao group members were revealed to be Seungri, Jung Joon-young, Choi Jonghoon, Yoo In Suk, club employee Mr. Kim, a relative of a girl group member, a former YG employee and a friend of Jung, according to Soompi.
This kicked off a wider investigation into illegal activities that occur in the South Korean club scene and that was how Jang Jun-yoon was arrested.
The actor was accused of distributing pornography and was arrested on March 21 after his confession on March 13 that he "filmed women without their consent and shared it in a social media chatroom."
Simultaneously, Dispatch got access to a conversation that indicated that women guests in the club were being drugged. A translated conversation was shared on Reddit and it also indicated the Seungri had prior knowledge that the women were being recorded.
The whistleblower's lawyer had appeared on a chat show and confirmed that the leaked messages also hinted at police corruption, in fact, actor Jun-young was accused of secretly filming women 2016, but the charges were dropped due to incomplete evidence.
This was reportedly due to Jun-young's connection to one Superintendent 'Yoon' who was bribed. SBS' news show '8 O'clock News' reported that an officer had allegedly requested the forensics team in 2016 to state that they couldn't restore Jun-young's phone, which was a key piece of evidence in the case. It was also reported that the chats between the stars revealed that Choi Jonghoon tried to bribe a police officer to cover up a DUI incident in 2016, which he later admitted to.
South Korean president Moon Jae-in ordered a clean probe into cases surrounding the Burning Sun scandal, in addition to the reinvestigation of Boys Over Flowers actress Jang Jayeon's suicide in 2009, according to Korea Times.
While the actress' suicide is not connected to the ongoing scandal, the rising conversation around #Metoo movement in the country resulted in a Blue House petition that sought to extend the investigation getting 687,767 signatures. The actress had left a seven-page note and named 30 men in positions of power that she was forced to serve. At the time of her death, one of the reasons attributed to her decision was her agent, Kim Sung-hoon, according to a report in The Guardian. He reportedly abused her physically and forced her to have sex with VIP clients including CEOs of production houses.
The police carried out a widespread investigation regarding drug-related crimes in clubs, especially the distribution of drugs used to rape women. According to Soompi, a source from Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said, "After the Burning Sun incident, we have booked 40 individuals [for drug-related charges]. Among them, we booked 14 Burning Sun employees and jailed three club MDs [merchandisers, also known as promoters]. There are 17 suspects involved in other clubs." Nine of these individuals were reportedly involved in distributing date-rape drug Gamma-Hydroxybutyrate (GHB).
On March 20, Korea’s National Tax Service also launched an investigation into Seungri's ex-talent management agency — YG Entertainment. As of March 21, Joon-young is accused of destruction of evidence for resetting one of his three phones, among other charges. He had admitted to all charges and will serve jail time of seven years and six months. Choi Jonghoon was booked for bribing an officer in 2016.
On March 23, Seungri had given an interview to Chosun Ilbo about the charges he faced and, according to a fan translation on Reddit, he said, "I agreed to the interview because I felt that I could extinguish the fire of the current situation by telling exactly what I knew."
He was asked about calling the text messages fabricated while they were not, and Seungri said, "It was from 2015. Can you remember what Kakao messages you sent three years ago? I really didn’t remember it. I couldn’t believe it. I said things like that? There were no time stamps on each of the messages, and no other content before or after either. I really thought there was a possibility of it being fabricated."