Former K-pop star Seungri has been indicted on charges including prostitution and habitual gambling. The former Big Bang member was charged last week, after the allegations first came to light in a sexual abuse scandal that has plagued South Korea’s controversial music scene. However, he may now join the country’s army and face trial in a military court.
The Military Manpower Administration announced on 4 February 2020 that Seungri was asked to report for 21 months of mandatory military service by late February or early March – a requirement for all able-bodied men in South Korea. It said in a statement that it was concerned a protracted trial in civilian courts would hamper its efforts to equally apply the military obligation on the former K-pop star.
Seungri’s indictment is the latest development in the infamous Burning Sun scandal. The nightclub in Seoul’s glitzy Gangnam neighborhood was at the centre of bribery, violence against customers, securing prostitutes for VIPs, rape, drug trafficking and drug use, with the former star previously acting as its board member.
The Burning Sun scandal and K-pop’s toxic masculinity problem
Since the allegations, Burning Sun has closed. The case has also brought a handful of stars under intense scrutiny, exposing the industry’s massive double standards towards its male and female stars.
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, several high-profile K-pop stars were named as members of the group.
Singer-songwriter and actor Jung Joon-young as well as Choi Jong-hoon, a former member of South Korean boy band FT Island, were sentenced to six and five years in prison for raping drunk, unconscious women.
The double standards on K-pop’s male and female stars also led to the deaths of Sulli and Goo Hara in 2019. The two singers were widely believed to be victims of cyberbullying in South Korea, with netizens criticising their romantic relationships.
Sulli set foot into the industry when she was 15, with f(x), However, the singer reportedly took a year off in 2014 as she was suffering from the rumours about her private life. Goo Hara’s K-pop career followed a similar trajectory, as she ventured into the industry when she was 17.
But things took a turn for the worse when her private life was exposed online. Her relationship with hairdresser Choi Jong-bum made headlines, with her claims that he was abusive towards her and that he filmed their intimate moments without her knowledge – drawing nasty comments from netizens against the K-pop star.
So does Seungri’s prostitution charge as well as Jung Joon-young and Choi Jong-hoon’s arrest change the landscape of the K-pop industry? While it shows there’s no escape from the law, there’s still massive work needed to reshape the narrative of South Korea’s much-maligned entertainment scene.
Source: South China Morning Post, CNN