Although the world of the Korean pop industry are regularly shaken by image scandals, the current one, which broke out at the beginning of this year and continues to this day, stands out noticeably against the general background. From a local incident, centered around one trendy club, one secret chat room, and several top-tier K-pop stars, it grew into a massive investigation. It affected not only show business figures, but also influential politicians and led to many charges - human trafficking, drug trafficking, sexual violence, police corruption and tax evasion. In addition, it once again highlighted the phenomenon known in South Korea as "milk": the demand for illegal voyeur filming in the country is so high that this unhealthy hobby has long been called a national epidemic.
The starting point for the current scandal was the incident at the "Burning Sun" club in Seoul's Gangnam-Gu district (the same one that artist PSY immortalized in his video "Gangnam Style"). In late January, a certain Mr. Kim (later identified as Kim Sang Kyu) told MBC that two months earlier, while at a club, he tried to protect a woman from sexual harassment, for which he was beaten by an employee of the establishment. In addition, he talked about the video from the internal surveillance camera, which shows a security guard dragging a visitor by the hair (the video was filmed a week after the incident with Kim) - some commentators suspected that she could be drunk and raped.
The plot grabbed attention as the PR director for "Burning Sun" was none other than Lee Seung Hyun, aka Seungni, a member of the hugely popular K-pop band BIGBANG, nicknamed the "Korean Gatsby" for his business acumen. Representatives of the club apologized for the incident and separately emphasized that Seungni was not at the club on the day of the incident with Kim. Commenting on another incident, they stated that the visitor caught in the video was drinking alcohol from under the floor in the VIP room, behaving "inappropriately", refused to leave the club at the request of the staff and attacked the guards, who had to use force in response. His statement was also released by Seungni, who said that he almost did not deal with the affairs of the club and was certainly not its manager.
However, less than a week later, the alleged correspondence between the employees of the "Burning Sun" appeared on the Web, in which they allegedly discuss VIP-guests having sex in the private rooms of the club (to conclude whether the sex was by mutual consent or it was about rape, by correspondence it is impossible, but it is worth noting that her tone is extremely misogynistic). Two days later, the club announced its closure.
A week later, the threads of the investigation led to a certain "Anna", a former employee of the "Burning Sun" who was involved in the distribution of drugs in the club. Anna was found in a joint photo with the same Sonny - in response, he said that he was just posing for a selfie with a fan. By this time, he still managed to save face and remain on the periphery of a scandal, to which he seemed to have nothing to do. However, the following news changed the situation radically.
On February 26, SBS funE released a private chat KakaoTalk (a free Korean messenger for mobile platforms) in which Seungni instructs an unknown Burning Sun employee to find women for sex work for potential investors. owned
20% stake in the club). Business partner Seungni Yoo Eun Suk and FT Island member Choi Jong Hoon also participated in the chat. All of them were involved in the investigation opened by the South Korean police - the first, but not the last.Even police officers were involved in the case, trying to sweep the obtained evidence under the rug and prevent the investigation from proceeding.
The Burning Sun scandal set off a chain reaction, provoking panic in Korean show business and, as a result, new criminal cases. So, at the end of February, journalists reported suspicious activity of industrial shredders outside the offices of YG Entertainment, the home of BIGBANG and one of the three largest players in the K-pop industry. Later it became known that the founder of YG and his brother, the owners of the Love Signal club, were suspected of tax evasion.
Meanwhile, Seungni, whom YG attempted to enlist in the army, became a suspect in a pimping case, and new characters were found in the chat archives, including stars of the South Korean scene, who confessed to various wrongdoing. Musician and host Jung Joon Young was accused of distributing sex videos filmed with hidden cameras (at least ten women were victims of the illegal filming, Jung fully admitted his guilt). Highlight's Young Jun Hyun revealed that although he was not a member of the chat, he received the videos Jung had filmed and knew they were filmed illegally (he announced his departure from the group and later decided to join the military). The aforementioned Choi Jong Hoon confessed to bribing a traffic police officer (his employers terminated his contract).
Videos, photographs and screenshots of correspondence taken over the years continued to surface, and the scandal escalated to such an extent that President Moon Jae In had to intervene. He initiated an internal check in law enforcement agencies, whose employees could be involved in sex and drug trafficking: "I want to emphasize that if we cannot deal with this problem, it means that we and society as a whole cannot do anything." The remark was timely, because by that time, former Minister of Justice Kim Hak Yi had fallen under suspicion of involvement in the Burning Sun case - he was already accused of corruption in 2013, but was then found not guilty.
The current scandal may not only thoroughly shake up the Korean show business and government departments, but also lead to tougher laws against the "milk". The industrial scale of the production of illegal voyeur videos has long been not a secret (between 2012 and 2017, the police made more than sixteen thousand arrests: 98 percent of the detainees were men, 84 percent of the victims were women), and current Korean laws provide for rather harsh penalties for their filming and distribution: fines of up to 10 million won (just over half a million rubles at the current exchange rate) and prison sentences of up to five years. However, critics believe that “molka” as a form of violence has not received enough attention to this day. Now they have a powerful argument.
PHOTOS: JEON HEON-KYUN / TASS