Clean-cut K-pop star quits music over secret sex tapes
Actively promoted by the South Korean government, K-pop is both a major export and a global phenomenon. To many in the west, it is a humorously overproduced and squeaky clean form of music - which harks back to the boy bands and girl bands of the 90s. But an explosive scandal has tarnished its image.
In stark contrast to K-pop, voyeurism is something which the South Korean government definitely doesn't promote. However, it is a huge problem in the East Asian country - with changing room and "upskirting" videos recorded by concealed cameras and shared online.
Now K-pop star Jung Joon-young finds himself at the centre of a voyeurism scandal, having secretly recorded a number of different women. The videos were then shared in a chat room with other artists.
Jung, 30, came second in one of South Korea's top talent shows. A household name, his involvement in the scandal came as a shock. He released the following statement on Tuesday.
"I write to you in shame and guilt.
"I, Jung Joon Young, once again realised the seriousness of this situation after returning to Korea on March 12. Although it’s already late, I apologise through this letter to all the people who showed an interest in me and gave me a second chance.
"In regards to what is being said in relation to me, I admit to all my crimes. I filmed women without their consent and shared it in a social media chatroom, and while I did so I didn’t feel a great sense of guilt.
"As a public figure, it was an unethical act worthy of criticism, and such a thoughtless action.
"More than anything, I kneel and apologise to the women who appear in the videos who have learned of this hideous truth as the incident has come to light, and to the many people who must be angry at the situation over which they cannot contain their disappointment and astonishment.
"I am withdrawing from all the programs that I was appearing on, and I will suspend all activities in the entertainment industry. I will now set down all my activities as a public figure that are not self-reflection, and I will reflect for the rest of my life on my immoral and illegal actions related to the crimes.
"More than anyone else, I apologise to the women who have experienced great suffering due to my actions, to the many people who must feel anger even more so than disappointment, and to the many people who made me into a public figure and cherished me.
"I will sincerely take part without any falsehoods in the investigations that will begin on the morning of March 14, and I will accept punishment for my actions.
"I once again deeply apologise. I am sorry.
"Tuesday, March 12, 2019
"Jung Joon Young"
That Jung so suddenly quit music came as a shock to fans, who were already dismayed to hear of the scandal. Jung is cooperating with authorities and is being questioned by Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency this week.
"This case just shows that male K-pop stars are no exception when it comes to being part of this very disturbing reality that exploits women," women's rights activist Bae Bok-ju told AFP.
The videos in question were shared in a chatroom with two other artists. According to local broadcaster SBS, at least 10 women were depicted in videos shared by Jung. The content he recorded is thought to depict consensual sexual encounters.
However, his fall from grace comes after one of the other two artists in the chatroom was implicated in a "sex for investments" scandal. K-pop star Seungri, real name Lee Seung-hyun, was a member of the boy band Big Bang. The 28-year-old announced via Instagram on Monday that he's retiring from music in the wake of the scandal. He denies procuring sex workers.
Recording people without their consent - known as "molka" - is a widespread social problem in South Korea and has been linked to suicide. The government recently produced a PSA video with scenes resembling those from voyeuristic videos, before the living corpse of the girl featured then appears to the viewer in a public place.
The video represents an unusual response to an unusual problem. It was then uploaded to file-sharing sites under the guise of being a "regular" voyeurism video in the hope that it would reach those who download, watch and share this type of content.
A common form of South Korean voyeurism is "upskirting" whereby a camera is placed behind or underneath an unsuspecting victim, sometimes using a selfie stick. In many countries, even though recording in a public space may be deemed legal, upskirting is an offence. Meanwhile, some establishments check for spy cameras in their changing rooms every day.
K-pop star Seungri stands accused of pimping out girls to potential investors in the upmarket Gangnam district of Seoul. The scandal is thought to have been leaked by an anonymous source who was a VIP member of Burning Sun nightclub. The club closed earlier this month but played host to some of the meetings.
"They talk like they are talking about food or something," the source said, according to the Korea Times. "Staff there say they also have sex with women after drugging them so they fall unconscious." Seungri stated online: "As I've been branded as a 'national traitor', I cannot stand the fact that I'm harming others for my own sake."
"'I give my heartfelt, sincere thanks to fans at home and abroad who gave their love for the past 10 years and I think this should be it for me for the reputation of YG Entertainment and Big Bang," he explained.
An Instagram post by Seungri in relation to the scandal has one million comments. "I have faced heavy criticism from the public for the last month and a half and I'm being probed by all investigative authorities in the country," he told his nine million followers in his retirement announcement. Seungri is expected to enter South Korea's mandatory military service on 25 March, ABS-CBN reported.
Big Bang already had something of a tarnished image, compared to other K-pop bands. In 2017, after being hospitalised for a drug overdose, rapper T.O.P received a suspended jail sentence for repeatedly smoking cannabis. In 2011, frontman G-Dragon was also investigated for smoking cannabis. However, the damage caused by Seungri is, in his own words, "unrecoverable".
The infamous chat room in which both Jung and Seungri shared the clips is now being discussed all over South Korea. However, only time will tell if this scandal will lead to genuine social change in a country which needs it so badly.