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Prostitution and molka: Timeline of the K-pop sex scandal

*Molka is a South Korean term for a secret camera used to film sexual images and pornography.



Big Bang’s Seungri announces that he will be opening a new club in Gangnam called “Burning Sun.” He operates several other businesses like a private bar and a Japanese ramen chain.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on March 14, 2019, Seungri, a member of the K-pop boy group BIGBANG, arrives for questioning over criminal allegations at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency in Seoul. – Female K-pop stars and actors fearing stigmatisation have rushed to issue denials that they appear in sex videos secretly shot by male singers, illustrating women’s worries about victim-blaming in the face of South Korea’s enduring conservative social values. In three days no fewer than five male K-pop singers, including mega star Seungri, have been identified as recipients of illicit videos made by singer-songwriter Jung Joon-young of sexual acts with women, taken without their consent. (Photo by Jung Yeon-je / AFP) / TO GO WITH SKorea-gender-social-music, FOCUS by Claire LEE


January 28

MBC News Desk reports about an assault case in Burning Sun. Mr. Kim, the victim, first posted in an online community that he was assaulted by the director of the club, a certain Mr. Jang, and the club’s security personnel on Nov. 24, 2018.  It happened after he helped a woman being sexually harassed. When the police arrived, Mr. Kim was arrested as an assailant. News Desk reveals a CCTV footage showing several security guards beating up Mr. Kim.

January 29

Mr. Kim submits a petition to the Blue House of Korea to thoroughly investigate the assault case in Burning Sun.

January 30

KBS News reports a testimony from a former Burning Sun employee about the video going viral of the woman being sexually harassed on the night of the assault. The employee also hints of illegal drug use in the club’s VIP rooms.

February 1

YG Entertainment’s CEO Yang Hyun-suk denies that Seungri is still the executive director of Burning Sun. He said Seungri already resigned in order to comply with laws regarding military service as his military enlistment is approaching in March or April. Big Bang and Seungri are under YG Entertainment.

February 2

Seungri posts in his Instagram account that he was not in Burning Sun when the assault incident happened and that he does not condone violence. He also said he was only in-charge of the club’s promotion and not of operations.

February 4

Burning Sun CEO Lee Moon-ho posts in his Instagram apologizing for the Burning Sun incident and clears Seungri from responsibility. He also says the club will remove VIP rooms that are in question.

February 15

Police reports raiding Burning Sun.

February 16

During his solo concert in Seoul, Seungri addresses the Burning Sun scandal and apologizes to the fans.

February 17

Burning Sun shuts down as police investigate drug dealing in clubs in Gangnam.

February 20

Police reports they are investigating the executives of Burning Sun, including Seungri.

February 26

SBS funE reports of a whistleblower’s copy of chat messages exchanged by Seungri, Mr. Yoo of Yuri Holdings, and an employee in 2015 implying hiring sexual escort services for foreign investors of Club Arena, another prominent club in Gangnam. YG Entertainment and Yuri Holdings issue statements that the chat messages were fabricated.

February 27

SBS funE’s reporter, Kang Kyung-yoon, responds to accusations of fabricating the messages by saying she has more to lose if she fabricates evidence. Seungri voluntarily takes a drug test.

Dispatch reports about Seungri’s luxurious birthday party in Amanpulo, Philippines in 2017 where he hired women from hostess clubs in Korea to entertain VIP guests and potential investors. Two months after the party, Burning Sun opens.

February 28

Seungri’s drug tests prove negative in the first round but he cancels all schedules including concerts in Indonesia and Japan.

March 1

SBS funE reports that the whistleblower submitted the copy of chat messages to the Anti Corruption and Civil Rights Commission on February 22. The source says they submitted to the Commission because the messages suggest a deep connection with the police.

Burning Sun co-CEO Lee Sung-hyun admits to bribing a policeman with 20 million won while being investigated for possible entrance of a minor into the club.

March 3

YG Entertainment refutes claims that the company tried to destroy evidence related to Seungri.

March 6

Clubs owned by YG’s Yang Hyun-suk are suspected by tax evasion.

March 8

MBC News share Burning Sun internal documents showing Seungri invested 225 million won (approximately $198,600) in the club and listing him as a corporate promoter. He is also listed as one of four executive directors alongside Lee Sung-hyun, Lee Moon-ho, and an individual referred to as Kang. Burning Sun’s list of shareholders includes Yuri Holdings with 20 percent of shares, of which Seungri is co-CEO. The police and tax authorities are investigating the level of Seungri’s involvement in Burning Sun’s attempt for tax evasion.

March 9

Big Bang fans on DC Gallery petition for Seungri to be removed from the group and YG’s roster. The statement touched upon recent allegations, including holding a birthday party in the Philippines in 2017 that was also used to invite foreign celebrities and potential business investors, allegedly being involved in an effort to hire prostitution services for foreign investors, and his involvement with Burning Sun.

March 10

Seungri is booked and questioned by police on charges of violating South Korea’s Acts on Pimping and Prostitution and its Punishments. Police also raids Club Arena to gather evidence against Seungri. Arena is also investigated on suspicion of tax evasion. Three to four other people in the chat group are also booked.

Meanwhile, results on Seungri’s follicle drug test prove negative.  

March 11

Seungri announces in his Instagram that he will be retiring from the entertainment industry to protect the honor of YG and Big Bang. Police prohibit Seungri from leaving the country.

Seungri bows as he arrives for questioning over criminal allegations at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on March 14. AFP

SBS funE reports of a chatroom where hidden camera footage and photos are shared between Seungri, two male singers with surnames Jung and Choi, CEO Yoo Insuk of Yuri Holdings, two regular citizens, and a Mr. Kim- an acquaintance of Seungri’s who helped him run his restaurant business and also worked at Club Arena.

SBS 8 O’Clock News reports of the different chatrooms of singer and variety star Jung Joon Young where he uploads illegal hidden camera footage to the chat several times, some showing himself engaging in sexual intercourse with women filmed without consent and some were even drugged. At least 10 victims are confirmed. Among the chatrooms include one with a singer with surname Yong and one with surname Lee, according to SBS.

Around Us Entertainment states that Highlight’s Yong Jun-hyung is not the person part of the chatroom.

March 12

Jung Joon-young’s agency responds that he is returning to South Korea cooperate with police investigations. He is removed from all his variety shows including “2 Days & 1 Night,” “Salty Tour” and “4-Wheeled Restaurant.” He is immediately booked by the police upon arrival in South Korea and prohibited him from leaving the country.

READ: Variety show “2 Days & 1 Night” drop Jung Joon-yong as cast member

The company of FT Island’s Choi Jong-hoon and CNBlue’s Lee Jong-hyun refuse to answer allegations that they were the other singers who took part in the chatrooms with Jung Joon-Young and Seungri.

Kwon Hyuk-joon, the brother of SNSD’s Yuri and a close friend of Jung Joon-young, is also questioned on his involvement in the chatrooms.

This picture taken on March 12, 2019 shows K-pop star Jung Joon-young surrounded by reporters as he arrives at Incheon international airport. AFP
March 13

Lawyer Bang Jung-hyun appears on CBS Radio’s “Kim Hyun Jung’s News Show” and reveals he is the person who sent the KakaoTalk conversation data to the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission on behalf of an original whistleblower who chose to remain anonymous. Bang says the chat messages amounted to tens of thousands of messages that were shared across eight months between 2015 and 2016. It was revealed the chat messages were accessed when Jung Joon Young brought his phone to be repaired.

Make Us Entertainment terminate their contract with Jung Joon Young and YG Entertainment confirms that it has terminated Seungri’s contract with the agency. Jung Joon Young admits to hidden camera crimes in apology letter.

SBS funE report on messages from July 2016, where Seungri opened a club named Monkey Museum in Gangnam. The alleged messages suggest police covered up issues with reported illegal structures in the building.

SBS 8 O’Clock News report in 2016, when Jung Joon Young first faced an illegal filming case, a police officer requested the digital forensics company to say that the data couldn’t be restored on Jung Joon-young’s phone, the key evidence in the case. The police closed the investigation before receiving the data.

YTN report that FT Island’s Choi Jong-hoon used his connections to police to cover up a drunk driving incident from February 2016. It is alleged that he shared information about the incident in the group chatroom that includes Jung Joon-young and Seungri. SBS 8 O’Clock News report on alleged text messages between Choi Jong-hoon, Jung Joon Young, Seungri and other non-celebrities, discussing payment being made to police to cover up Choi’s drunk driving accident. FNC Entertainment, the company of FT Island, issues a statement confirming Choi Jong-hoon was caught drunk driving but he denies any ties to police. Choi also halts all solo and band related activities while under investigation.

The former Korea Police Commissioner General, Kang Shin-myung, denies allegations that he is tied to the chatroom including the three idols. The current Commissioner General, Min Gap-ryong, holds a press conference acknowledging the possibility of high-ranked officers abusing their power in the past to protect celebrities. He says he will investigate further.

Netizens resurface the story of Lee Yong-jun, a detective working for the Gangnam police who died in 2010. Lee Yong-Jun was said to be investigating the nightlife and adult entertainment in Gangnam when he suddenly died. Reports said it was suicide but his father submitted a petition to re-open the case because of his questionable death.

Yoon Ji Oh, a witness on the death of actress Jang Ja-Yeon, holds a press conference at the same time. Jang Ja-yeon died by suicide in March 2009, leaving behind a final letter revealing that she had been forced to sexually entertain prominent figures in the business and media world. Three other women from Jang Ja Yeon’s company also committed suicide due to depression supposedly because of the mistreatment they experienced from men in authority. Jang Ja Yeon’s camp were pushing for a time extension for the statute of limitations of her case. Yoon Ji-oh just finished her witnessed interview on the sexual abuse but unfortunately, the case gets buried again.

March 14

Yong Jun-hyung announces leaving his group HIGHLIGHT in his Instagram. He reveals he was aware of Jung Joon Young’s hidden camera footage and had discussed it in one-on-one chat conversations but states that he was not part of any group chats.

Seungri, Jung Joon-young and CEO Yoo appears at the police station for the investigation. Jung Joon Young’s maximum sentence can be seven years and six months jail time.

K-pop star Jung Joon-young arrives for questioning at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency in Seoul on March 14, 2019. AFP

Commissioner General Min Gap-ryong announces plan to investigate corruption in the police force, as well as a nationwide investigation of clubs across South Korea, looking into drugs, sexual assault, the filming and distribution of hidden camera videos, and police connections.

FNC Entertainment reports that Choi Jong-hoon is withdrawing from his group FT Island.

Reports of Seungri engaging in illegal gambling in Las Vegas surface.

More chats of Seungri prostituting women to clients surface.

Chats between CNBlue’s Lee Jong-hyun and Jung Joon-young are revealed. In the conversations, it was revealed that Lee asked Jung to supply him with women and has also shared illegal footage of women in chatrooms.

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March 15

Jung Joon Young finishes 21 hours investigation for the first round of police questioning and hands his phone “just as it is.” Police also search his home for more evidence.

Seungri finishes 16 hours investigation and announces request for delay in military enlistment. He was initially supposed to enlist on March 25.

CNBlue’s Lee Jong Hyun apologizes for spycam distribution and will reflect but no announcement of leaving his band or retiring from the industry. Fans protest this decision and threatens to boycott him.

Actress Park Han Byul, the wife of CEO Yoo In Suk of Yuri Holdings, announces she will not leave her drama Love In Sadness despite husband’s controversy.

Investigation reveals the police in Seungri and Jung’s chat room is a senior superintendent with the surname Yoon.

KBS’s hit show “2 Days and 1 Night” halts broadcast and goes on an indefinite hiatus and apologizes for having Jung Joon Young back in the show in 2016.

March 16

FT Island’s Choi Jong Hoon arrives at the police for investigation. He denies asking the police to cover up his DUI three years ago.

The police senior superintendent Yoon in the chatroom is summoned for investigation. He admits knowing Yoo In Suk but denies any bribery. The National Police Agency reveals that the suspected police officer has been removed from this position and temporarily been placed under the police affairs department while the investigation is underway. His replacement has already been named.

FNC Entertainment denies the rumors spreading online that CN Blue’s Lee Jong Hyun had sexually harassed or sexually assaulted people.

March 17

Choi Jong Hoon completes first round of police questioning at the the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency after 21 hours.

Actors Cha Tae Hyun and Kim Joon Ho leave their shows after chats with Jung Joon Young reveal they illegally gambled by placing bets on a game of golf. Cha, Kim, and Jung were all part of the KBS’ show, 2 Days and 1 Night.

Lee Moon Ho, CEO of Burning Sun, defends himself and Seungri from accusations. In his statement he says, “If Seungri’s chat messages from three years ago are a crime, aren’t all Korean men criminals?”

March 18

South Korean President Moon Jae In orders thorough investigation of the illegal drugs and prostitution in Gangnam club including the Burning Sun scandal, involvement of the police officers in illegal activities and the death of actress Jang Ja Yeon.  

Reinvestigation of Jang Ja Yeon’s case is officially extended. The Ministry of Justice’s Committee of Past Affairs agrees to extend Jang Ja Yeon’s case for 2 months

Actress Gu Hye Sun dedicates a post for Jang Ja Yeon. They worked together in the drama Boys Over Flowers.

Jung Joon Young completes second round of police questioning. Arrest warrant against him is requested.

Police book senior superintendent Yoon for the allegations of bribery and taking part in illegal activities.

Police also book 40 individuals on drug related crimes in Gangnam clubs, including Lee Moon Ho of Burning Sun.

March 19

In a phone call with SBS, Choi Jong Hoon reveals that Park Han Byul is also acquainted with police officer Yoon and has played golf with them.

Park Han Byul apologize for her husband’s scandal and says she will finish the filming of her drama until the end.

Seoul Central Prosecutor’s Office asks a Seoul court to issue an arrest warrant for Jung Joon Young for allegedly secretly filming sex videos and sharing them in online group chats. The prosecution also seeks to arrest warrants for two men, a staff member at the Burning Sun surnamed Kim and an executive director at the club surnamed Jang.

Sources: Korea Herald, Soompi, SBS, Instiz, New York Times, Associated Press, Straits Times

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