Burning Sun scandal in K-pop industry resurfaces after BBC documentary

An image from the BBC documentary “Burning Sun: Exposing the Secret K-pop Chat Groups” shows K-pop singers Seungri, left, and Jung Joon-young, third from left.  Captured from BBC News Korea's YouTube

An image from the BBC documentary “Burning Sun: Exposing the Secret K-pop Chat Groups” shows K-pop singers Seungri, left, and Jung Joon-young, third from left. Captured from BBC News Korea’s YouTube

By Park Jin Hai

The British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) has released a new documentary, “Burning Sun: Exposing the Secret K-pop Chat Group,” which revisits the 2019 sex and drugs scandal involving K-pop stars and highlights the dark side of the K-pop industry. .

The documentary focuses on the events surrounding the Burning Sun nightclub, which was associated with Seungri of K-pop boy band BIGBANG, and delves into allegations of sexual assault and illicit activities that were allegedly carried out by figures prominent within the K-pop scene.

The one-hour documentary is based on the testimonies of two female journalists from Seoul. Park Hyo-sil, who was the first to break the story about allegations that singer-songwriter Jung Joon-young’s voyeur videos recorded his girlfriend in 2016.

Reporter Kang Kyung-yoon covered the Burning Sun scandal three years later, after obtaining forensic data from Jung’s mobile phone showing that Jung, Seungri, and FT Island’s Choi Jong-hoon were key members of a group chat on KakaoTalk, a popular Korean instant. messaging application. These celebrities lived a double life, drugging and sexually assaulting nightclub patrons. They also illegally filmed the victims and shared the images with each other and other famous friends.

In addition to interviews with the victims, the documentary revealed never-before-seen footage of the perpetrators. A clip from the documentary shows Seungri roughly grabbing a woman’s arm, raising her hand in a threatening manner and yelling at her, apparently at a party, saying “Shut up! Shut up, follow me!” and brag about being a member of the famous group BIGBANG at a drinking party.

Jung Joon-young's words are seen in a KakaoTalk group chat.  Captured from BBC News Korea's YouTube channel.

Jung Joon-young’s words are seen in a KakaoTalk group chat. Captured from BBC News Korea’s YouTube channel.

A former Burning Sun employee said gamma hydroxybutyrate (GHB), a depressant often used as a date rape drug, was common in the club’s private rooms, adding that he saw women unconscious after being administered GHB on Burning Sun almost every day.

For the first time, the documentary revealed that the late K-pop singer Goo Ha-ra of the girl band Kara played a crucial role in exposing allegations of collusion between the police and the entertainment establishment in the Burning Sun scandal.

Reporter Kang said that one of the biggest questions while investigating the scandal was the identity of the so-called “police attorney general” who was frequently mentioned in the group chat, and who appeared to be a police officer who helped them get out. with his own in illegal activities.

Goo, who described herself as a victim of “revenge porn,” offered to help Kang and urged Choi to reveal everything he knows and prove that the top police officer was not a fictional character but a real person. named Yoon Kyu-keun, who was sent to the presidential residence.

“Ha-ra had helped Choi admit it. Ha-ra was a very brave woman,” the reporter recalls in the documentary.

All three were eventually convicted by the courts and imprisoned. Seungri served one year and six months and was released from prison on February 9, 2023. He was found guilty of several crimes, including pimping, offshore gambling, and hiring prostitution services.

Jung was released from prison in March after serving five years behind bars for gang rape. Choi was released from prison in November 2021, after serving two and a half years. The senior police official was acquitted of all charges related to the members of the group chat.

The BBC documentary has attracted significant attention, racking up more than 3.6 million views on YouTube as of Tuesday, just two days after its release, reflecting continued global interest in the implications of the scandal and its impact on the K-pop industry.