In what would probably be one of the biggest scandals to hit the K-pop industry in recent years, Seungri from popular five-member boy band BIGBANG has found himself in the global spotlight after getting embroiled in a list of serious allegations resulting from an escalated turn of events – in just less than two months. For those who have yet to catch up with the news, we’ve created a chronological timeline to help you understand how these allegations imploded to this magnitude, which led to Seungri’s recent retirement from the entertainment industry. Here’s what went down.
MBC’s News Desk revealed a CCTV footage of an assault that took place late last year at Burning Sun, a club reportedly co-managed by Seungri. The victim, Kim Sang Kyo, who was attempting to save a woman who was sexually assaulted, was allegedly attacked by security guards and the club’s director, Mr Jang, before getting arrested by the police as an assailant.
Burning Sun issued a statement signed by both CEOs, Lee Sung Hyun and Lee Moon Ho, with regard to the reported assault that occured at their club. In the letter, they apologised for their staffs’ behaviour before assuring that they had fired the staff member involved, and planned to cooperate fully with the investigation.
In addition to the release of the statement, CCTV footage from the club that was uploaded onto YouTube last year became a cause of concern when it showed a woman being dragged down the club’s hallway. Despite having reported the assault to the police, no action was taken and the footage was reportedly deleted by Burning Sun.
As a response to the allegations, the club had addressed the accusations on their now-deleted Instagram with an account of what transpired that day, denying the public’s consensus that sexual assault had taken place in their club. The club’s director also shared further CCTV footage with news outlet E-Daily to corroborate their stance, where he also took the opportunity to clarify Seungri’s involvement with the club, and that the BIGBANG member was absent on the day of Mr Kim’s assault.
A representative from Burning Sun further clarified to Kyunghyan Shinmun about Seungri’s involvement with the club, stating that while he participates in the management of the club, Seungri is neither the CEO nor the owner. On the other hand, KBS News had reported that Seungri was a director of the club though he had already resigned from his position the week before. They also revealed a testimony given by a former Burning Sun employee who addressed the CCTV footage of a woman getting sexually assaulted by a man in the VIP room, and suggested that illegal drug use occurred in the area in question.
The CEO of YG Entertainment (home to BIGBANG), Yang Hyun Suk, made an official statement where he addressed the doubts surrounding Seungri’s whereabouts during the assault and cleared the singer of any involvement as he was in the club till 3am, three hours before the incident occurred. He also stated that Seungri’s resignation as the club’s executive director was due to his upcoming military enlistment, which required him to comply with the laws of military service that prohibited soldiers from engaging in any for-profit activities.
Meanwhile, the alleged victim of the Burning Sun assault, Kim Sang Kyo, was accused of lying by the woman he was supposedly saving as it turned out that he was sexually harassing her.
Seungri spoke out about the recent controversies in an apologetic statement on Instagram. He emphasised that he was not present when the incident occurred, even though he heard about it a few days later and failed to condone the violence he saw in the footage. He went on to address his involvement with Burning Sun, where he only took on the role of an executive director who was in charge of promotions at the club, further clarifying that the club’s operation and management was not part of his scope.
A full translation of his post can be found here.
Having been swept up in various controversies within a short number of days, the CEO of Burning Sun, Lee Moon Ho, issued a statement where he stepped forward to apologise to Seungri for involving him, reiterating that the K-pop idol only contributed in the capacity of a consultant that assisted in contacting foreign DJs.
In addition, Burning Sun released an official statement which detailed the club’s plans moving forward. Of which highlighted the removal of Director Jang, the VIP rooms as well as the increased installation of CCTVs.
A photo of Seungri and a former female employee of Burning Sun was being circulated online. The woman faced a marijuana charge last year and to address the public’s growing suspicions of drug use, Seungri expressed to the media that he did not know who the woman was and that the photo was nothing more than him obliging a request.
The Seoul Police Department conducted a raid at Burning Sun and the Yeoksam District police unit, where they confiscated necessary data, CCTV footages as well as programs that were related to the suspicions of drugs, sex crimes and alleged collusion of police officers.
Seungri shared his thoughts about the Burning Sun controversies and apologised to fans publicly at his first solo concert in Seoul. He began by saying, “It was all due to my negligence. I’m sorry for causing disappointment for so many people, and I’m reflecting on what has happened. As a celebrity, I will think and act more carefully from now on.” He then finished with a promise to conclude the concert well.
Burning Sun was shut down as the investigation of drug-dealing widened to more clubs within the Gangnam area.
It was reported that the police were in the midst of investigating Burning Sun executives, which included Seungri. Staff members were also called down to the station to give their statements on Seungri’s role at the club.
News outlet SBS funE released a KakaoTalk conversation that they had obtained between Seungri and three other individuals, which implied his involvement in lobbying for investors by soliciting sexual favours in exchange for financial support in the investment company, Yuri Holdings. Prior to the establishment of the company in March 2016, it is believed that Seungri had already created this group chat with the intent of arranging prostitutes for potential investors.
According to the text messages on 6 December 2015, Seungri had instructed a trusted employee from Burning Sun to “prepare a spot in the main area” of Club Arena, a club located in Gangnam district, and to “call the girls” for a foreign investor and the group she was with. Though the messages did not explicitly confirm if actual sexual favors were exchanged, it was implied by a representative of Yuri Holdings in the group text that similar arrangements were made.
A few hours after the report, YG Entertainment released an official statement claiming that the text messages were untrue fabrications. Yuri Holdings also issued a similar statement where they stated their beliefs that someone with malicious intent towards Seungri had fabricated these messages as a grudge.
Shortly after, the Seoul Police Department announced their decision to launch an investigation into the escort service claims reported by the media, officially making Seungri a person of interest.
The journalist from SBS funE who broke the news, responded to the accusations of fabrication with a firm stance that everything she reported was true, and that nothing but crude expressions in the messages were edited for reporting purposes.
Seungri also released a statement through YG Entertainment that expressed his desire to actively cooperate with authorities in the investigations so as to quickly resolve the matter. Later that evening, he arrived at the police station for questioning.
On the same day, old Vietnamese news reports had resurfaced of Seungri supposedly inhaling nitrous oxide (or better known as laughing gas) while on a visit to Hanoi in 2017. Though the pop star had affirmed that he never did the deed, the reappearance of such reports only added further scrutiny to the star with the current allegations he had.
Prior to his arrival at the police station, Seungri had canceled all of his upcoming appearances which included his concerts in Osaka and Jakarta. He was released eight and a half hours later, where it was revealed that he had submitted to urine and follicle tests, as well as answered questions pertaining to the drug and sexual escort service allegations made against him.
Later in the day, Seungri was found to have tested negative for the first round of drug tests.
Despite the ongoing investigations, the Seoul Police Department had yet to receive an original copy of the alleged chain of text messages that was first published by the SBS funE reporter in her exclusive article. As both YG Entertainment and Yuri Holdings have maintained their stance that the messages were fabricated, obtaining the original copy of the text messages would definitely help to confirm its validity.
However, SBS funE had reported that the original copy of the text messages had already been secured by the Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission when a whistleblower submitted it to them on 22 February. Based on their interview with the anonymous source, the messages suggested a deep connection with the police thus a decision was made to report the text messages to the commission instead.
News reports revealed that the Seoul Police Department was aware of the Commission’s possession of the original copy of text messages and have made a formal request for them to cooperate.
Seungri has confirmed his enlistment date as an active duty soldier on 25 March.
Alongside this announcement, MBC News shared their findings from Burning Sun’s internal documents that refuted Seungri’s previous statement that he held a seemingly smaller role in the club’s management. The discovery showed that he was listed as one of four executive directors as well as the amount that Seungri had invested in the club, which listed him as a corporate promoter – a phrase used to refer to someone who helped to form the company.
Because of all the bad press that Seungri had been getting, the online fan community DC BIGBANG Gallery released a statement and petition calling for Seungri’s removal from the group and YG’s roster.
The police issued a search warrant for Club Arena, where they were reported to have obtained related data to the sexual escort service allegations although there was no given conformation on the parties that were involved. At the same time, results on Seungri’s follicle drug test proved negative, and confirmation was made with regard to the authenticity of the 2015 text messages.
Seungri was officially booked and questioned by the police on charges of violating South Korea’s Acts on Pimping and Prostitution, and its punishments alongside three to four other people who were part of the KakaoTalk group chat.
The police revealed that several other celebrities who were also in the KakaoTalk group chat have been called in as witnesses, and have underwent interrogation about the conversation that was exchanged. It was also revealed that the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency had prohibited Seungri from leaving the country due to him becoming a suspect in the investigation.
To add on, news outlet SBS funE released yet another exclusive report on the group chat which involved a total of eight people including Seungri and two other male singers; who were believed to have shared hidden camera footage and photos of women. A later update reportedly identified Jung Joon Young as one of the individuals who shared illegal hidden camera footage in the chat.
The report also saw the release of more text messages that were dated 9 January 2016; where a video and photos of a man and woman engaging in sexual intercourse were shared in the group chat. Based off the exchange in the text messages, it seemed that Seungri had recognised the man in the video, who also happened to be in their chat group and was unfazed by the content; implying that he had been aware that he was being filmed while the woman who appeared to be intoxicated was unaware. It is to be believed that most of the content shared were of women who did not know that they were being filmed.
Shortly after that, Seungri took to his Instagram to announce his retirement after 10 years in the entertainment industry, citing his intention to “protect the honour of YG and BIGBANG”.
At time of writing, investigations are still ongoing.