Disgraced former K-pop star Seungri was convicted of arranging prostitution and other charges stemming from a sex and drugs scandal and jailed for three years yesterday by a military court, officials said. The 30-year-old singer from popular boyband BIGBANG, who retired from showbusiness as the scandal mounted and later enlisted in the military, was found guilty on all nine counts against him, a defence ministry official told AFP.
BIGBANG enjoyed widespread fame following their 2006 debut and Seungri-real name Lee Seung-hyun-went on to become a successful businessman. He was convicted of arranging sex services for potential investors in his business, as well as overseas gambling at luxurious casinos in Las Vegas involving illicit foreign exchange transactions.
“It is hard to see the defendant was not aware of financial payments paid to the women for sex,” media reports quoted judge Hwang Min-je as saying. “It appears that he carried out systematic sexual prostitution.” Seungri had changed his testimony under police questioning and in court, he added, and “lacked credibility”. His illegal gambling was “serious” given his status as a celebrity and it went on over a long period.
The singer was also ordered to forfeit 1.15 billion won (around $1 million). According to the charges he arranged prostitutes for foreign investors on 24 occasions over five months from September 2015. The investigation into the scandal surrounding him uncovered a spate of allegations against other musicians and personnel at YG Entertainment-Seungri’s former agency and one of the biggest K-pop management firms.
It prompted the agency’s CEO Yang Hyun-suk to step down, facing probes of his own into illicit gambling. Seungri was a member of a mobile chat room where K-pop singer-songwriter Jung Joon-young-now serving a five-year sentence for gang rape and other offences-distributed videos of sexual assaults and other encounters.
The revelations rocked the K-pop industry and became the highest-profile crime involving hidden cameras secretly filming women, known as “molka” in South Korea. Jung appeared as a witness in Seungri’s trial and testified he was aware that an adult entertainment manager who Seungri knew had provided the women. Reaction to the verdict was swift yesterday, with many users online saying Seungri’s punishment was too light for the offences.
“While it is fortunate he is finally being jailed, the term is too short,” a user on Naver, the country’s largest portal, posted. Another added: “It should’ve been 30 years, not three.” The verdict came a month before he was due to be discharged from his mandatory military service. All able-bodied South Korean men are obliged to fulfil around two years of military service to defend the country from nuclear-armed North Korea, with which it remains technically at war. – AFP