Seungri, one of K-pop’s biggest stars and a member of the group Big Bang, has made headlines following his retirement from music after being charged with supplying prostitutes for businessmen in Seoul.
It’s a story that has caused shockwaves in the South Korean music industry and around the world. Here’s everything we know so far about the case.
Who is Seungri?
Real name Lee Seung-hyun, at 28 Seungri is the youngest member of K-pop group Big Bang, an outfit managed by the leading YG Entertainment agency, previously home to the likes of Psy and Seven and currently home to fellow popular K-pop acts BLACKPINK and Winner.
Making his name through his music with Big Bang, Seungri embarked on a solo career in 2011, releasing his ‘V.V.I.P’ EP that year, followed by another short-player, ‘Let’s Talk About Love’ in August 2013. He released a Japanese version of ‘Let’s Talk About Love’ in October 2013, before his Korean language full-length, ‘The Great Seungri’, dropped in July 2018. The latter release topped the charts in his homeland and reached the Top 10 in both Japan and Taiwan.
He’s been described as “the Great Gatsby of Korea” due to his lavish lifestyle, which includes owning a nightclub and restaurant franchise and investing in several other business ventures.
Away from music and his entrepreneurial pursuits, Seungri has also made acting turns, appearing in the 2008 musical Sonagi, films Nineteen and Why Did You Come to My House? (both 2009) and the TV show Angel Eyes (2014).
Last year, Seungri starred in a series for Netflix, a scripted mockumentary called YG Future Strategy Office starring Seungri as the head of a fictional wing of YG Entertainment that mentored the team’s young, troublemaking artists.
Who are Big Bang?
Big Bang, the group that Seungri’s retirement sees him parting ways with, are one of the biggest boy bands in South Korea, often referred to as the “Kings of K-pop”. The group had been taking a break recently while three of its members carry out mandatory military service.
Previously consisting of five members (Seungri along with G-Dragon, T.O.P, Taeyang, and Daesung), the group have released three Korean language albums and five Japanese albums since their debut ‘Bigbang Vol.1’ in 2006, their last release coming in 2016 with ‘Made Series’. Their records have sold over 140 million copies worldwide.
Seungri isn’t the first Big Bang member to attract controversy. In 2011, G-Dragon was investigated for smoking marijuana, eventually being released without charge, while rapper T.O.P was given a 10-month suspended prison sentence for marijuana use in 2017.
What are the charges?
Seungri has been charged with the suspicion of supplying prostitutes to potential foreign investors of his Yuri Holdings business at nightclubs in Seoul’s Gangnam district.
“We booked Seungri and changed his status to that of a suspect in order to issue a search and seizure warrant and clear [him] of the suspicions,” a police spokesman said at a press conference.
BBC News reports: “It is alleged that Seungri tried to obtain prostitutes for clients through a group chat on the messaging app KakaoTalk in 2015. Messages have emerged which appear to show him urging a staff member to make the arrangements.
“He was also allegedly part of a chat where secretly-filmed sex videos were shared. The hidden camera clips were allegedly taped by another K-pop singer, Jung Joon-young.” Jung’s representatives have said that he will cooperate with the police investigation.
In February a series of text messages emerged in which Seungri and three other people appeared to discuss supplying prostitutes to potential investors. Seungri denied the allegations and accused the journalist who published the texts of falsifying evidence.
How has Seungri responded to the charge?
Seungri has denied all the allegations.In a post on Instagram the singer announced that he has “decided to retire from the entertainment industry” in order to protect the image of Big Bang and YG Entertainment.
Seungri’s caption, translated from Korean, reads: “I think it would be good for me to retire from the entertainment industry… because the controversy is so big. I will… sincerely participate in investigations into all allegations.”
He adds: “In the past month, I have been criticised and hated… and now all the domestic investigative agencies are investigating me…
“I am very grateful to all the fans in Korea and abroad for their love for the last 10 years and I am here for the goodwill and Big Bang honour.
“Again, sorry and sorry. Thank you all for all the time.”
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승리입니다 제가 이시점에서 연예계를 은퇴를하는것이 좋을거같습니다. 사회적 물의를 일으킨 사안이 너무나 커 연예계 은퇴를 결심했습니다 수사중인 사안에 있어서는 성실하게 조사를 받아 쌓인 모든 의혹을 밝히도록 하겠습니다. 지난 한달반동안 국민들로부터 질타받고 미움받고 지금 국내 모든 수사기관들이 저를 조사하고 있는 상황에서 국민역적 으로까지 몰리는 상황인데 저 하나 살자고 주변 모두에게 피해주는일은 도저히 제스스로가 용납이 안됩니다 지난 10여 년간 많은 사랑을 베풀어준 국내외 많은 팬분들께 모든 진심을 다해 감사드리며 와이지와 빅뱅 명예를 위해서라도 저는 여기까지인거같습니다 다시한번 죄송하고 또 죄송합니다 그동안 모든분들께 감사했습니다
What’s been the impact?
Prostitution is illegal in South Korea and the charges facing Seungri could potentially lead to a jail sentence of three years, should he be found guilty.
According to The Guardian, as a result of the controversy “shares in YG slid by almost 16%, while other K-pop management companies also suffered losses.”
Seungri is expected to begin his term of mandatory service in the South Korean military at the end of March. South Korean military officials have confirmed that he is still expected to join the army as scheduled, while people have stated that they would still be able to conduct their investigation while Seungri served in the army. He would be required submit a written request for deferment if he wanted to postpone his military service.
Seungri had already cancelled a solo tour, which was set to begin in March.