30 year old K-Pop singer and songwriter, Jung Joon-young, and 29 year old musician Choi Jong-hoon have been convicted of conspiring in the sexual assault of a woman who was incapable of resisting. The decision was handed down by the Seoul Central District Court yesterday.
The Court also found Jung guilty of filming women against their will and then sharing the sexually explicit material to an online group chat. The judge handed down a six year prison term for Jung, and five years for Choi. As part of the sentence, both men will be required to complete 80 hours of an anti-sexual violence program.
The latest development in the sex-abuse scandal has shocked South Korea and its glossy music industry aka K-Pop. The industry has also had a three high profile suicides of popular K-Pop idols over the past few years.
The so-called “Burning Sun” scandal first came to light in March this year. The Seoul Metropolitan Police claim that the Burning Sun club, located in Seoul’s trendyGangnam area, was the site of “bribery, violence against customers, rape, drug trafficking, drug use and securing prostitutes for VIPs”.
South Korean police accused Jung and Choi, among 10 other members of the group chat, of sharing sexually explicit material that was later found to have been filmed without the victim’s consent.
Jung was arrested several days later. He admitted to the charges and made a public apology to his victims.
At the time there was a separate probe into K-pop idol Seungri. An idol (K-Pop star) in Big Bang, who was also doing the PR for Burning Sun. Seungri was accused of procuring women for prostitution, and was also in the same group chat with Jung Joon-young and the others. Soon after the 28 year old announced his retirement from the entertainment industry claiming he was being “treated as a nation’s enemy”.
Any quick look at the highly produced K-Pop video clips, certainly in the past two decades, will see polished and glossy production with men being ‘men’ and the female groups relegated to looking pretty, girlie and ‘sexy’ – a pop stereo-type that had faded in the west long before. The clips were just a representation of a larger toxic attitude to women and beauty in South Korea.
The sad revelations about what was really happening behind the scenes of the highly produced and glossy K-Pop world has forced South Korea and the multibillion-dollar K-Pop industry to reassess its attitudes toward women. Within a month, four other major idols publicly apologised, some announced early retirement after being linked to the group chat.
Later in March, another investigation found 1,600 people filed reports of being secretly filmed in rented hotel rooms, with the footage emerging on live-streams to over 4,000 customers.
The serious scandals call into question K-Pop’s squeaky-clean image. Idols, selected from exhaustive auditions and groomed as performers from an early age, are expected to conform to notoriously high standards of social conduct. Their production companies impose contracted restrictions on who they can date, what will happen on those dates, what they wear, what they post on social media, and how they behave.
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