BBC documentary 'Burning Sun' exposes Seungri, other K-pop idols in scandal involving prostitution, police collusion


According to the documentary, Seungri used his business connections in the police force and with investors to become a 'major player in the lucrative business of Gangnam nightclubs'. Photo: YouTube

A new documentary released by the British Broadcasting Corporation has put a spotlight on the Korean entertainment industry scandal that first erupted in 2019 involving several popular K-pop idols, including Seungri of the group Big Bang.

Titled Burning Sun: Exposing The Secret K-Pop Chat Groups, the BBC documentary explored the secret chat groups uncovered by two Korean journalists detailing the alleged sexual predation engaged in by some idols at that time – including prostitution, sexual assault, distribution of illegally acquired photos or videos, and drug dealing, among others, in collusion with some members of the police force.

The documentary, released on May 19, took its name from Seungri’s Burning Sun Club, located within the upscale Le Meridien hotel in Seoul, where the supposed crimes were committed.

The place, which housed innumerable unspeakable things for countless women, is now rundown following a massive fire in August, 2023.

The Burning Sun scandal – involving sexual bribery, rape, and prostitution – added to South Korea’s ongoing spycam plague or “molka,” a term used to describe non-consensual sex videos of women and is then distributed to websites for a fee.

These tiny cameras are hidden in hotels, public restrooms, fitting rooms, and other areas.

Aside from Seungri, other individuals who were tagged in the scandal were Jung Joon-young, and FT Island’s Choi Jong-hoon, who were all part of a secret chat room where videos were shared and circulated.

Through the years, Korean media reported that more perpetrators are involved, with many of them remaining unidentified to this day.

Goo Hara’s crucial role

The late singer-actress Goo Hara also played a key role in unmasking those involved in the scandal, as she helped Korean journalist Kang Kyung-yoon identify those who are backing up the perpetrators.

Also part of the documentary was Park Hyo-sil, who was the first journalist who reported the first incident in 2019.

Both Kang and Park have been subjected to harassment by fanatical supporters of these K-pop idols, mostly believing that these reports were just made up for the personal gain of these two reporters.

At the time, Kang had uncovered the messages in the chat room after the contents of Jung’s KakaoTalk account were leaked by an unidentified individual.

However, she had a hard time putting her special report together as certain elements were missing, including the identity of one senior police officer.

“That was such an important point,” Kang recalled.

“Then Goo Hara appeared and opened the door for me. I still remember that day and her voice saying, ‘Reporter, it’s Hara. I really want to help.’ I was so grateful.”

The journalist then disclosed that Goo and Choi “had been close since their debut,” and was in contact with Seungri and Jung at the time.

This, however, did not stop the K-pop idol from using her friendship with them to fish out certain details that became crucial elements of Kang’s report.

“(Hara) had seen them on their mobile phones before, and she said, ‘They’ve got some really weird things on there. What you said was right,’” she said.

“I told her, ‘I need to know about that police officer but there’s no way to know.’ Then Hara called Choi and asked that question for me.”

The documentary also included the account of Goo’s brother, Ho-in, who said the late singer “persuaded” Choi to tell the “reporter everything that (he) knows” through a speaker phone.

“The police prosecutor general was not a fictional character, but a real person. The police officer is called Yoon Kyu-keun who also had worked at the presidential residence,” Kang recalled. “Hara had helped Choi admit it. Hara was a very brave woman.”

The journalist also looked back at Goo being a victim of “revenge porn” by her ex-boyfriend in 2018 and her “desperation” to protect herself back then, saying it might have been one of the reasons that propelled the late K-pop idol to help her out.

Goo, too, was a victim of “molka” by her ex-boyfriend, hairstylist Choi Jong-bum, who threatened to end her career with a sex tape of her in 2018. Choi was eventually sentenced to a year in jail three years later. This was not, however, related to the Burning Sun scandal.

The singer-actress, who died of suicide in September 2019, was a member of K-pop girl group KARA.

Secret chat room

Meanwhile, Park, who was identified as the person who broke the Burning Sun scandal, said it started in November 2018 after a clubgoer reported an assault at the Burning Sun club in Gangnam, which led her to investigate the incident.

What ignited the case was Park doing a report on Jung’s ex-girlfriend who filed charges against him for “molka.”

However, the ex-girlfriend withdrew the charges, with Park saying that Jung’s lawyer might have forced her into silence.

The contents of the chat room involved Seungri, Jung, Choi, and other chat participants talking about prostitution, gang rape, recording illegal sex videos, and selling these videos to potential business investors, among other incidents.

As Kang examined the content of the chatroom, it was then that she began to see a “pattern of abuse.”

“I had enough suspicion that women were completely unaware. However, I didn’t understand how they took this, who the victims were, and why these men took such photos. That was a question for me,” she said.

“Most of their fans are female, but these chats had exposed the real face of these men who were projecting a gentle image. But those faces weren’t simple or plain.

"They were so disgusting, playing around with women as if they were toys, and incapacitating them to insult them, to loathe them. They were bragging and sniggering about that as if they were trophies,” she added.

Seungri’s grand birthday party in Palawan

Inside this world, Kang said, “Seungri was like the boss,” as he used his business connections in the police force and with investors to become a “major player in the lucrative business of Gangnam nightclubs.”

“He believed that if he uttered a word, people in Korea, China and America would move for him.”

One of the key elements that led to the opening of the Burning Sun Club was Seungri hosting a grand “birthday party” in Palawan, Philippines in December 2017, in hopes of luring investors for money.

In that party, Seungri supposedly brought in about a dozen “employees” allegedly hired to perform sexual favors for the “wealthy people” that he invited, and through whose connections he planned to gain investments for building the biggest club in Gangnam, if not the whole of Korea – Burning Sun Club.

“There was an event where Seungri took a dozen young women from Korea to a resort in Palawan, the Philippines.

"He invited wealthy people he wanted investment from to that party. He received huge investments through those connections and opened Burning Sun, the largest club in Gangnam at the time,” Kang recalled. – Philippine Daily Inquirer/Asia News Network

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