Exposing K-pop’s dirty secrets

Mar 28, 2019

ALL THAT’S left of the “Burning Sun” nightclub in Seoul are the faint outlines of the letters that used to spell its name, which have been hastily removed from above the former entrance. The club was run by Lee Seung-hyun, better known as Seungri, a member of Bigbang, a K-pop group. It was closed last month after police began investigating Seungri and his business associates for offences involving drugs, tax evasion and the provision of sexual services to potential investors (prostitution is illegal in South Korea). Though Seungri denies the allegations, he nevertheless made a grovelling public apology. Some called Mr Lee “Seungsby” (after the Great Gatsby, a high-living fictional anti-hero); the analogy has become even more apt since things all started to unravel spectacularly for Mr Lee. His music label has terminated his contract.

K-pop offers fans a polished and sanitised version of sex and glamour. Recording contracts often ban stars from having girlfriends or boyfriends to ensure that fans can project their desires onto them unimpeded. This makes the revelations that have emerged about the industry since Mr Lee’s downfall all the more damaging.

The part of the scandal that has sparked the most outrage is the revelation that male K-pop stars and their associates apparently used group chats to exchange pornographic...

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