Drugs, sex & suicide: Shady dealings in South Korean showbiz

In what can be described as a deep cleanse of the entertainment industry, South Korea’s Burning Sun nightclub scandal has kept everyone on their toes.

After news broke about the scandal, a cascading flow of events linked popular BigBang member Seungri to drugs, human trafficking and prostitution, as well as exposed text messages of his celebrity circle sharing illegal “hidden camera” videos. It seems like the Burning Sun scandal has every plot line of a true crime film.

The media storm around it led to several famous K-pop celebrities, such as singer Jung Joon Young and FT Island member Choi Jong Hoon, announcing their premature retirement due to their relation to Seungri. The controversies made many wonder what happens beneath South Korean entertainment’s glam facade.

From drugs to suicides, it seems that the industry has had its fair share of shady dealings.

We look back on the biggest scandals that have rocked the Hallyu industry.


Members of Korean boyband BigBang are no stranger to scandals. Although they are one of South Korea’s most popular boy groups, members G-Dragon and TOP have been caught up in drug scandals before.

In 2010, G-Dragon was caught smoking marijuana in a Japanese club. But no criminal charges were filed against him as the idol claimed he did not know that the cigarette given to him contained the drug.

Similarly in 2017, TOP was arrested after he was caught smoking marijuana. He received a suspended jail term of 10 months after he sought leniency and pleaded guilty to the offence of drug use.


In 2016, reports from South Korean media outlets exposed “sponsor” contracts offered to female celebrities.

They revealed that several famous celebrities were being sought after by rich men for sexual favours in return for cash. The list exposed several celebrities involved in these illicit dealings.

Police investigated the female celebrities on the list and also found out that some were prostituting themselves to these men, one of which was popular female singer G.NA, who later took a hiatus from the industry.

To add fuel to the fire, Jisoo from the girl group Tahiti revealed that she received sponsorship requests on her Instagram, alleging that the offer for her to go on a “date” with the sponsor went up to 4 million won (S$4,800).

While a lawsuit was filed against the sponsor, it did not result in any concrete action.


The suicide of actress Jang Ja Yeon was one that took the nation by storm after she was found dead in her home in 2009.

The death of the rising star, who had a role in the popular South Korean drama, Boys Over Flowers, came as a shock to her many fans.

She left behind letters that described how her company had forced her to perform “sexual favours” for many men that held high-ranking positions. It was reported that she also named the perpetrators and their designations in those letters.

While the case was concluded as a suicide by depression, it was re-opened after Jang’s former colleague Yoon Ji Oh came up as a witness to her past sexual abuse case.

Many have since drawn parallels between Burning Sun and Jang’s death, commenting how sexual abuse by powerful men seems to be the common denominator.

With more shocking revelations emerging from the ongoing Burning Sun case each day, one can only guess who is next to go in this new dark chapter in South Korea’s pop history.

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