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Burning Sun probe expands to all Gangnam clubs

Investigators from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency leave Burning Sun nightclub in southern Seoul, Thursday, with materials seized in a search over drug use allegations. / Yonhap
Investigators from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency leave Burning Sun nightclub in southern Seoul, Thursday, with materials seized in a search over drug use allegations. / Yonhap

Police officer says drug crackdown at clubs not easy

By Kim Jae-heun

A Chinese staffer at Burning Sun enters the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's drug investigation unit office in eastern Seoul, Saturday, to be questioned over her alleged selling of drugs at the club. / Yonhap
A Chinese staffer at Burning Sun enters the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's drug investigation unit office in eastern Seoul, Saturday, to be questioned over her alleged selling of drugs at the club. / Yonhap
The police are expanding their investigation into alleged drug use at the Burning Sun nightclub to all clubs in Gangnam, an entertainment district in southern Seoul.

Officers from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said, Sunday, they are looking into all drug-related allegations at all Gangnam clubs.

This is because club "merchandisers," colloquially known as MDs, wgi "advertise" the facilities, take reservations from guests, and receive commissions from the clubs, do not belong to one venue but work for many facilities, they said.

The investigation began earlier this month after a customer posted a petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website accusing Burning Sun staffers of drugging female customers and having corrupt ties with police officers in the district, after he was assaulted by staffers of the club and mistreated by responding police officers.

Police questioned a Chinese woman, who works as an MD for the club, Saturday, over her allegedly selling narcotics to VIP customers, as well as other allegations that the club staffers drugged female customers with date rape drug gamma-hydroxybutrate (GHB), to help male VIPs rape them. She denied all accusations. The police also searched her home.

Police detained another club worker, whose name was withheld, last week for alleged drug abuse himself. The prosecution sought an arrest warrant for him following the police's request.

With suspicions growing, Burning Sun closed its doors permanently, Sunday.

Police officers say such swift and massive investigation has been possible because the Burning Sun issue gained much media attention, especially because it was known K-pop group Big Bang member Seungri was one of the owners of the club. He later said he only participated in management.

A former Seoul police drug investigator says it is both dangerous and difficult to investigate clubs dealing with narcotics under current law.

"There are so many restrictions to investigating nightclubs here with only allegations that drugs are being circulated at certain clubs," he told The Korea Times. "You need solid proof or a report from a person who directly witnessed the drug trafficking to obtain a search warrant. Without one, police will have to investigate the case undercover.

"I've gone on a stakeout before, and you can frisk a person only when detaining them on suspicion of drug possession. However, if it turns out the person was not carrying drugs, we can be sued with various accusations like obstruction of business and defamation. Searching a place is impossible without a warrant in the first place," the officer said.

He added many investigators avoid undercover operations as it can cause chaos in crowded places like nightclubs, and at worst drug dealers can take customers hostage if they are driven into a corner.

"You have to be very careful as people on drugs could do anything dangerous. They can brandish a knife at police officers and they can harm bystanders," the officer said.

Many nightclub workers in Seoul, particularly at Itaewon and Gangnam, are suspected of using narcotics and selling them to trusted customers.

"Police officers can pretend to be customers and try to find a drug dealer there but staff at nightclubs will never trust strangers unless a customer regularly spends big money or has formed a special relationship with them over a long period of time," the officer said.


Investigators from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency leave Burning Sun nightclub in southern Seoul, Thursday, with materials seized in a search over drug use allegations. / Yonhap
Investigators from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency leave Burning Sun nightclub in southern Seoul, Thursday, with materials seized in a search over drug use allegations. / Yonhap

Police officer says drug crackdown at clubs not easy

By Kim Jae-heun

A Chinese staffer at Burning Sun enters the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's drug investigation unit office in eastern Seoul, Saturday, to be questioned over her alleged selling of drugs at the club. / Yonhap
A Chinese staffer at Burning Sun enters the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency's drug investigation unit office in eastern Seoul, Saturday, to be questioned over her alleged selling of drugs at the club. / Yonhap
The police are expanding their investigation into alleged drug use at the Burning Sun nightclub to all clubs in Gangnam, an entertainment district in southern Seoul.

Officers from the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency said, Sunday, they are looking into all drug-related allegations at all Gangnam clubs.

This is because club "merchandisers," colloquially known as MDs, wgi "advertise" the facilities, take reservations from guests, and receive commissions from the clubs, do not belong to one venue but work for many facilities, they said.

The investigation began earlier this month after a customer posted a petition on the Cheong Wa Dae website accusing Burning Sun staffers of drugging female customers and having corrupt ties with police officers in the district, after he was assaulted by staffers of the club and mistreated by responding police officers.

Police questioned a Chinese woman, who works as an MD for the club, Saturday, over her allegedly selling narcotics to VIP customers, as well as other allegations that the club staffers drugged female customers with date rape drug gamma-hydroxybutrate (GHB), to help male VIPs rape them. She denied all accusations. The police also searched her home.

Police detained another club worker, whose name was withheld, last week for alleged drug abuse himself. The prosecution sought an arrest warrant for him following the police's request.

With suspicions growing, Burning Sun closed its doors permanently, Sunday.

Police officers say such swift and massive investigation has been possible because the Burning Sun issue gained much media attention, especially because it was known K-pop group Big Bang member Seungri was one of the owners of the club. He later said he only participated in management.

A former Seoul police drug investigator says it is both dangerous and difficult to investigate clubs dealing with narcotics under current law.

"There are so many restrictions to investigating nightclubs here with only allegations that drugs are being circulated at certain clubs," he told The Korea Times. "You need solid proof or a report from a person who directly witnessed the drug trafficking to obtain a search warrant. Without one, police will have to investigate the case undercover.

"I've gone on a stakeout before, and you can frisk a person only when detaining them on suspicion of drug possession. However, if it turns out the person was not carrying drugs, we can be sued with various accusations like obstruction of business and defamation. Searching a place is impossible without a warrant in the first place," the officer said.

He added many investigators avoid undercover operations as it can cause chaos in crowded places like nightclubs, and at worst drug dealers can take customers hostage if they are driven into a corner.

"You have to be very careful as people on drugs could do anything dangerous. They can brandish a knife at police officers and they can harm bystanders," the officer said.

Many nightclub workers in Seoul, particularly at Itaewon and Gangnam, are suspected of using narcotics and selling them to trusted customers.

"Police officers can pretend to be customers and try to find a drug dealer there but staff at nightclubs will never trust strangers unless a customer regularly spends big money or has formed a special relationship with them over a long period of time," the officer said.


Kim Jae-heun jhkim@koreatimes.co.kr


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