|Graphics by Bae So-young|
Recurring drug abuse scandals put entertainment giant in turmoil
By Jung Hae-myoung
|Yang Hyun-suk, CEO of YG Entertainment|
Seungri, then a member of YG's superstar boy band BIGBANG, made that remark at a news conference on Oct. 1 last year to unveil the Netflix sitcom "YG Future Strategy Office."
The show depicts Seungri as a heroic executive who successfully restructures the fictional, dysfunctional unit of the entertainment giant through a set of reform measures.
"YG Future Strategy Office" was said to reflect the reality YG faced at that time.
"Rumor has it YG founder Yang Hyun-suk couldn't fall asleep without drinking every night after his company was left behind by two rivals, SM and JYP, in the richest stockholders race among Korean entertainment companies," he said.
Unveiling the sitcom, Seungri vowed to serve as a relief pitcher to save YG.
Months later, what he had said about YG turned out to be true. Contrary to his savior role in the Netflix drama, Seungri ended up doing exactly the opposite. He has become the epicenter of the biggest crisis YG is facing at the moment.
Seungri has been embroiled in prostitution and use of prohibited drugs. He has pushed the already troubled YG deeper into chaos.
Seungri, or Lee Seung-hyun, declared his retirement on Instagram, Monday, after he was booked for alleged sex trafficking along with drugging customers at his club Burning Sun.
"I decided to retire from my career as the case is too big to handle," Lee wrote. "I cannot harm people around me just to save myself."
The scandal started when a club customer surnamed Kim accused the managers of Burning Sun of punching him until his ribs broke, last Nov. 24.
Further allegations were disclosed saying managers in the club drugged female customers with gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB), also called a "rape drug."
On Feb. 27, police questioned him over the allegations but Lee denied this saying his position has nothing to do with running the club.
Lee said he will "sincerely participate in the investigation." The case may be sent over to military court if nothing is found before March 25.
But his apology didn't stop criticism toward YG.
A string of drug abuse incidents involving YG stars has tarnished the company's reputation and paved the way for ridicule, with some claiming YG stands for an illicit "Yak-guk" (a Korean word for drugstore) selling prohibited drugs.
Rapper T.O.P, whose real name is Choi Seung-hyun, was sent to the prosecution's office in April 2017 for smoking marijuana at his home before he joined the military. Choi shared it with a female YG idol trainee four times.
Choi was working at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency for his alternative military service when he was accused of using the prohibited drug. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison suspended for two years.
His date of discharge was delayed from last November to this June.
G-Dragon, the lead rapper of BIGBANG, was also caught smoking marijuana during a Japan concert tour in May 2011. G-Dragon was caught smoking at a club during his visit.
YG Entertainment explained "he was not aware it was marijuana," and he also admitted smoking it by a mistake.
At the time, prosecutors suspended the indictment as it was the first time G-Dragon was caught smoking marijuana and it was a small amount.
Although no longer part of YG, Park Bom smuggled 82 amphetamine pills through Express Mail Service at an airport in 2010, when she was still a member of 2NE1.
Park ordered the drugs ― which were mixed with jelly ― in someone else's name, but the drugs were found in a customs search at Incheon International Airport. The prosecutors probed into the case, but it was suspended.
Park's case was disclosed when a 36-year-old Samsung worker was arrested for smuggling 29 amphetamine pills in August the same year.
Park explained she was not aware amphetamine was illegal in Korea, and said she used the drug to treat her depression and Attention-Deficit Disorder (ADHD).
In 2016, Park's contract with YG Entertainment was terminated without renewal and girl group 2NE1 was officially disbanded that year.
Park is set to make a comeback on Wednesday, amid the scandal at her previous agency.
Kush, a rapper and a songwriter also signed to YG Entertainment, received five years imprisonment for smuggling cocaine on several occasions in 2017.
Kush allegedly bought 2.5 grams of cocaine from Nov. 26 to Dec. 12 that year. The police caught him when he checked an unmanned mailbox for a delivery of a gram of cocaine, and was sent to court.
He admitted he used cocaine, and has been receiving treatment regarding his depression.