Another drug-related incident involving an artist from YG Entertainment has the public demanding that the K-pop agency assume more responsibility for its performers.
On Friday, Seoul Bangbae Police Station said YG Entertainment’s rapper Kush, who also works under YG’s independent label The Black Label as its producer, was booked without detention for purchasing and using cocaine. According to police, Kush, whose real name is Kim Byung-hoon, 33, was nabbed in an undercover operation on Tuesday at a villa in Bangbae-dong in Seoul, while attempting to pick up approximately 1 gram of cocaine from an unmarked mailbox. Media outlets reported that Kim admitted to his drug use during police questioning, revealing that he had used cocaine on two separate occasions since Nov. 26.
He claimed to suffer from depression. Police said there will be an additional investigation into the crime to discover how Kim was able to buy cocaine, before requesting an arrest warrant.
From left: Kush, T.O.P, Park Bom and G-Dragon
The news might have been a shock to many, considering the YG producer’s reputation as a mastermind behind hits like Big Bang’s “Tonight,” now-defunct 2NE1’s “I Don’t Care” and Zion.T’s “Yanghwa BRDG.” However, some are now calling YG a real “drug store,” accusing the agency of having lost control over its artists and not taking proper measures to counter drug abuse. Kush is the fourth YG Entertainment artist to have been involved in drug offenses since 2011.
As a trendsetter in every way, YG is known as a kingdom for “free-spirited” artists. Initially led by Big Bang and 2NE1, the agency pursued a different path from other K-pop agencies by building its unique “hip” image, fronted by words like “swag” and “freedom.” Those expressions seemed like an anthem to its artists as well.
Meanwhile, YG has not been free of drug-related scandals. In 2011, Big Bang leader G-Dragon admitted to marijuana use at a Japanese club, although he claimed he was unaware of the substance he was inhaling at the time. The artist was released without indictment as the prosecutors said he had smoked only a tiny amount and it was his first use.
In 2014, police discovered that G-Dragon‘s label mate Park Bom of 2NE1 had allegedly smuggled banned amphetamine pills in 2010 through international postal service. Again, the incident was dismissed without indictment with the singer claiming that she was unaware that the substance was illegal in Korea and that she had taken them for medical purposes when she lived in the United States. At the time, YG’s CEO Yang Hyun-suk released a letter to the public expressing his outrage against the media that referred to Park as a “drug smuggler.”
Another Big Bang member T.O.P made headlines in August this year for having smoked marijuana several times last year with an agency trainee. He was sentenced to 10 months in prison, suspended for two years.
YG Entertainment has so far been able to ride out the storms raised by its artists and their alleged drug use -- either with apologies or with favorable court rulings, -- bouncing back to its position as a leading K-pop agency. But with the latest cocaine case involving Kush, YG may face its toughest challenge yet as the weary public seems ready to turn a cold shoulder to the agency. Some are even criticizing YG head Yang for turning a blind eye, pointing out his duplicity in taking part in the audition program “Mix Nine,” where he picks out idol aspirants, while his own agency is swarming with drug users.
How drug-related scandals are so frequent in YG is hard to say. But popular culture critic Im Jin-mo said it may have something to do with the agency’s unique inner culture.
Yang Hyun-suk (Mix Nine)
“I think YG’s drug scandals somewhat reflect the agency‘s secretive and closed inner culture. Compared to S.M. and JYP Entertainment, YG has a more clandestine image, not revealing much of its inner sides,” said Im.
Im also emphasized the way YG deals with public criticisms in the face of controversies may have a negative impact on the agency‘s future.
“YG’s way of coping with scandals has been a bit arrogant and defensive, and that’s because the agency thinks it has power. But that kind of attitude is not going to be helpful in the long term. One big problem about K-pop agencies is that they show dramatic changes in attitude after gaining power. But I want to advise them to be humble,” he said.
“YG has been reeling under a blow. It will have to be more open and flexible to the public.”
Contacted on Sunday afternoon, The Black Label said that it had no official statement as of yet and that it was in the process of confirming the story.