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Seungri saga grows amid police corruption, supposed link with the mob

Recently retired K-pop singer Seungri on Saturday denied that he was involved in the operation of the Burning Sun nightclub or that he brokered prostitution for his investors.

But new revelations by local media are increasing the pressure on the singer, alleging connection between the disgraced celebrity, local law enforcement, and a Taiwanese mogul believed to be related to a Chinese Triad gang.

In an interview with Korean daily the Chosun Ilbo, Seungri reiterated his previous claim that he was not involved in the operation of Burning Sun, of which he he had been an executive officer, and that he merely “lent his name” to a friend. He had previously stated on TV shows that he was deeply involved in his own enterprises.

Seungri (Yonhap)
Seungri (Yonhap)

Burning Sun, which had been located in the affluent Gangnam-gu area before closing earlier this year, was the central focus of a scandal that has spread through the Korean entertainment world. In December, a man claimed to have been physically abused by the club workers and the police officers who showed up at the scene, which led to testimonies about rampant drug use, rape at the premises and a subsequent investigation by police.

The scandal snowballed to include an investigation into allegations of tax evasion by the nightclub and other businesses linked to Seungri’s agency YG Entertainment, as well as the singer’s fellow K-pop stars being tangled in allegations of secretly filming sex videos and distributing them, both without consent. Singer Jung Jun-young was arrested last week for the latter.

“To tell the truth, the top officials of the (Burning Sun) didn’t want me to participate (in the operation). ‘All you have to do is promote us, and DJ here once in a while. We’ll take care of the rest’ was what they said,” Seungri said at the interview.

He also said that he was kept in the dark about the underage drinking, the club paying off the police, and Burning Sun officials including its head Lee Mun-ho testing positive for drug use.

“I asked him (Lee) a number of times and he told me that he didn’t do it. I was surprised myself at the test results,” he said. He added that if the tax evasion charges of Burning Sun is found to be true, he as a shareholder is also a victim.

On the sex video charges, Seungri also claimed that he privately advised Jung not to do it. Seungri was in the mobile messenger chat room where the video was distributed.

Seungri is also suspected of ordering his employees to solicit prostitutes for foreign investors at the nightclub Arena.

About the message directly mentioning the phrase “I’m preparing a prostitute” for the investors -- uttered by Seungri’s business partner -- Seungri claimed that he was merely looking for women to hang out with a woman named “Kimmy” who is the “daughter of a Singapore-born owner of a well-known football club.”

Despite ordering his officials to “prepare girls that give it to you easily,” he said he “could not believe it himself” that he said that and no prostitution had occured.

While Seungri did not specify who “Kimmy” was, it is believed that he was referring to Kim Lim, the daughter of Singaporean business magnate Peter Kim, who owns a controlling stake of the Spanish Valencia CF.

Kim Lim said via her Instagram page that she was in no way related to the scandal. While she was in Korea and visited the Arena at the time of the scandal and Seungri arranged a VIP table, she said that she partied with only her friends and no other patrons or staff joined her group.

The billionaire heiress added that shortly before the prostitution scandal broke, Seungri called her and asked her “a few weird questions and hung up,” which she said left her confused.

SBS, which first reported on the scandal, reported in an investigative journalism program that a former police officer Kang was deeply involved in the corrupt relationship between the club and police. Prior to being released, he said that a case related to Burning Sun had been shushed before he even did anything, implying that other officials are involved in the matter.

It was also revealed that a sexual violence report at Burning Sun had been ignored by the police.

While not yet proven, the program introduced testimonies by former Burning Sun officials about the Taiwanese investor who holds a 20 percent stake in the club.

She is said to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars a night and accompany someone from a Chinese Triad gang. 

By Yoon Min-sik