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[Newsmaker] Probe on drug use broadens to celebrities

Police are expanding an investigation on drug use to celebrities, as Hwang Ha-na, the granddaughter of the founder of a major South Korean dairy producer, has revealed she took illegal substances on the recommendation of a celebrity acquaintance. 

Hwang, 31, the granddaughter of Namyang Dairy Products’ founder Hong Du-yeong, was arrested Saturday for suspected of drug trading and use. She is accused of selling methamphetamine and using it herself in 2015. Separately, she is suspected of having used other illegal drugs last April.

Hwang testified during an arrest warrant hearing at the Suwon District Court that a celebrity acquaintance had recommended the drug to her, according to Gyeonggi Southern Provincial Police Agency on Sunday.

Hwang said she had first taken methamphetamine in 2015 and did not take it for the next three years before using it again late last year at the recommendation of the celebrity, TV broadcaster SBS reported Saturday. She said she had wanted to quit the drug, but was forced to take it, according to the report.

Hwang admitted to several of the charges, but denied selling drugs, according to police.

Police have launched an investigation into the person Hwang mentioned.

They started investigating Hwang from last October following a tipoff, but the investigation had made little headway after search-and-seizure warrants continued to be denied by prosecutors.

Hwang was booked in 2015 on suspicions she sold 0.5 gram of methamphetamine to a person identified by the surname Cho and used the illegal substance with that person. Police referred the case to the prosecution in 2017, with a recommendation not to file charges.

Hwang avoided being indicted, while Cho, who used the drug with Hwang, was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison suspended for three years, which triggered suspicions that police helped her avoid being charged for drug use due to her family background.

Another TV broadcaster MBN reported Saturday, citing a source, that Hwang had taken illegal drugs with an employee at the nightclub Burning Sun before she was booked in 2015.

Burning Sun is at the center of a series of allegations of drug use, sexual violence, tax evasion and corrupt ties with police officers. Seungri, a former member of K-pop group Big Bang, was an executive there.

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