Yang Hyun-suk, the former head and chief producer of YG Entertainment, may face a police investigation over drug allegations involving the agency’s high-profile artists, amid a series of scandals that have damaged the reputation of the leading agency behind the rapid growth of the K-pop industry.
On Saturday, police told local media that Yang may face criminal charges if the allegation that he threatened a whistleblower turns out to be true. Yang could be summoned for questioning if the whistleblower offers testimony regarding the allegation.
The whistleblower in question -- identified only as a woman -- had revealed via her social media account that the YG founder coerced her to commit perjury to hide the fact that she had delivered drugs to former iKON member B.I. She said she is currently abroad and will return to Korea soon. B.I. left the band Wednesday after an allegation emerged in local media that he had purchased illegal drugs three years ago.
Yang Hyun-suk (Yonhap)
On Tuesday, the whistleblower filed a complaint against YG with the Anti-corruption and Civil Rights Commission, saying Yang pushed her to change her testimony involving the former songwriting leader of iKON.
According to lawyer Bang Jeong-hyun, who represents the whistleblower, even after the witness told police about having done drugs with B.I, police did not carry out an investigation into the artist. Bang claimed that Yang had threatened the witness to retract her statement about B.I.
Police said Yang may also be charged with concealing crimes if he is found to have known about YG stars’ alleged drug use.
According to the whistleblower’s account, delivered through her lawyer, YG has drug test kits for its artists and staff members, suggesting the company is highly sensitive to drug scandals.
But it seems unlikely that YG would deliver drug test results to police. Rather the kits were speculated to be used to help prevent scandals and avoid police investigations.
Yang resigned from all his posts at YG on Friday and strongly denied all accusations. “The truth of the current media reports and rumors will be revealed through future investigations,” he said.
His brother, Yang Min-suk, who was serving as CEO of YG, also announced his resignation in an email statement, saying he hopes YG will have a better future.
Despite the resignations of the two top figures at the agency, doubts about YG’s future remain. Yang Hyun-suk still holds a 16.12 percent stake in YG stocks as the largest shareholder. The Yang brothers together own a stake of around 20 percent in the beleaguered agency.
Meanwhile, an online news report has claimed that Lee Seung-hoon, a member of YG boy band Winner, might have served as a go-between for the agency and the trainee involved in Yang’s alleged cover-up, citing mobile messages it claims to have acquired.
YG has denied the claim in a statement, saying Lee was not involved in the scandal and that the allegation over his role is groundless.
In March, YG suffered a critical setback due to the high-profile scandal involving Seungri, who left Big Bang over a police probe into allegations that he arranged sex services for foreign investors.
YG has been under fire over drug allegations surrounding its artists in recent years, including G-Dragon and T.O.P of Big Bang and Park Bom of the now-defunct 2NE1. Rapper-songwriter Kush and a stylist, both of whom are represented by YG, were also involved in an illegal drug use case.
Meanwhile, the latest crisis engulfing YG and its artists is feared to have a negative impact on the wider K-pop industry, which is finally beginning to see its influence spread internationally at a rapid clip, spurred by the global popularity of BTS and other leading artists.
The K-pop industry might suffer lasting damage to its reputation if similar drug allegations continue to flare up or if the authorities fail to properly investigate the ongoing events.
Some K-pop fans are leaving comments on online websites that YG should pull out of the entertainment scene because the agency and its artists are undermining the global stature of K-pop.
An online petition was recently posted on the presidential Blue House website asking that YG artists be blocked from appearing on TV and cable programs.
Over the past two decades, YG has emerged as one of the top three agencies, along with S.M. Entertainment and JYP, touting its “free-spirited” artists. However, it is now confronting a make-or-break crisis due to the scandals that have generated a slew of questions about its business practices.
By Im Eun-byel (firstname.lastname@example.org)