BBC documentary sheds light on K-pop scandal and journalistic courage


    20th May 2024 – (Hong Kong) A recent BBC World Service documentary, “Burning Sun: Exposing the Secret K-pop Chat Groups,” revisits the notorious 2019 Burning Sun scandal that led to the downfall of former K-pop star Seungri of Big Bang. The documentary, available on YouTube, delves into the scandal that shook the entertainment industry and the crucial role played by two courageous Korean journalists who brought the dark secrets to light.

    The scandal originated at the Burning Sun nightclub located in the Le Meridien Seoul hotel in the upscale Gangnam district. It first came to public attention in January 2019 when a man named Kim Sang-kyo reported being assaulted at the club after he intervened to help a woman being sexually harassed. This incident triggered a broader investigation into the club’s activities, revealing connections to high-profile figures including Seungri, who was a board member at Burning Sun.

    Further investigations implicated other well-known K-pop figures, including singers Jung Joon-young and former FT Island member Choi Jong-hoon. The revelations showed a disturbing pattern of illegal activities, including the production and distribution of non-consensual sex videos, leading to their eventual conviction and imprisonment.

    Central to the documentary are journalists Park Hyo-sil and Kang Kyung-yoon, whose relentless pursuit of the truth amidst significant personal risk was instrumental in exposing the breadth of the scandal. They uncovered a series of chat room conversations and other evidence that pointed to a network involving Seungri, Jung Joon-young, and Choi Jong-hoon, among others.

    Park and Kang faced intense harassment from netizens and other pressures that would have deterred many. Park’s recounting of the personal toll the investigation took on her, including distressing harassment that coincided with her pregnancies, underscores the profound challenges faced by journalists uncovering uncomfortable truths.

    The documentary also touches on the broader implications of the scandal for South Korea’s legal and cultural landscape. The events led to significant discussions about gender, power dynamics in the entertainment industry, and the adequacy of existing laws to protect individuals from sexual exploitation and violence. The journalists’ work prompted legal actions and a reevaluation of how such cases are handled in the South Korean justice system.

    The convictions of Jung Joon-young and Choi Jong-hoon, who were found guilty of intoxicating and raping women in separate incidents, marked a crucial turning point. Both served prison sentences, with Jung being released in March after completing a five-year term and Choi in November after two and a half years.

    A haunting revelation from the documentary is the assertion by a former Burning Sun employee that similar abuses continue in other clubs across South Korea. Despite the high-profile nature of the Burning Sun case and supposed regulatory tightening, issues with drugs like GHB (commonly associated with date rape scenarios) and the exploitation of vulnerable individuals persist.