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Cops question K-pop stars in sex scandals

Another performer admits watching illicit sex video, quits boy band Highlight

SEOUL: South Korean police questioned two K-pop stars yesterday as allegations of sex tapes, prostitutes and secret chat about rape rocked South Korea's music world and hit entertainment stocks.

The allegations against the boyish stars, who epitomise an industry that has put South Korean pop culture on the global stage, has triggered a blame game with accusations that the business has neglected morality in the lust for fame and fortune.

A member of Big Bang, Lee Seung-hyun, 28, better known as Seungri, is suspected of paying for prostitutes for foreign businessmen to drum up investment in his business.

He denies any wrongdoings and said he would cooperate with police investigation when he arrived at Seoul's Metropolitan Police Agency.

"I am sorry to the nation and everyone who has been hurt," Lee told reporters.

Police have said that Lee, nicknamed South Korea's "Great Gatsby" for his lavish lifestyle, is suspected of what is known as sexual bribery.

Lee said on Monday he was leaving the entertainment industry to fight the accusations.

Another singer and television celebrity, Jung Joon-young, is also in trouble.

Jung, 30, admitted on Wednesday to having shared videos he secretly took while having sex with women. He appeared at the same police station earlier yesterday to help with an investigation into suspicions that he distributed the videos.

Jung's agency, Makeus Entertainment, has terminated his contract, and he has been barred from leaving the country while police question him.

Lawyers for Jung could not be reached for comment.

Lee and Jung were both members of online chat groups where secret sex tapes were shared, and men joked about drugging and raping women, according to the broadcaster SBS.

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A third performer, Yong Jun-hyung, expressed remorse in a post on Instagram about watching a sex video shared by Jung and making inappropriate comments on it.

"I was stupid," he said, while denying he made or shared any illegal recordings.

Yong's agency, Around Us Entertainment, said he would quit the boy band Highlight "to prevent the group's reputation from being damaged".

K-pop had largely escaped scandals as South Korea's anti-sexual harassment #MeToo movement ensnared political, sports and other figures.

But that is clearly changing.

Industry commentators have taken aim at the business managers, notorious for demanding the strictest of training regimes and controlling every aspect of young stars' lives.

The focus on finding the winning song and dance formula came at the cost of the performers' "moral education", said entertainment commentator Ha Jae-keun, adding that many companies covered up problems until it was too late.

Said another industry commentator Kim Sung-soo: "If the agencies do not give sufficient care to their stars, including education and stress management, they will end up raising walking time bombs."

The South Korean public is demanding action and selling shares in the industry. A petition to crack down on predatory and corrupt practices the scandals have exposed has gathered more than 200,000 signatures. And shares of Lee's agency, YG Entertainment, fell more than 20 per centwhile shares of other top music companies have also taken hits. - REUTERS

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