Original Article (in Korean) by Ha Jae-geun, a cultural critic
Written for Sisa Journal, a Korean weekly magazine since 1989
We must thoroughly investigate the drugs, sex crimes, tax evasion, and allegations of collusive ties between public authorities, among others
The general public’s indignation on the Burning Sun case has been focused on Seungri. The perception has been that Seungri is the body of all kinds of corruption that operated in Burning Sun. Since the chat room messages of Jung Joon-young’s cellphone was released, the anger towards related celebrities has reached an all-time high. The chat room was flooded with clues of illegal filming, sexual services, and police ties, and calls for fact-finding grew.
The police launched a massive investigation at the risk of their honor, and summoned Seungri several times for questioning. Among the subjects of the investigation were businesses such as Yuri Holdings that Seungri and Yoo In-seok created together, and liquor shop Monkey Museum that they and other entertainers formed together.
There has been a fruitful outcome. Some progress was made in the investigation into the sexual services scandal, and we found the charges of embezzling about tens of millions of won in funds from Yuri Holdings and Burning Sun, tax evasion at Monkey Museum, offering of three concert tickets to a police officer surnamed Yoon, and distributing one illegal photo. Jung Joon-young was charged with making and distributing 13 illegal recordings, Choi Jong-hoon was charged with making one illegal recording and distributing six, also charged with expressing his intention to bribe police for his DUI (driving under the influence of alcohol), and also charged for providing three concert tickets to police officer Yoon’s wife. They also found that there were 23 chat rooms in which Jung Joon-young and Choi Jong-hoon participated, and that there were 16 more celebrities involved. Roy Kim and Kang In were newly identified.
All of them are charges against Seungri and Yuri Holdings, and against the celebrities. But nothing much has been said about the starting point of this situation which is club Burning Sun. The attention was focused on the celebrities. Media outlets are focusing only on celebrity suspicions, including Seungri, and the public is also paying keen attention to when will Seungri be arrested and punished. The police seem to be putting their focus on punishing Seungri. While Seungri is the main character, club Burning Sun, which was the starting point of the scandal, is being forgotten by the public.
Long-accumulated social problems
The problem is, the Burning Sun case and the celebrities’ case were both tied together. Distinguishing circumstances in dealing with the Burning Sun case was rather focused on “beating the hell out of” Seungri, Jung Joon-young and others as the whole incident is being classified as one. Suspicions on the Burning Sun case have been replaced by suspicions on Seungri and other matters.
Some netizens who focus on the Burning Sun case blamed articles that raised the issue of Seungri and Jung Joon-young. Why is the essence of Burning Sun’s case not being talked about, but rather those of celebrities? This also comes from a misunderstanding where people saw separate incidents as one. Seungri, Jung Joon-young, and Burning Sun’s case, all of these issues are important and must be clarified. There is no reason to cover other issues to talk about one of them.
But Burning Sun’s issue has been covered by the celebrities’ stories. At the beginning of the incident, the chat room messages were so shocking that it was natural for it to gather interest because of the high-profile celebrities involved, after that we had to pay attention to the issue of Burning Sun but they continued to focus on celebrities.
In order to unveil the truth of Burning Sun, we have to find the real owner and the operating entity, and order to do so, they have to investigate the stockholders first. However, both the police and media let the other stockholders go, and Seungri was driven as the ‘body’ as he is a partner in Yuri Holdings, which was said to hold 20% stake in Burning Sun.
The highly-anticipated SBS show “We Want to Know The Truth” without any grounds concluded that Seungri and his friends were the running agents of Burning Sun, and even suggested a connection to the Triad, but there was no basis for it. They set Seungri as the “answer” and suggested only provocative scenarios. The media even went on hunting Seungri by releasing groundless reports that he had “full make-up” on when he went for an investigation.
The reason why Burning Sun’s case is so important is that there is a serious social problem that has accumulated for a long time. In the past, there have been allegations of drugs, sex crimes, tax evasion, and collusion with public authorities in relation to nightclubs. Big clubs in Gangnam, including Burning Sun, are linked to these nightclubs, and the suspicions have persisted.
Joo Won-kyu, who used to cover a big club in Gangnam, said that the deviation of the rich at the club is beyond imagination. Drugs, sex crimes, illegal filming, and collusion between public authorities are serious. This was before Burning was yet to be formed. This makes it clear that this problem is not only with Burning Sun. Compared to Arena, some argued that the problem with Burning Sun is “조족지혈/ a drop in the bucket”. [note: “조족지혈” is an idiom, meaning it’s nothing in scale compared to the bigger picture)
That is why it is the gate. Numerous upper class Koreans did some deviant things at big clubs in Gangnam, club officials and public authorities followed suit, and there were suspicions that many women were harmed. This part of the Burning Sun case needs to be revealed. However, the police and media are only focusing on Seungri other celebrities. In the meantime, other clubs and club VIPs who enjoyed deviating would have been bought time to clear their tracks.
We need to focus on the issues of Burning Sun and other big clubs
If the police and media focused on problems of the Gangnam clubs like how they did with the celebrities, many problems would have been revealed by now. A recent drug investigation has revealed that Hwang Ha-na, known as the only granddaughter of Namyang Dairy’s founder, is a Burning Sun VIP customer and is also close to the Burning Sun MD who has been arrested on drug charges. This revelation of a Burning Sun VIP was revealed unexpectedly. Hwang Ha-na is accused of using drugs in the past even after she was caught selling, and in another drug investigation, it was found that she received surprising protection from police and prosecutors in blocking the search warrant for her drug case. It’s also said that she took drugs with her acquaintances. From a single VIP to a series of issues with the police, the prosecution, and the surrounding people. Once other club VIPs are caught, more shocking charges will be revealed. This is an opportunity to expose the real face of the Korean society.
Revealing all such truths and solving the old problems of large clubs and nightclubs is the solution to the “Burning Sun Gate”. You cannot reveal the truth by setting target on Seungri and focusing only on celebrities. If we focus on Burning Sun and other clubs and still get Seungri’s name in the end, (*until then, if the investigative approach changes) it is not too late to confirm Seungri as the body of Burning Sun.