A Kpop Feminist's Response to the Seungri Sex Scandal

by Lu Lu, Social Media Manager

What started as an investigation into a fight at a top Kpop star’s night club led to a high-profile exposure of rampant prostitution, sexual assault, rape, drug abuse, and tax evasion. However, when the media continues to focus on Seungri, a former member of Bigbang, one of the biggest Kpop groups ever, and the other four celebrities involved, we neglect the real implications of this scandal.

In other words, we're ignoring the exploitation of women in the entertainment industry, misogyny in daily life, and the status of women’s rights in South Korea.

The Kpop scene has been completely disrupted by the scandal, but are fans asking the right questions? Is the world that is watching asking the right questions? Instead of wondering what will happen to Bigbang or YG, Seungri’s former record label, we should be asking ourselves: will anything change? Will female idols who want to make it big be protected from forced sexual acts with business elites? When will the police stop protecting the rich? What will happen to the women’s movement in South Korea? When will we recognize and change the rape culture ingrained in our society?

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the scandal, here’s the lowdown. It started with an investigation of a fight that broke out at Burning Sun, a night club owned by Seungri in Gangnam, the richest district of Seoul. But it is soon revealed that the club has been involved in pimping out women to Seungri’s business partners, top officials, and other celebrities. Seungri was part of a group chat with 4 other celebrities, Jung Joonyoung (singer), Choi Jonghoon (former member of rock band F.T. Island), Lee Jonghyun (member of rock band CNBlue), and Yong Junhyung (former member of boy group HIGHLIGHT). This groupchat was engaged in raping, drugging, and recording women in sexual acts and sharing the content with others. What is even worse is that the Gangnam police station has been revealed to be covering up reports of crime from Gangnam nightclubs due to bribery and abuse of power.

This comes shortly after the rise of feminism and the women’s movement in Korea, part of which is centered around molka, or spy-cam porn. Molka, or the act of putting secret micro-cameras in public bathrooms and changing rooms and sharing the content on porn websites, is terrifyingly common in Korea. In June 2018, about 18,000 women took part in a nationwide protest against molka, a major step in the women’s movement. However, the rise of feminism is also accompanied by--and no surprise here--anti-feminist, misogynist movements.

The scandal with Seungri is just the tip of an iceberg immersed in a sea of rape culture, especially amongst the elites, who have been getting away with these crimes for years. Many women who wants to get into the Kpop industry have been forced into sexual acts with CEOs, producers, etc. However, it is not just those at the top that are responsible, but also those in our daily lives who participate in sharing spy-cam porn, who deem feminism as cancer, who turn a blind eye to sexual assault happening right around the corner.

As an avid Kpop fan of 8 years, I hate to see fans focusing on the celebrities, as if those five are the only ones guilty. And it is even more infuriating when some fans decide to continue to support Seungri even after his heinous crimes.

Instead of asking, “What will happen to Kpop?” we need to turn the conversation into one that questions society as a whole. How can we hold everyone accountable? How can we ensure the safety of women? When will society realize its faults?

When will it all change?