Seungri, one of the biggest stars on the Korean-language pop (K-pop) scene, has announced that he is leaving the entertainment industry at the age of 28, amid a sex scandal which has stunned his legions of fans.
The singer, real name Lee Seung-hyun, will instead join the army at the end of the month. Military service is compulsory for male South Korean citizens.
Seungri rose to prominence as a member of boyband BigBang, one of the most successful K-pop groups of all time. Since releasing their debut single in 2006, the band has racked up a string of number one singles and sold millions of albums across Asia.
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He released his first solo album in 2011 and has also carved out side careers as a TV host, film actor and businessman. It is the latter of these ventures that has mired him in scandal.
In January, police launched an investigation into Burning Sun, a Seoul nightclub of which Seungri is a co-owner, after a viral video appeared online apparently showing a woman being sexually assaulted at the club.
Detectives questioned Seungri over reports of drug-taking and prostitution on the premises, both of which are illegal in South Korea. The 28-year-old denied any knowledge of wrongdoing.
However, a series of text messages, dating back to 2015, emerged at the end of last month, Variety reports. “These appeared to show Seung-ri and three other people discussing supplying prostitutes to potential investors at the club and his Yuri Holdings company,” says the magazine.
On Monday, Seoul police announced that Seungri had been charged with supplying prostitutes. If found guilty, he could face up to three years in prison.
He has also been linked to a separate sex scandal involving another K-pop idol, the BBC reports. Seungri was an alleged member of a chat group used to share sex videos secretly recorded by singer Jung Joon-young without the consent of the women involved. Jung’s representatives have said he intends to comply fully with investigators.
“Seungri’s shows in Osaka and Jakarta were cancelled as a result of the backlash against him” from disappointed fans, The Straits Times reports.
On Monday, he acknowledged the massive public response to the allegations, saying he had been “branded as a ‘national traitor’”, and announced that he was leaving the entertainment industry to “preserve the honour” of the band.
“I cannot stand the fact that I'm harming others for my own sake,” he wrote in an Instagram post. “I think it is about the right time to retire from show business.”
Seungri had been scheduled to follow his bandmates into the army at the end of the month, and the Seoul Regional Military Manpower Administration confirmed that his enlistment is still set for 25 March.
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