Seungri of BIGBANG Appears At Seoul Central District Court© GettyImages

Everything To Know About The Shocking Burning Sun Scandal

Salva Mubarak
Senior Features Writer

DISCLAIMER: The following article contains mentions of sexual assault and suicide. Reader’s discretion is advised. 

One of the biggest scandals in K-pop history has come into focus once again. The Burning Sun scandal that first surfaced in 2019, shocking the nation and the world, is in the news once again thanks to a newly-released BBC documentary based on the subject.

Created by BBC World Service’s investigative team, BBC Eye, the documentary based on the horrifying scandal highlights the incredible work of two female journalists who broke the story to the public in 2019.

South Korean Feminists Rally Against Rape Culture And Sexual Violence©GettyImages

The scandal involved the sexual assault of multiple women and the distribution of illegally-obtained video clips that documented the assault done by several rich and influential South Korean men. These included K-pop idols and actors, like BigBang bandmember Seungri, rock singer Jung Joon-young and guitarist Choi Jung-hoon.

The journalists, Park Hyo-sil and Kang Kyung-yoon, bravely covered the scandal despite severe backlash from the celebrities’ fans and the country’s inherently misogynistic society. In the documentary, they talk about how they were bombarded with death threats and online abuse. However, it was their continued coverage of the scandal that allowed other victims to come forward and press charges against these celebrities. The documentary has unearthed some never-before-seen details involving the investigation and the aftermath. Here’s a quick breakdown of everything to know about the Burning Sun scandal that shook the K-pop industry…

What Was The Burning Sun scandal?

The scandal broke in 2019 when a male clubgoer was allegedly assaulted at the Burning Sun nightclub. The club, partly owned by BigBang member Seungri, was a popular spot for influential celebrities and rich people to hang out. The victim claimed that he was violently assaulted when he tried to save a woman from being sexually harassed at the club.

Investigation into the allegation unearthed the horrifying list of crimes being perpetuated by prominent celebrities at the club. Women were drugged and raped by VIP clients of the club and were filmed without their consent. These videos and images were circulated in private chatrooms that were filled with chilling details about the assault.

Which K-pop celebrities Were Involved In The Burning Sun Scandal?

Seungri was revealed to be the perpetrator and was eventually slapped with multiple charges, including procuring prostitution for himself and others, sharing illegally-obtained photos and videos, embezzlement, gambling and illegal currency transactions. In August 2021, he was sentenced to three years in prison and was fined 1.15 billion Korean won but he appealed the conviction and got his sentence reduced by half. He was released in February 2023.

SKOREA-CRIME-GAMBLING-ENTERTAINMENT-MUSIC©GettyImages

Jung Joon-young had set up a group chat that circulated horrifying images and videos of women being assaulted under the influence of date rape drugs, with some of the videos dating back to 2015. Jung had also drugged one of his fans and gang-raped her with other VIP clients at the club, including Choi Jung-hoon.

SKOREA-SOCIAL-MUSIC-GENDER-CRIME©GettyImages

Jung was charged with gang rape and secretly filming and distributing sexual videos. His sentence of six years in prison was reduced to five. Choi was sentenced to two and a half years of prison time for his involvement in the gang rape. Both of them have been released.

What Was Goo Hara’s Involvement In The Burning Sun Scandal?

It was recently uncovered that the late K-pop singer Goo Hara had played an important role in the investigation that followed the scandal being exposed. In the documentary, the journalists revealed that the singer provided them with leads regarding the case. This included information that led to the uncovering of the identity of a senior police official who was an accomplice in the scandal.

The 6th Suncheonman International Animal Film Festival - Press Conference©GettyImages

Goo Hara herself was a victim of molkas, the Korean term for hidden spy camera videos. She was embroiled in a lawsuit against her ex-boyfriend who was threatening to release intimate photos of her. Unfortunately, the singer took her own life in 2019 before her ex-boyfriend was officially sentenced.

While the Hallyu wave might have presented a rosy picture of life in South Korea, the truth is far more grim. Misogyny is deeply embedded in all aspects of society, be it the family structures, beauty standards, treatment of celebrities and even the judicial system. The Burning Sun scandal revealed the dark underbelly of the glossy and fast-paced K-pop industry.

South Korean Feminists Rally Against Rape Culture And Sexual Violence©GettyImages

On a positive note, uncovering scandals like these has positively charged South Korean women to actively protest against the misogynistic standards and expectations imposed on them by society. Back in 2019, these protests prompted the government to launch an investigation into the matter. Here’s hoping that the wave continues to rise and rise. You can check out the full documentary by BBC right here.