A Seoul court convicted singers Jung Joon-young and Choi Jong-hoon on Friday of several counts of sex crimes, including the gang rape of women during “drinking parties” and, in Jung’s case, filming sex with ten women without their consent and sharing the videos with friends.
Some of those videos were taken during the 2016 instances of gang rape at the parties identified, the court found.
The South Korean news agency Yonhap described Jung as “a disgraced singer and TV personality;” Choi was once a member of the Korean pop (K-pop) band FT Island.
Their arrests bookend a tragic week for the Korean popular music industry that began with the death of K-pop girl band star Goo Hara, presumed to be the product of her third suicide attempt.
Goo was hospitalized with an unknown condition last year that many believed was the result of a suicide attempt following a fight with an ex in which she claimed he physically assaulted her, then threatened to publish videos he filmed of the couple having sex to end their career. Her management admitted to another suicide attempt in May, then forced her to record and promote a new album released in mid-November.
“Jung argued that his sexual act was done with mutual agreement, while Choi flatly denied having sex with the victims. But Jung confessed he had sex (with the women) together with Choi, and his confession was also proved by their KakaoTalk [instant messaging application] chats. In this sense, it can be recognized that they jointly raped drunk women,” the court said in the sentencing hearing, where two others were also convicted of participating in the gang rapes. “Jung and Choi are singers who have enjoyed huge popularity. Thus they should assume social responsibility in proportion to their fame and wealth.”
“The defendants may be young in age, but the crime committed is too serious and grave. The court cannot see these actions as a mere joke. The victims have also requested severe punishment for the defendants,” the court statement continued.
The court also found that the women were clearly in a state of intoxication that made it impossible for them to consent in the footage recovered from the KakaoTalk chats.
“The two have asserted that they had sex with the women after obtaining their consent, but the women were in a state where they were unable to protest or resist,” the court noted. “Jung has testified that Choi also had sex with the women and Jung provided evidence including the KakaoTalk messages. Based on these, the court has ruled that Jung and Choi have together raped women who could not resist because they were too drunk.”
“I deeply regret my foolishness and I feel great remorse,” Jung said in his final remarks to the court.
While Yonhap described Jung’s and Choi’s prison sentences as “heavy,” they were only sentenced to six and five years in prison, respectively, for repeatedly forcing themselves on multiple women in group scenarios. The court will also force the men, both 30 years old, to receive 80 hours of what the agency described as “sex offender treatment” and banned them from working with children for five years.
The court did not identify any of the victims of rape as minors, but South Korean law protects children from all registered sex offenders despite the nature of the crime.
The sentence for Jung is two years less than what prosecutors demanded; the court agreed with the prosecution on Choi.
Prosecutors developed a case against Jung and Choi after Jung shared some of the videos in a group instant message that included Seungri, a member of the highly popular K-pop group Big Bang, which has sold over 140 million records worldwide. Seungri is facing his own criminal charges as a co-owner of Burning Sun, a nightclub in Seoul’s glamorous Gangnam neighborhood in which prosecutors allege Seungri operated a prostitution side business for wealthy clientele and laundered money from prostitution and gambling. Police issued a warrant for Seungri in April.
Officials investigating Seungri requested copies of his private communications, revealing the group text messages in which Jung shared his videos with other friends in the music industry.
Prior to Jung’s conviction, the Seungri scandal nearly took down one of the largest pop music record labels in South Korea, YG Entertainment. CEO Yang Hyun-suk resigned as the head of YG in June after investigations into YG allegedly covering illegal drug use by its talent — a major crime in South Korea — and Yang himself participating in lavish parties that ended at Burning Sun and in the presence of prostitutes.
In May, the South Korean investigative news program Straight reported that Yang attended a dinner party with Low Taek Jho, a fugitive Malaysian millionaire, and the K-pop artist Psy, that ended at Burning Sun with the group soliciting at least ten prostitutes. Psy asserted that he left before the group migrated to the night club; YG confirmed the presence of prostitutes at the afterparty.
Seungri resigned from Big Bang this year amid the scandal, while several members of the group were engaging in mandatory military service. The band faced controversy even amid this hiatus, as one of the group’s rappers, T.O.P., apologized profusely upon completing his service in July because officers caught him using marijuana.
YG deliberately marketed Seungri as a level-headed counterbalance to the insanity of the industry in a Netflix original series titled YG Future Strategy Office, in which the pop star is responsible for the record label’s damage control unit.