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From bullying to sexual harassment: 6 scandals that shocked the Korean entertainment industry

By Hannah Mallorca Published Oct 25, 2021 5:48 pm

The K-pop and K-drama industries have unwritten rules and obligations that celebrities need to follow. 

So, when idols and actors get involved in controversies like bullying or sexual harassment, it’s not surprising for companies to take drastic measures such as cutting off their endorsement deals, kicking them out from their respective groups, urging them to go on hiatus, and more. 

For instance, Kim Seonho was removed from his upcoming projects and various endorsements after he was involved in a scandal sparked by a controversial blind item about an actor who reportedly forced his ex-girlfriend into having an abortion.

Aside from Kim Seonho, here are six of the biggest scandals in the Korean entertainment industry.

Seo Yeji

In April 2021, Seo Yeji was involved in a string of controversies after she was accused of allegedly manipulating her ex-boyfriend and actor Kim Junghyun, staff abuse, and school bullying, among others. Gold Medalist, Yeji’s entertainment company, clarified that her bullying rumors were “completely false” and apologized for “concerns” about her personal life.

As a result, Yeji was replaced in the upcoming K-drama Island and lost endorsement deals with brands like Aer, Luna, Inner Flora, and more. 

Former (G)I-DLE member Soojin

Seo Soojin’s departure from K-pop girl group (G)I-DLE over school bullying allegations sparked a social media frenzy among her supporters. The group is composed of five members Soyeon, Minnie, Shuhua, Yuqi, and Miyeon, as of this writing.

In February 2021, blind items about Soojin allegedly bullying her schoolmates in middle school appeared on social media. Although she and her entertainment agency denied the rumors, former child actress Seo Shinae also accused her of making “personal attacks” against her a month later. 

Ji Soo

In March 2021, Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo star Ji Soo was accused of being a “perpetrator of school violence” in an anonymous online story that made rounds on social media. Following the post, two more people claimed that the actor allegedly “hit them” constantly and abused them “sexually with coercion.”

Though the allegations were later proven to be false, Ji Soo’s contract with entertainment agency KeyEast was terminated and he was removed from the K-drama River where the Moon Rises.

TVXQ’s Yunho

In March 2021, TVXQ’s Yunho was accused of violating COVID-19 health protocols in an illegal escort bar. SM Entertainment, Yunho’s entertainment agency, denied the claims of him visiting an escort bar but apologized for “causing concern in the time of COVID-19.” 

Following the apology, Yunho was removed from advertisements such as food maker brand Ottogi and food delivery app Yogiyo.

April’s Naeun

Earlier this year, April’s Naeun was reportedly accused of bullying a former classmate in elementary school and ostracizing former bandmate Hyunjoo. Even if DSP Entertainment firmly denied the allegations, Hyunjoo’s legal team maintained that she was bullied by Naeun and other group members in June. 

Naeun ended up leaving the cast of the K-drama Taxi Driver, with a replacement reshooting her scenes. She was also edited out from the variety show Delicious Rendezvous.

Big Bang’s Seungri

Big Bang’s Seungri was involved in the Burning Sun scandal in 2019, one of South Korea’s biggest corruption, drugs, and sex controversies to date. The veteran K-pop star officially announced his retirement from the entertainment industry in March 2019.

In August 2021, Seungri was sentenced to three years in prison with a fine of ₩1.1 billion (approximately P50 million) after a lengthy investigation.