For all of us die-hard Hallyu fans, there were many moments this year when our hearts were ripped out of our chests and tormented with that sinking “say it isn’t so” feeling. Some of our favorite stars became embroiled in controversy, either by their own doing or because of the actions triggered by others. In either case, fans were devastated by the news and were glued to news sources for updates on the events as they unfolded. With legions of Hallyu fans all over the world — and growing everyday! — controversies in the Korean entertainment industry have a ripple effect far beyond the borders of Korea.
Here are the major celebrity scandals that shook us up this year — and changed the way we relate to these celebrities in big and small ways!
Kim Hyung Joong’s Girlfriend Files Assault Charges
WHO: Kim Hyung Joong, popular Korean singer and actor of such major television hits as “Inspiring Generation,” “Playful Kiss” and “Boys Over Flowers”
WHAT HAPPENED: On August 20, the star’s ex-girlfriend, identified only as “A,” filed assault charges against him. “A” claimed that the two have been dating since April 2012, but on two occasions in May and July of this year, Kim Hyung Joong allegedly assaulted her in his home in eastern Seoul when they supposedly argued about other women, resulting in the ex-girlfriend sustaining bruises in May and broken ribs that required six weeks of medical treatment in July.
THE AFTERMATH: Kim at first denied the charges and claimed that the two had only been dating for a few months and had already broken up. But news agencies got a hold of text messages exchanged by the two and injury photos that seemed to support the ex-girlfriend’s version of the story. During police questioning on September 2, Kim Hyung Joong admitted that he did hit his ex-girlfriend on one occasion, but not on multiple occasions.Whether an assault happened only once or more than once, the damage has already been done to Kim Hyung Joong’s gentle, boy-next-door reputation, leaving many fans shocked and disappointed. After Kim Hyung Joong posted an official apology to his ex-girlfriend on his website on September 15 and apologized to her in person, she dropped the assault charges against him on September 17. The ex-girlfriend denied receiving any settlement money to drop the charges, claiming she just wanted a formal apology from the star.
Two Women’s Attempt to Blackmail Lee Byung Hun Goes Terribly Wrong
|Lee Byung Hun (left), Dahee (middle) and Lee Ji Yeon (right)|
WHO: Lee Byung Hun, a world-famous actor who has appeared in popular dramas like “IRIS” and major Hollywood films like the “G.I. Joe” franchise and “RED 2”; Dahee, a member of the K-pop girl group GLAM who appeared in the drama “Monstar”; Lee Ji Yeon, a model
WHAT HAPPENED: Dahee and Lee Ji Yeon video recorded a sexually explicit conversation with Lee Byung Hun. They threatened to release to the video to the media unless the actor paid them ₩5 billion, which is equivalent to roughly $4.5 million. Instead of giving into their demands, Lee Byung Hun reported the blackmail attempt to the Gangnam Police Department on August 28.
THE AFTERMATH: The women admitted to the wrongdoing and are now in the process of going through the legal system. The first trial was held on October 16, during which Lee Ji Yeon claimed she had a three-month relationship with Lee Byung Hun and said she decided to blackmail him out of anger when he allegedly told her that he wanted to stop seeing her. The second trial took place on November 24. The third trial took place on December 16, during which the prosecution asked for three-year jail sentences for both Dahee and Lee Ji Yeon while the women’s defense team asked the court for leniency. We’ll have to see how the sentencing pans out! Meanwhile, some fans were concerned about Lee Byung Hun’s marriage to the popular young actress Lee Min Jung (of “Cunning Single Lady” and “All About My Romance”), whom he married on August 10, 2013.
Girls’ Generation Drops Jessica — The Ouster Heard Around the World!
WHO: Jessica Jung, one of the nine members of the popular K-pop girl group Girls’ Generation who has appeared in the drama “Wild Romance”; sister of Krystal of f(x), who starred in the popular drama “She’s So Lovable” with Rain
WHAT HAPPENED: In what The Wall Street Journal’s blog called a “K-Pop Earthquake,” Jessica posted on a China-based social media site on September 29 that she was “devastated” to learn that she has been “forced out” of Girls’ Generation, and reaction to the news caused a social media frenzy.
THE AFTERMATH: SM Entertainment released an official statement that confirmed that Jessica will no longer be a part of Girls’ Generation moving forward. The agency stated that Jessica informed the agency last spring that she intended to end her involvement with Girls’ Generation after one more album to pursue other personal projects. She then started her fashion label, BLANC (which was later rebranded to BLANC & ECLARE), allegedly without securing the agency’s approval. When negotiations broke down between the agency and Jessica over “differences in priorities and interest,” the agency said it had “no choice but to pull up Girls’ Generation’s activities as 8 members earlier than planned.” The scandal hasn’t hurt Jessica’s career at all, as she continues to be a popular endorsement model and seems to be keeping busy with her new business ventures.
Kris and Luhan (of EXO) Files Lawsuit Against SM Enterainment
WHO: Kris and Luhan, two of the members of the popular K-pop group EXO
WHAT HAPPENED: First Kris filed a lawsuit on May 15 to withdraw from his exclusive contract with SM Entertainment. Then on October 10, fellow bandmate Luhan filed a similar suit, using the same law firm to represent him. In his lawsuit, Luhan claimed unequal treatment and allocation of resources by the agency for EXO-K and EXO-M and deteriorating health due to their grueling schedules. EXO debuted in 2011 with a unique concept, with its 12 members divided into two six-member subgroups of EXO-K (performing in Korean) and EXO-M (performing in Mandarin). Both Kris and Luhan were members of the EXO-M subgroup. Luhan claimed that SM Entertainment provided much more support and promotion to the members of EXO-K.
THE AFTERMATH: The high-profile lawsuits may signal a new era of K-pop artists feeling emboldened to fight for more fair contract terms, working conditions and personal freedom (see below for news about artists dating and getting married!). For SM Entertainment, this is just the latest in a long string of public departures in recent years, including JYJ, Hangeng of Super Junior and Jessica of Girls’ Generation. Other artists are following suit to fight for more fair contract terms, most notably B.A.P, which made news over the Thanksgiving holiday when all six members filed a lawsuit against their agency, TS Entertainment, to nullify what the group calls a “slave contract.”
Sungmin of Super Junior Announces His Plans to Marry!
WHO: Sungmin, one of the 12 members of the popular K-pop boy band Super Junior
WHAT HAPPENED: A wedding announcement shouldn’t be considered a “scandal” — should it? Well, it can be if you’re a part of an industry where marriage — and dating, for that matter! — is frowned upon because it can diminish your fan base and marketability. So when Sungmin of Super Junior was rumored to be getting married, he felt the need to issue a public apology letter! In it, he stated: “Everyone, I have met a great person and I will be getting married on December 13. My heart aches as I think of everyone who must have been very shocked and surprised about the sudden news.” Sungmin’s star-studded wedding to Kim Sa Eun, a musical theater actress, on December 13 at a private wedding hall in Seoul received widespread coverage by the media.
THE AFTERMATH: Whether or not to divulge a celebrity relationship has been a bit of a cat-and-mouse game, with individuals and their agencies responding to a particular relationship rumor only when the cat is out of the bag. As more and more celebrities openly talk about their relationships and marriage plans, we hope that the stigma about relationships can be removed and celebrities — like the rest of the world — can have a more normal personal life!
Sulli of f(x) and Choiza of Dynamic Duo Dating Controversy
WHO: Sulli, one of the five members of the popular K-pop girl group f(x), who also has acted in “To the Beautiful You”
WHAT HAPPENED: Since the fall of 2013, rumors have been going around that Sulli was dating rapper Choiza of the hip-hop group Dynamic Duo. After numerous denials over the past year, SM Entertainment finally confirmed that the two are dating, but the delayed response in acknowledging the relationship angered many fans. Because Sulli also went on hiatus around the same time, allegedly because of the friction caused by her dating with her agency, fans also were worried that the scandal could put f(x) in jeopardy, fueling fears of the group’s disbandment.
THE AFTERMATH: To divulge or not to divulge — that is the question! Whenever dating rumors about a Korean celebrity surface, they often are labeled as “dating scandals.” It appears that the act of dating among K-pop idols and celebrities is considered scandalous — on some levels unacceptable and shameful. It’s no secret that idols are considered much more marketable when they are single and unattached. But more and more celebrities have been more forthright and open about their relationships in recent years.
Park Bom’s ‘Drug Smuggling’ Controversy
WHO:Park Bom, the lead vocalist for the K-pop girl group 2NE1
WHAT HAPPENED:Back on October 12, 2010, Park Bom’s family members tried to received a package on her behalf of 82 amphetamine pills through FedEx from the United States, but the package was caught by customs at Incheon International Airport. Although it happened four years ago, news outlets learned of the incident in June of this year. Amphetamines, a central nervous system stimulant, are available by prescription in the United States but are banned in Korea. Because Park Bom was trying to receive a drug that is illegal in Korea, the act was labeled as “smuggling.” However, prosecutors investigating the case four years ago interviewed Park Bom and her family and decided not to press charges, making citizens wonder today if she received special treatment due to her celebrity status.
THE AFTERMATH: After the news broke, Yang Hyun Suk, CEO of YG Entertainment, issued a statement explaining that Park Bom had been taking amphetamines prescribed by a U.S. university hospital after she experienced a childhood trauma while playing soccer. Because of Park Bom’s busy music schedule, she was unable to travel to the United States to refill her prescription and tried to have it delivered to Korea. Yang said that Park Bom knew that the drug was not available in Korea but did not realize that trying to have it delivered there would constitute a crime. Since the scandal broke earlier this year, Yang Hyun Suk said that Park Bom has switched medication to one that is prescribed by a hospital in Korea. YG Entertainment also issued a statement saying that she is taking time to “self-reflect” and will not be participating in some upcoming domestic events.
Kang Ji Hwan’s Photo Scandal in the Philippines
WHO: Kang Ji Hwan, a popular South Korean actor who starred in the hit television dramas “Big Man,” “Incarnation of Money” and “Lie to Me,” as well as films such as “Rough Cut”
WHAT HAPPENED: Kang Ji Hwan became embroiled in controversy on July 11 when photos of the actor in bed with a woman in the Philippines was posted on the Internet, making some people speculate whether he visited a prostitute there. The woman posted pictures of herself and a sleeping Kang Ji Hwan on her Facebook page with the words “…together sleep with Korean actor mr. ji hwan kang.”
THE AFTERMATH: Kang Ji Hwan’s representatives were quick to offer an explanation. The reps stated that the actor traveled to the Philippines on July 10 for a photo shoot for Sure magazine, and the photos were taken as a joke by his tour guide’s wife. In the uncensored photos, the woman is taking selfies of herself with Kang Ji Hwan supposedly sleeping in the background, but both are clothed. The woman went back on Facebook and posted “…very sorry only edited pictures hope you can forgive me because his my idol sorry again…” Although Kang Ji Hwan was supposed to stay in the Philippines until July 13, he immediately left the country the evening of July 11 after the scandal broke.
Song Hye Kyo Accused of Tax Evasion
WHO: Song Hye Kyo, a popular South Korean actress well known for starring in “That Winter, The Wind Blows” and many other television shows and films, including John Woo’s film “The Crossing” released December 2
WHAT HAPPENED: Song Hye Kyo found herself under fire when it was revealed on August 18 that she is “top star ‘S’” that the National Tax Service and the Board of Audit and Inspection have been investigating for tax evasion. The federal agencies claimed that Song Hye Kyo failed to report a total of ₩2.557 billion, which is equivalent to approximately $2.5 million, in income from 2009 to 2011.
THE AFTERMATH: After an investigation, Song Hye Kyo promptly paid the back taxes plus the penalty and issued an apology. Her law firm and representatives issued a statement saying that the actress was not at fault and that the accountants who were handling her taxes have been fired. At a press conference for her new movie “My Brilliant Life” on August 21 and in many interviews since, Song Hye Kyo herself bowed deeply to the public and made her own apologies over the incident, saying she takes full responsibility for what happened but blamed it on her ignorance.
New Girl Group Lovelyz ‘Malicious Online Rumors’ Sex Scandal!
WHO: Jisoo (Seo Ji Soo), one of the eight members of Woollim Entertainment’s first K-pop girl group, Lovelyz
WHAT HAPPENED: On November 3, Woollim Entertainment issued its first teaser video in anticipation of debuting its first girl group, Lovelyz. But almost immediately, one of the eight members, 20-year-old Jisoo, became embroiled in “malicious online rumors” that she bullied and sexually assaulted several women she dated in the past and even took nude photos and videos of her then-girlfriends and distributed them without their consent.
THE AFTERMATH: Woollim Entertainment immediately responded to these online rumors and threatened to take legal action against the original perpetrator of the rumors. It has been reported that investigators have been able to identify the perpetrator, and the case is working its way through the legal system. Meanwhile, Jisoo was admitted to the hospital for treatment for “mental shock” and has not participated in the girl group’s pre-debut and debut activities. She was released from the hospital on November 20 and went to stay with her parents. Woollim says that Jisoo will join the group as soon as she is able.
Which scandal from this year shocked you the most? Let us know in the comments!
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