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Explaining the Drug Controversy in South Korean Entertainment

Updated on June 20, 2019
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Fairlane is a devout Asian entertainment fan. On the side, she is a professional screenwriter and author.

YG's web of controversy
YG's web of controversy

BI a member of South Korean boy band iKon admitted to buying marijuana and LSD. The same day, his entertainment company announced that he was leaving his group. A day after it hit the headlines, several notorious and/or prominent names were dragged into the controversy. This lead to the resignation of Yang Hyun Suk, the President and founder of YG entertainment, one of the three biggest entertainment companies in South Korea.

This could also lead to the most publicized and biggest drug related police investigation in South Korea’s entertainment industry.

Let us go through the facts of the case and understand why things are progressing the way they are and what it says about Korean entertainment.

B.I. is the leader and primary song writer of the boy group iKon under YG Entertainment
B.I. is the leader and primary song writer of the boy group iKon under YG Entertainment

The Facts

On June 10, Dispatch, a korean news agency known for scoops and breaking news, revealed that B.I. of the boy group iKon is suspected of buying Marijuana and LSD back in August of 2016. Dispatch’s report is based on a statement made by a drug dealer to the police. The statement included an unidentified woman who served as the broker between the drug dealer and B.I.

iKon is a boygroup under YG Entertainment. YG entertainment manages other prominent and controversial boybands such as Big Bang and Winner. It is founded by Yang Hyung Suk, a former boyband member himself.

The very same day the news broke, B.I. admitted to buying drugs but denied using it. However, he immediately announced his intention to leave his group. It didn’t take long for YG to confirm B.I.’s departure.

It also didn’t take long for more details to surface.

Apparently, the woman that bought drugs for B.I. is Han Seo Hee, a notorious and hated woman in Korea for naming TOP as another drug user. TOP is a member of the boyband, BigBang.

Han Seo Hee, told the police she smoked weed with him.

TOP sank into depression and attempted to kill himself while Han Seo Hee garnered the hatred of half of Korea and thousands of international fans for naming TOP and for changing her statement several times.

Han Seo Hee admitted to being the broker between the drug dealer and BI.

The same day the story hit the headlines, YG announced they were kicking BI out of YG. BI, on the other hand, admitted to buying the drugs but denied using it.

Han Seo Hee also claimed that she included BI’s name, among other idols, when she was first investigated in relation to TOP’s case but Yang Hyun Suk threatened her and forced her to change her statement. She said that he said he can change drug test results so she will appear a liar if she ever name any other YG artist.

Yang Hyun Suk admitted to meeting with Han Seo Hee during the investigation but denied he threatened her.

A day after Dispatch published the story about the meeting, Yang Hyun Suk quit as the president of YG along with his brother who is acting as the CEO.

Now that we know the story, let’s get down to the questions puzzling international media and international fans.

Han Seo Hee, the common link in the drug controversy of B.I. and another artist of YG entertainment, T.O.P.
Han Seo Hee, the common link in the drug controversy of B.I. and another artist of YG entertainment, T.O.P.

Why does a simple joint smoking session creating such a stir in South Korea

Because using and selling drugs is illegal in Korea and yes, marijuana is illegal in Korea.

It sounds ludacris for most Western countries for pot to ignite what may be the biggest drug related crime investigation in South Korea’s entertainment but South Korea has its own laws. The laws they have seem to work for them considering they have one of the lowest drug related crime rate among industrialized countries. It’s hard to argue with that.

The bottom line is that B.I. and, most likely some police officers, did something illegal. B.I. bought drugs. That’s illegal.

Fortunately or unfortunately, that revelation resulted to even more revelation of other illegal activities because B.I.’s name has already been included in Han Seo Hee’s initial statement to the police. That makes the police legally liable to conduct an investigation. That’s illegal. This may be because someone in YG or Yang Hyun Suk himself bribed the police or the prosecution to stop the investigation.

Yes, other idols or actors or businessmen in South Korea are probably doing something worse but that is not an excuse to let another crime slide.

They committed a crime. The dictates that must be punished.

Idols receive extremely expensive gifts from fans. Some even get brand new macbooks, Rolex watches, and Hermes bags.
Idols receive extremely expensive gifts from fans. Some even get brand new macbooks, Rolex watches, and Hermes bags.

Explanation of B.I.'s drug scandal and how it revealed corruption within the police and dirty tactics of YG Entertainment

Isn’t this an overreaction for a petty crime like smoking dope? Aren’t fans overreacting? Isn’t the media overreacting? Aren’t the idols overreacting?

It’s not a petty crime in Korea. Anything related to drugs is not petty in Korea and, frankly, it should not be petty in any part of the world.

Idols are beyond entertainers. They are, well, idols. They are revered and given privileges and opportunities not afforded even to the most elite of profession. They can move thousands of people towards their favor.and with great power, comes great responsibility.

Idols are not just singers or dancers, it’s a lifestyle. They are characters created to feed the fantasy of the fans.

Entertainment companies spend years and years grooming them to be perfect, from singing to dancing to posing. They are given roles to play in a group. There’s the lead singer, the dancer, the visual, the quiet one, the cute one, the mother of the group. Based on this personalities, fans pay to ensure their success.

It is common for idols to receive gifts like a Rolex watch, branded clothes, gadgets like computers and play stations.

Aside from that, fans pool money and spend to buy hundreds, if not thousands, of copies of a group’s album to help their group chart. They buy hundreds of concerts tickets to make sure it gets sold out because they will never let their idols and the world to think their idols don’t have enough fans to fill up a coliseum.

For them to commit a crime is beyond disappointing. Yes, everyone deserves a second chance, but this doesn’t mean a crime should go unpunished. Especially if you are someone afforded with the privileges of an idol.

To whom much is given, much is expected.

Isn’t the media overreacting?

It’s the media, it’s their job inform the public of the truth. It’s also a business. They have people to pay, tax to settle and offices to run. If entertainment companies create fantasies to sell made primarily of human beings and packaged as idols, media companies create an industry that bridges the fantasy to those who will buy it.

They are the ones used to hype up these idols. They were called upon to hype the best of times. It is natural to expect them in the worst of times.

Big Bang is another boyband from YG Entertainment filled with drug, plagiarism and prostitution controversies
Big Bang is another boyband from YG Entertainment filled with drug, plagiarism and prostitution controversies

Why would YG resign just because BI admitted to buying drugs?

Yang Hyun Suk didn’t resign because of B.I. At least not only because of B.I.

B.I. is the final blow to mountain of controversies.

Aside from the aforementioned drug scanale of T.O.P., another member of Big Bang got into a drug controversy. G.D. was caught on camera smoking pot. He later on denied knowing he as smoking pot. He said he thought it was a cigarette because, you know, it smells exactly the same.

Further, G.D. was also accused of plagiarising melodies and/or beat of other singers. No one has ever sued GD but it doesn’t take an expert to confirm it. Somehow, none of those instances was ever highlighted by the media.

YG has always claimed that his primary difference from the other two music giants of Korea is artistry. He said he develops artists and not just idols. Since when did artists tolerate plagiarism?

Big Bang’s youngest member, Seungri, is now being investigated for possible prostitution, illegal business activities and bribery.

One of the most blatantly shady thing Yang Hyun Suk ever did, however, is his repeated act of calling 2NE1, a girl group under his company, ugly. He did it several times and the former members of 2NE1 admitted that in their young minds, they didn’t know how to process that.

Why would someone who claims to care for nothing but Artistry even care about looks and calling someone, especially young girls, ugly is downright disrespectful.

At least two artists from YG also came forward claiming Yang Hyun Suk asked them to get a facelift.

Yang Hyun Suk is the founder of YG Entertainment, a company who committed to developing artists, not just idols
Yang Hyun Suk is the founder of YG Entertainment, a company who committed to developing artists, not just idols

But it’s just business

To other businessmen, Yang Hyun Suk is but a great marketer and as a businessman, you can’t fault him for that. He is great at packaging and branding but in South Korea’s culture, it’s hypocrisy.

Remember that these entertainment companies, YG included, sell more than music. They sell an image, a lifestyle, a fantasy so carefully written and directed, even the idols themselves get confused on their own identity. YG brainwahsed and fed the fans with these fantasies, it has essentially altered the youth of these fans.YG , squeezed these fans out of every penny they have until have nothing left.

YG clearly told the fans what they were selling, artists with impeccable skin, fashion taste, and personalities.

The fans paid to have it. YG needs to deliver the product promise.

But is it just? Are we being fair to a boy who made a stupid mistake? Can’t we give him a chance?

B.I. Should be given a second chance. He is, in fact, one of the few actually talented boy group members who create above decent music. He deserves to be forgiven but no one should be able to get away with crime.

And in South Korea, selling, buying and using drugs are illegal.

Dura lex sed lex. The law may be harsh but that is the law.


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