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K-pop stars Jung Joon-young, Seungri investigated in sex scandals

SEOUL, South Korea — After their surprise retirement announcements, two K-pop stars were facing police questioning Thursday over interlocking sex scandals that have fascinated South Korea.

Live TV footage showed solo singer Jung Joon-young arriving at a Seoul police station where more than 100 journalists were waiting for him. Police say they are investigating allegations that the 29-year-old of secretly filming himself having sex with women and sharing the footage with friends in private group chats.

“I feel very sorry for causing concerns to the people and will faithfully undergo an investigation,” Jung told reporters before entering the station. “I’m sorry. I’m sorry.”

Jung issued a statement Wednesday saying he videotaped such footage without consent from the women in the clips and apologizing to the victims and everyone he disappointed and angered. He said he was retiring from the entertainment industry.

Jung’s scandal flared while police were investigating fellow K-pop star and entrepreneur Seungri, the youngest member of the five-man group Big Bang, over an allegation that he attempted to arrange illegal sexual services for his business investors.

Seungri, whose real name is Lee Seung-hyun, appeared at the police station later Thursday, where he apologized and bowed deeply. The 28-year-old has denied the allegation, but he announced his retirement on Monday as his scandal grew.

Media reports have said Seungri was among the men in a Kakao Talk group chatroom where Jung posted his sex videos. Police said there were several Kakao Talk chatrooms involved but didn’t elaborate.

The scandals have highlighted a dark side of South Korea’s booming yet ultra-competitive entertainment industry. South Korean pop songs, TV dramas and films are hugely popular in Asia and beyond, but male stars have faced allegations of sexual assault and abuse and reports have been made that female entertainers and trainees are forced to provide sexual services to men in power.

Many K-pop stars are recruited by talent agencies as teenagers, some when they are elementary school students, and they often sleep, eat and train together before making a debut. Some suicides have occurred among celebrities in the industry.

Seungri is a big name. His group Big Bang has been one of the most successful bands in K-pop since its debut in 2006, attracting huge, loyal followings in Asia and around the world. Forbes magazine reported in June 2016 that the band took home $44 million in pretax earnings in the previous year.

Seungri has been engaged in diverse business ventures, including a ramen franchise and a dance academy, and enjoyed displaying his lavish lifestyle.

His group’s activities are now on a temporary halt as the four other members are carrying out about two years of military or alternative services, a requirement for all able-bodied men in South Korea. Seungri is set to start his mandatory military service on March 25.

By law, the ongoing police investigation cannot prevent Seungri from joining the army unless he’s formally arrested before March 25 or voluntarily requests for a delay of his enlistment.

South Korea’s police chief Min Gap Ryong told lawmakers Thursday that he would seek a joint investigation with military authorities if Seungri joins the army as scheduled and avoids an arrest.

Min said police would try to get to the bottom of all the allegations.

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