2016 will soon be over and as we look back, it would be safe to claim that this year definitely produced a lot of “ups-and-downs,” politically and socially in Korea. The Korean entertainment industry was no exception.
We will reflect just primarily on some of the negative incidences, which hit the headlines on the Korean celebrity news in the year of 2016.
The celebrities stated below mostly have ended up forfeiting not only their careers and reputation; they had to endure shame and regret from the outcome of their unwise actions.
This article is not intended to make record of unproven facts or rumors. And we also have to keep in mind that we can never cover the conclusion or make rash assumptions if the case is still under investigation.
Korea has an undeniably “loose” drinking culture and even the Korean police have the tendency to be lenient towards people who are intoxicated. Nevertheless, there should never be a justifiable reason (or excuse) for DUI; you can never rule out the possibility that someone could get injured or in worse scenarios, killed.
Like in most countries, anyone convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (or drugs) can be fined or given a prison sentence.
This year, there have been quite a number of celebrities who drove in the dead of night while under the influence of alcohol. Instead of getting a cab or a driver’s service, they chose to drive while intoxicated themselves; forgetting that much would be at stake for them.
Here are just a few of those entertainers who had to pay a price for their actions regarding DUI.
In mid-April 2016, Comedian and TV presenter, Lee Chang-Myung, crashed into a traffic light while driving his Porsche at an intersection, around 11 p.m. while heading for his home. He then fled the scene before the police arrived.
Around 20 hours later, Lee visited the police station and denied he had been driving while intoxicated, saying he drove off to the hospital having been injured from the accident.
Five hours prior to the accident, Lee and six of his acquaintances had been consuming considerable amount of liquor at a restaurant, where they had stayed for over four hours. This made it hard to believe that the comedian was sober. However, his acquaintances informed the police that Lee did not consume any alcohol while he was dining with them.
But soon, it was revealed through CCTV footages that Lee was seemingly driving like a drunkard, ignoring traffic signals before smashing his vehicle into a traffic light. There is also said to be an existence of a hospital record, since Lee informed the doctor that he had two shots of Soju when he visited a hospital that very night.
Since the second hearing took place on November 17, this will now become an on-going trial, because Lee is still adamant about being sober at the time of the accident. He admits to one thing, which is not having his car insured.
Whether he was really drunk driving at the time or not; he should be thankful that he only ended up rammed into a traffic light and not another human being, or this accident would have turned out to be uglier than it already is.
Korean singer, Lee Jung has been residing in Jeju Island since 2013, going to and from Seoul for work.
On April 22, Lee’s car was pulled over by the police at a DUI checkpoint near a gas station in Jeju. Few hours prior to the scene, he had met up with acquaintances and had been drinking.
At the time, the singer’s blood alcohol content level was more than enough to get his driver’s license cancelled.
Lee left a message via his site, apologizing for causing disappointment for his fans and that his action was inexcusable. Lee will be taking time off from his activities.
Super Junior’s Kangin
K-pop boy band, Super Junior’s Kangin – whose real name is Kim Youngwoon –has been notorious for displaying his issues with alcohol for quite some time.
In May of 2016, Kim was initially reported to have turned himself in to the police, just 11 hours after he rammed his Mercedes into a streetlamp highly intoxicated at dawn. When asked what took him that many hours to turn himself in, he said he wasn’t so sure what had happened at the time.
It was later revealed that Kim’s manager initially went to the police in his place.
The last time he got into big trouble due to his alcohol was back in 2009 – to cut the long story short – he had quickly fled the scene and got himself enlisted in the military.
His die-hard fans were glad to see him back after he was discharged, as they have a way of forgiving their biases easily. But for the majority of the public, Kim’s behavior played a crucial role in diminishing Super Junior’s popularity.
For those of you who may not be aware of the regulations of the Korean military: please take note that being discharged from the military does not mean you are completely free from further military duties. After being discharged, you are required to receive training at the Reserved Forces Military and cover additional hours per year for seven years.
Amidst Kim’s DUI issue, he is also reported to have missed out two years of training at the Reserved Forces Military, which is regarded as a serious offence.
Kim replied that he was abroad and busy due to his schedule. But you still need to contact the military ahead of time, which was something he and his management failed or neglected to do. It’s highly possible Kim thought he could get away with missing some training. In terms of the payment of the fine, because it is not an immense amount; some do tend to neglect the training. But this could lead to a more serious punishment.
His agency also announced that Kim will be removed from all his activities.
On September 29 2016, Korean singer, Horan from the Korean pop group, Clazziquai, was arrested for DUI.
Her Jeep had smashed into another vehicle; parked on the side of the road and ended up injuring the passenger. The injured passenger was reported to have been a garbage collector who was taking a break in his truck at dawn.
Horan, whose real name is Choi Sujin, was on her way to the radio station where she is working as a radio DJ, at 5 a.m., she had been consuming alcohol around midnight.
DUI is common with Korean celebrities, but she was just a hair away from taking someone’s life while driving to work intoxicated.
Choi was usually known to the public as a smart woman with good judgment, but we might take a minute to wonder whether it would have been that difficult for Choi to ask someone like a manager or an assistant to drive in her place? (Somebody sober, that is.) She was known to be a relatively heavy drinker.
What’s ironic is that Clazziquai had just released their long-awaited new album but their lead singer will be halting all activities.
It is also a shame since we speculate that after recently getting a divorce from her husband of three years, it would have been a rough time for Choi.
Her band mate, Alex also had his share of alcohol issues back in 2012, when he was arrested by the police at DUI checkpoint. He had to be removed from his car racing team and had to halt from all his activities and stayed under the radar for the past few years.
Fraud and Plagiarism
Young Nam Jo
Young Nam Jo (71) is a Korean veteran singer, TV personality, self-proclaimed painter who gained fame in the 70s. Jo grew up in an underprivileged background but Jo currently ranks at the top for being the wealthiest Korean celebrity, and has held this title for many years.
(He is also known for being a notorious miser according to some reliable sources. Neglecting to pay child support for his own children would be one example but we won’t discuss that here since that would be another story altogether.)
Jo’s trouble with the law; first came to light when an anonymous artist claimed he had been ghost-painting for Jo’s art work for several years – he received a meager price for each piece of the paintings – these paintings were later sold at much higher costs without the painter’s knowledge.
It is reported that more than 300 art pieces were sold under the singer’s name since 2009.
Jo’s art mostly covers imageries of “Hwatu,” which is a pack of traditional Korean cards used for gambling for his paintings. Each painting accumulated quite a sum, not necessarily for their artistic form or value but because of the singer’s fame.
When Jo received backlash for selling art that he didn’t produce himself, he argued that he’s the creative force behind the work and that his “assistants” only replicates them into actual form. Then Jo allegedly oversees the art and finishes it off. Jo went so far as to say that he was doing a service by hiring starving painters.
It is a well-known fact that in-demand artists often use assistants or apprentices to work for them, but this would be in order to meet the need for mass production – which is definitely not the same case with Jo and his art. The art collectors who purchased the singer’s work were never aware the celebrity was using any assistance, which is the main factor for Jo’s art business accused of being shady and illegal. Consequently, Jo cancelled his solo art exhibition and stayed out of the public eye for months. But the worse was yet to come.
During the final trial on the case this past Wednesday, on December 22, prosecutors asked for a one-and-a-half year prison sentence for Jo and his manager to be put behind bars. Jo’s manager was responsible for arranging the deals between the painters and Jo.
According to the prosecutor, “If the assistant owns the copyright on his works, then what Jo did was an act of fraud because he presented them as if they were his own.”
The court trial will open on February 8, 2017. So we’ll have to watch and see how this plays out.
In June 2016, Korean boy-bander and actor, Park Yuchun, during his two-year mandatory military as a public service agent, was accused of multiple sexual assault charges.
Scandalous strings of sexual accusations involving Park initially started after a bartender claimed that she was raped by him in the restroom of the bar she worked. Park refuted by saying the sex was consensual. This day was said to be his birthday and he was celebrating with his acquaintances.
The accuser dropped the charges just few days later and her boyfriend also claimed that she was at the time drunk. It was speculated at the time that Park’s management and the woman had come to an agreement of some sort. One month later, she re-surfed on the news again claiming that she was forced to have intercourse with Park in the restroom.
Then three additional women (who worked at a similar occupation background) came forward and accused the singer of rape. Most of these accusers claim they were raped in the restroom, one of them said she had to take therapy after being confined and raped in the restroom.
It seems Park to have been a regular to this bar (or whatever it is) which is known to be exclusive franchise that operates this sort of business and the access is usually visitors who are affluent males. We will not disclose the name of the business or get deeper into this topic, and most information can be found for those who are interested.
These females working at that bar are not necessarily considered as ladies of the evening but they can choose to accept offers and their employers take a percentage of their earnings.
Park is still serving the military as a public service agent, so this kind of exposure to his personal life seemed even more disturbingly inappropriate and degrading to his image.
In the same month, Park was acquitted of all four charges of rape and counter-sued his accusers of false accusation and blackmail. The first woman has currently been sentenced 2 years of imprisonment for blackmailing Park along with her cousins, who had hired gangsters to demand more money. The second accuser, who turned out to be the first woman’s accomplice, was sentenced one year and six months in jail.
Park’s die-hard fans still show loyalty and undying support – but in this kind of situation, even if Park gets completely freed from all his charges – the ones who pull away the quickest and burn bridges are the people who can make or break Park’s career, the directors or producers who previously worked or who were considering to work with him in the future. Since hiring a celebrity with a tainted reputation would also give them a bad name.
*Please take note that detailed events will not be found on this article, since my intention was to only make a brief summary and this is an on-going trial.
Uhm Tae Woong
In August of 2016, Korean actor and TV personality, Uhm Tae Woong was questioned by the police for rape and soliciting prostitution because an employee of a certain massage parlor accused of being raped by the actor several months before.
Prostitution is illegal in Korea, so usually these kinds of operations are disguised as massage parlors and other facilities. It turned out that this massage parlor Uhm visited happened to be the latter.
The actor had paid for service for prostitution but it seems the massage parlor thought it more profitable to blackmail the actor instead.
At present, sexual assault charges against the actor have been dropped, but investigations regarding prostitution are still ongoing.
What’s most unfortunate is that Uhm’s wife suffered a miscarriage with their second child, due to the shock of this publicized incident.
Lee Juno is a former dancer and a business man; but best known for being the part of “Seotaji and the Boys,” the best-selling contemporarily pop band in Korea during the 90s.
On June 25, at around 3 a.m., Lee Juno (49) was accused of sexual assault against two females at a night club based in Itaewon, Seoul.
The victims told the police that Lee came up to them (highly intoxicated) and sexually molested them multiple times and continued to bother them. When Lee was escorted out of the club, he allegedly slapped the club owner. This was at a night club, so there would probably be a number of people who witnessed this, if it happened.
Lee was in a very similar situation reported in the news in 2002. He had met a female while drinking at a night club, took her back to his recording studio and she later sued Lee for sexually assaulting her. That incident was later settled between them.
At the trial held in November, Lee denied all charges of sexually harassing the two females and using violence at the club owner, but admitted to being very drunk.
Since 2014, Lee was also sued for not paying back loaned money when most of his business ventures failed. These two cases are still on-going.
Regardless of what has happened in 2016, we hope for everyone’s well-being and happiness for the New Year of 2017.
Have a blessed New Year!