Seungri’s two-year-long scandal has finally come to an end.
Former BIGBANG member Seungri (real name Lee Seung-Hyun, 31 years old) will be sentenced to the military for nine counts, including soliciting prostitution, embezzlement, and assault. Seungri, who was sentenced to 5 years in prison at the decisive trial, will be discharged from the army in just over a month. As such, whether or not he will be discharged as a ‘Sergeant’ depends on the outcome of today’s trial.
Seungri was cited as a key figure in the Gangnam club “Burning Sun” scandal that erupted in February 2019 and was indicted without detention in January last year after being investigated by police and prosecutors for nearly a year. He was indicted without final detention after two arrest warrants were rejected, joined the army in March last year, and has been on trial for 11 months as a soldier.
On the 1st of last month, at the 25th trial held at the Joint Military Court of the Ground Operations Command in Yongin-si, Gyeonggi-do, military prosecutors requested a punishment of five years in prison and 20 million won for Seungri.
“Despite gaining advantages from the crimes, he is shifting the responsibility on another person… Considering his problematic views and attitude regarding sex, he needs to face severe punishment” a prosecutor said.
◆ 5 years in prison: Forcing a series of Seungri’s clubs to close down
Seungri is accused of 9 charges, including violation of the Act on Special Cases concerning Prostitution, Prostitution, Punishment of Sexual Violence, Habitual Gambling, Violation of the Foreign Exchange Act, Violation of the Food Sanitation Act, Business Embezzlement, Violation of the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Economic Crimes (Embezzlement), and Teacher of Special Assault. In the final trial, which lasted for two days and one night, Seungri has faced persistent interrogations from military prosecutors and military judges. However, he denied eight out of nine charges except for the charge of violating the Foreign Exchange Transactions Act.
In response to the military prosecution’s request, Seungri’s lawyer said, “The public made up many charges filed against my client. I think the investigative agency should judge through strict verification, not by the public’s opinion”.
The lawyer said, “The public opinion about my client is not good, so you arrest him? That’s the celebrity’s job, not the court. There is a premise of a criminal trial in which the prosecution and investigative agencies must have strict proof of the specific facts of the charges against them.”
Seungri was promoted to sergeant in early June due to his heavy sentence. He will be discharged from the military with just over a month left. The possibility of his full-time discharge is dimly predicted.
According to Article 137 of the Enforcement Decree of the Military Service Act (Change of Disposition for Military Service for Active Duty Soldiers, etc.), those sentenced to imprisonment or imprisonment without prison labor for more than one year and six months are transferred to wartime service and forcibly discharged from the army. Even if they are sentenced to less than one year and six months in prison or imprisonment, they may be forcibly discharged after a separate review.
The public’s attention is now focusing on what the court will decide on Seungri, who denies as many as eight charges.
In particular, in this trial, more than 30 witnesses were summoned for over six months and listened to statements related to allegations of prostitution brokerage and violation of the Special Administrative Law, which account for a large proportion of the sentence, several witnesses said, “Yo In Suk instructed Seungri.” However, the court is holding a sober gaze on the various allegations of the business purpose of Seungri, who was co-CEO of Yuri Holdings along with Yoo In Suk. The sentence will likely be heavier than expected in that the court will not reflect on the majority of Seungri’s charges if he is found guilty.
However, the testimonies of the witnesses that presented as suspects at the police station and what they said at the court were strangely divided. Seungri’s lawyer asked the court to carefully listen to the testimonies presented in the court, not at the police station.
◆ Seungri’s denial of 8 charges.
From December 2015 to January of the following year, Seungri was indicted for arranging prostitution several times to investors from Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong to attract investment for clubs and financial investment businesses. Around the same time, he was also charged with purchasing sex by himself (violation of the Act on the Punishment of Acts of Prostitution, etc.).
About the prostitution mediation charge, he said, “I didn’t know anything, and I found out during the investigation.” Concerning the fact that he wrote “[Get a] woman who gives well” in the group chat when a Taiwanese businesswoman visited Korea, he explained, “I remember I said ‘people who know how to have fun” I think it was a typo due to the autocorrection on my iPhone. I’m really sorry, but that’s what I believe.”
He embezzled 528 million won from the fund of the ‘Burning Sun’ club (violating the Act on Heavier Penalties for Specific Economic Crimes, etc.) in the name of trademark royalties for ‘Monkey Museum,’ a pub in Gangnam, Seoul. Seungri was also prosecuted for stealing 22 million won from the company (embezzlement of business). However, Seungri still denied it, saying, “Since it is legal advice for Monkey Museum, I thought it was right for the owner, Yuri Holdings, to pay the consultation fee. It was a decision for the company, not for the CEO or DJ, out of concern that the damage would be severe if it became known that something scandalous happened at Seungri’s club.”
Seungri visited the U.S. once or twice a year for performances in Las Vegas. He spent a considerable amount of 2.2 billion won gambling at hotels and casinos from December 2013 to August 2017. He also borrowed 1 million dollars worth of chips. He bowed his head, saying, “Chip rental was also the gambling by my acquaintances.”
Regarding the allegation that he called a gang to retaliate against the citizen who got into a dispute at a drinking party held in December 2015, Seungri denied it and said that he got to know about the gang who had come to the scene for the first time during the investigation. Due to a lack of direct evidence that Seungri was involved in the mobilization of gangsters, the military prosecution changed the indictment to a joint crime of a special assault behavior.
◆ “The issue related to the Kakaotalk Room is embarrassing and pathetic. I will be born again.”
Seungri told the media about the ‘Jung Joon Young’s Kakaotalk Room,’ saying, “The Kakaotalk Room is not everything in my life. I had more than 10 Kakaotalk Groups, and I also used 5 other SNS accounts. I received more than 500 messages every hour. I got the messages, but it didn’t mean that I read and know everything.”
Seungri explained that the messages with inappropriate words revealed made him feel ashamed. However, it was because those are talks between him and his close friends. He insisted that the story had been exaggerated. He apologized to the public for not revealing it earlier.
Seungri denied all the allegations related to ‘Jung Joon Young’s Chatroom of 5 members’ and firmly expressed, “I was not involved in the sex crimes.”
In addition, netizens claimed that Seungri decided to enlist in the military to escape from the investigations. He denied the accusation and said that the enlistment was scheduled even before he was summoned to be investigated. His enlistment date was delayed to cooperate with the police investigations. He said, “I was questioned more than 50 times before I enlisted. Even a week before I joined the military, I was still questioned by the police.”
Seungri also denied the allegation related to Burning Sun and drugs. He said, “I was not involved in the sexual harassment caused by other members in the chatroom.” He added, “I don’t have a close relationship with the authorities, and this was also revealed in the investigation.” Seungri said suspiciously, “I told everything, but it seems like the police are trying to arrest me by reversing the truth.”
In the end, he apologized for causing concerns to the people who supported him and promised to spend more time reflecting on himself.
Dispatch revealed in a report all the conversations between Seungri and his friends in the “Jeong Joon-young group chat room” which included the women involved in the issue. Seungri demanded to keep the conversations private, but the media then publicized it. In the final statement, despite the revelation of the conversations, Seungri denied the accusation of providing sex for business investment purposes.
Seungri is scheduled to be discharged from the military on September 16, and after the final sentence is given on August 12, the case will close.