SEOUL: A wave of sex crimes and other illegal activity have revealed a dark underbelly in the Gangnam district, driving club-goers and celebrities away.
Most seriously, some are being investigated over the use of date rape drugs to incapacitate women and assault them, sometimes filmed by hidden cameras.
The scandals have already led to the resignation of four K-pop stars, the closure of one of Gangnam’s most lucrative club and investigations into at least six police officers suspected of colluding with club operators.
President Moon Jae-in called for a thorough investigation, saying the Gangnam club cases suggest possible collusion between police, tax authorities and a new privileged class, including celebrities, to engage in illegal operations.
More than 500 people have been investigated for drug use and sexual assault and more than 200 arrested in a nationwide roundup since Feb 25.
Tax authorities have launched investigations into 21 clubs and host bars for possible evasion. The investigations, revolving around two Gangnam clubs, Burning Sun and Arena, began late last year when 29-year-old film art director Kim Sang-kyo said he tried to stop an incident of sexual harassment and was attacked by Burning Sun staff, and then abused by police who instead arrested him.
A government commission concluded that police in Gangnam violated Kim’s rights during his arrest, but Kim is still being investigated for sexual harassment and defamation. He denies any wrongdoing.
Kim said once he shared his story he began to receive messages from other people who said they had been victimised in Gangnam clubs, and he realised the scope of the problem.“When people saw me raising questions, they said ‘why you? Why now? This has been going on for 10 years, 15 years, and you can’t touch it. You can’t win’,” said Kim.
The string of scandals gained wider attention when several K-pop stars who had ties to some of the clubs were implicated in crimes unrelated to Kim’s arrest. Singer Lee Seung-hyun, 28, better known by the stage name Seungri, is under investigation for paying for prostitutes in return for favours from foreign businessmen at Arena.