Disgraced K-Pop Executive and Star Hit With Travel Bans

Seungri - Getty - H 2019
Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images

The former CEO of YG Entertainment and K-pop star Seungri, both already brought low by a series of sex scandals, are accused of violating South Korea's foreign exchange laws to secure funds to gamble in Las Vegas.

Yang Hyun-suk, founder and former CEO of South Korean K-pop powerhouse YG Entertainment, and Seungri, a former star of the company's popular boy band Big Bang, were both slapped with overseas travel bans amid allegations that they violated foreign exchange laws to secure money to gamble in Las Vegas, Seoul police officials said.

Yang and Seungri, whose real name is Lee Seung-hyun, are charged with repeatedly gambling in Las Vegas, Nevada at the MGM Hotel-Casino VIP room. Investigations by the Financial Intelligence Unit of Korea (FIU) showed that Yang used unregistered currency totaling 1.3 billion won ($1 million) for illegal currency swapping activities to facilitate his gambling.

The Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency is analyzing data from the casino association from the state of Nevada on how many times Yang has gambled, his betting amount and other relevant data. South Korea’s cable network JTBC reported that Yang and Seungri regularly gambled in Las Vegas hotel casinos by taking their K-pop entourage from Korea and dividing the currency limit for international travel of $12,000 per person among 10 people to secure $120,000 in cash for gambling purposes.

The charges came shortly after a police raid of YG Entertainment's headquarters in Seoul on Saturday, where evidence related to the charges was secured. Yang is additionally suspected of potentially embezzling company funds to use for gambling.

Both Yang and Seungri had already been brought low by the K-pop world's recent sprawling series of scandals involving prostitution, sex crimes, drug use and bribery.

In February, Seungri was implicated in allegations involving a ring of K-pop talent whose members are said to have secretly recorded sexual encounters with young women without their consent. The video footage was then shared among the group. Seungri also came under scrutiny because of his part ownership of an upscale Seoul nightclub called Burning Sun, which was hit with a complicated string of allegations, including serving as a venue for prostitution, drug distribution, police corruption and sex crimes. He resigned from Big Bang shortly after the allegations came to light. 

Yang, an idol-turned-K-pop chief, resigned from his position as CEO at YG Entertainment after some of his big-name artists were caught up in the scandals.

Separate from the above charges, Yang was hit with allegations in May that he hired prostitutes for foreign investors during a business dinner in 2014. In June, Seoul police called global K-pop star Psy, a former YG Entertainment artist, in for questioning, because he was known to be in attendance at the dinner.

Although K-pop has continued to expand its reach internationally in 2019, the industry's various ongoing scandals have consumed Korean society, casting a negative light over the country’s glamorous multibillion-dollar entertainment industry.