Police investigation of Seoul agency expands

Private guestroom found in talent firm's office

SEOUL -- South Korean police have expanded their investigation of talent agency the Contents Entertainment for allegedly forcing its client, the late Jang Ja-yeon, into providing sexual favors to media company executives in exchange for film and TV roles.

Police said Monday that they are investigating the tax accountants for the Seoul-based agency after finding a handwritten note in which the actress, who hanged herself at home on March 7, allegedly named the executives whom the agency forced her to entertain.

Investigators said they found a private guestroom last week -- complete with a shower, a kitchen and a bed -- inside the talent agency's three-story office building in the southern section of the Korean capital. DNA samples found in the room were collected for inspection.

Authorities will next summon suspected guests of the talent agency once they match their names with the times and places of the alleged controversial meetings with Jang, the agency's credit card bills and recorded telephone conversations.

"If the summoning of the named suspects does take place, the primary subject of investigation is whether the named figures pressured the agency to bring young actresses including Jang to these discreet gatherings," police said at a press briefing Monday. "Whether they were sexually engaged with these women is the next question."

If charged, the guests at the meetings could then be tried for violating Korea's Anti-Prostitution Act.

Police also said they have requested the extradition from Japan of one "Mr. Kim," a representative of the Contents Entertainment, so that he may be questioned in their investigation.

Separately, an anonymous source described as Jang's close aide, told Chosun Ilbo, a leading daily newspaper, that the actress often had said she wanted to cancel her contract with the Contents Entertainment and that she was "frequently called by company representatives into a drinking party."

Rumors about indecent offers to young female celebrities by powerful media industry figures have been around for years in the Korean entertainment business. Pop singer Ivy wrote on her blog earlier this year that she was once offered 300 million won ($300,000) for "an encounter" with a man, and that such incidents are common.

Lawyer Kim Yong-cheol, formerly of electronics giant Samsung, exposed the company's operation of a slush fund that underwrote sexual exchanges between celebrities and company executives. He called it a part of the local corporate culture.

So-called "slave contracts" are not just something between green talent and small agencies. Earlier this year, police investigated one of the country's biggest agencies, Sidus-HQ, after leading actress Jun Ji-hyun claimed the agency had tapped her mobile phone and was spying on her.