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Korea Blog: Stoked by a Racist Ad, a K-Pop Sex Scandal, and an Anti-Communist Massacre, Can the Korean Demand for Apology Ever Be Satiated?

However robust the Korean supply of public apology has been lately, it may never even come close to meeting the Korean demand for public apology. Longtime Korea observers know this, just as they know that the apologies, and more so the expectations for and rejections of those apologies, have only just begun to flow forth from the Burning Sun scandal. What began as a possible case of sexual assault at a Seoul nightclub of that name last November has, over the past few months, blown up to encompass drugs, embezzlement, prostitution, police corruption, and hidden-camera sex footage rings. This increasingly complicated affair has drawn such rapt public attention not least because of the identity of one of Burning Sun’s managers: Lee Seung-hyun, better known as Seungri, a member of top boy band Big Bang.

“I sincerely apologize to everyone who has been involved in or taken offense from the recent controversy,” Seungri posted to Instagram in February. “I am sorry that this official explanation and apology is overdue. Surrounding acquaintances have discouraged me from apologizing right away, lest the uncertain details that have already snowballed create even bigger misunderstandings.” But it seems that even apologizing on one of the most popular social-media platforms in Korea (and later in concert) wasn’t enough to save him: first he was suspected of ordering the procurement of prostitutes for the nightclub’s clients, then his agency YG Entertainment terminated his contract, then the police charged him with distributing a picture taken with a hidden camera, then they charged him with embezzlement, and the dirt is apparently still being dug up.

Seungri isn’t the only celebrity brought low by the Burning Sun investigation so far: trawling the group chat rooms shared by these K-pop stars on Kakaotalk, Korea’s messaging app of choice, the dragnet has also ensnared, among others, the singer Jung Joon-young, who had used those rooms to distribute his own sex videos. “I admit to all my crimes,” says Jung’s statement of apology. “I filmed women without their consent and shared it in a chat room, and while I was doing so I didn’t feel a great sense of guilt.” It goes on: “Most of all, I kneel down to apologize to the women who appear in the videos and all those who might be disappointed and upset at this shocking incident,” adding an intent to “repent for my unethical and unlawful behaviors, which constitute criminal acts, for the rest of my life.” But neither those words nor any others are likely to put his image on the road to rehabilitation.

Read the whole thing at the Los Angeles Review of Books.