The Korean entertainment industry was rocked by scandals and deaths in 2019 even as K-pop continued to expand its global reach.
Here are the top 10 Korean entertainment stories in 2019:
1. Burning Sun club and Seungri – The now-closed Gangnam club Burning Sun became one of the biggest Korean entertainment issues in 2019 because of the involvement of former Big Bang member Seungri, who served as a director. It started in January when a man complained he was beaten by the club’s security personnel in November 2018. The investigation snowballed into prostitution and drugs. Seungri was accused of allegedly supplying women to potential investors for an investment company. On March 11, Seungri announced on Instagram he was retiring from the entertainment industry because of the controversy.
2. Jung Joon-young and FT Island’s Choi Jong-hoon convicted – An offshoot of the Burning Sun controversy was the report by SBS News on March 11, the day Seungri announced his retirement, that singer Jung Joon-young uploaded sex videos to several Kakao Talk chat rooms involving several people including FT Island’s Choi Jong-hoon, CNBLUE’s Jonghyun, Seungri and Highlight’s Junhyung. Last Nov. 29, Seoul Central District Court sentenced Jung Joon-young to six years in prison and Choi Jong-hoon to five years after they were found guilty of quasi-rape for sexually assaulting women in 2016. Jung Joon-young was also found guilty of uploading the illegally filmed sex videos to KakaoTalk chat rooms. Junhyung left Highlight while Jonghyun left CNBLUE last August after a YouTube revealed he sent her messages.
3. iKON’s B.I leaves group; Yang Hyun-suk steps down from YG Entertainment – On June 12, boy band iKON’s leader B.I announced he would be leaving the group just hours after a Korean news site reported his alleged transaction chats in which he negotiated to buy LSD (lysergic acid diethylamide), a hallucinogen, from a drug dealer in 2016. Two days later, YG Entertainment founder Yang Hyun-suk announced he had stepped down from the company. “In the last 23 years and half of my life, I have devoted everything to grow YG. I’m going to step down from all my positions and duties at YG today. I sincerely hope that there will be no more damage to the entertainers of YG that I love and all fans who love them because of me,” he said in a statement posted on the YG website. The following day, his brother, Yang Min-suk, resigned as CEO of YG Entertainment.
4. Celebrity deaths – The Korean entertainment industry was shocked when four celebrities passed away in 2019. They were actress Jeon Mi-seon, K-pop stars Sulli and Goo Hara and actor Cha In Ha, who were all found dead. Jeon Mi-seon, whose drama credits included “Moon Embracing the Sun” and “King of Baking, Kim Takgu,” passed away on June 29 at age 48. On Oct. 14, 25-year-old Sulli, former member of girl group f(x), was found dead in her home in Seongnam. The following month, her friend, Goo Hara, 28, was found dead on Nov. 24 in her home in Cheongdam, Gangnam. Actor Cha In Ha, 27, was found dead in his home in Gangnam on Dec. 3.
5. K-pop group disbandments – Many K-pop boy and girl bands have disbanded in 2019. Among them are Hello Venus, Matilda, Marmello, Pristin, Bigstar, Boyfriend, Blanc7, Honeyst, 14U, A-JAX, Nine Muses, Wassup and MyTeen. In addition, several K-pop stars have left their group in 2019 due to various issues. They include Wonho of Monsta X, Kangin of Super Junior, iKON’s B.I, Seung-hyun of FT Island, Yeonwoo and Taeha of Momoland, Jonghyun of CNBLUE, Highlight’s Junhyung, Seungri of Big Bang, Woojin of Stray Kids and Hwall of The Boyz.
6. Star couple Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo divorced – Thousands of fans were surprised and saddened when reports came out in June that top celebrity couple Song Joong-ki and Song Hye-kyo were headed for divorce. Song Joong-ki filed for divorce mediation against the actress on June 26, or just one year and eight months after their fairytale wedding on Oct. 31, 2017 in Seoul. The two fell in love after starring in the drama “Descendants of the Sun.” Song Hye-kyo said it was due to personality differences. A court approved their divorce on July 22. Another star couple, Ku Hye Sun and Ahn Jae Hyun, are headed for divorce.
7. ‘Produce X 101’ producers admit rigging votes – After the final episode of the survival audition TV show “Produce X 101” aired on July 19, fans complained and accused the program of rigging the rankings of the winners. That led to an investigation and resulted in the indictment of director Ahn Joon-young, producer Kim Yong-beom and six other people last Dec. 3. The two were detained last November and during the police investigation, “PD Ahn Joon Young admitted the suspicions over fabricating rankings in ‘Produce X 101’ aired this year and ‘Produce 48’ broadcast in 2018,” reported MyDaily and V Today. Ahn was also treated by entertainment agencies at different establishments in Gangnam with the amount reaching 100 million won (about P4.36 million). During the preparatory hearing held at the Seoul Central District Court on Dec. 20, Ahn and Kim’s lawyer said the two accused admitted most of the charges in rigging the votes, according to Yonhap News. Because of the scandal, the activities of K-pop groups IZ*ONE, composed of “Produce 48” winners, and X1, composed of “Produce X 101” winners, are suspended. The next hearing is set on Jan. 14.
8. K-pop groups enjoy global success – Idol groups including BTS, BLACKPINK, Monsta X and the new Super M pushed the envelope of K-pop’s global reach with their music and shows. BTS wrapped up their “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself” world tour with three final shows in Seoul on Oct. 26, 27 and 29 that attracted more than 130,000 fans. The “Love Yourself” and its extension “Love Yourself: Speak Yourself” concert tours drew 2.06 million fans at 62 shows in 23 cities. In home country South Korea, BTS won all the daesang, or grand prizes, at the 2019 Mnet Asian Music Awards (MAMA) and 2019 Melon Music Awards (MMA) by winning Song of the Year, Artist of the Year, Album of the Year, Worldwide Icon of the Year and Record of the Year. In the US, BTS won Tour of the Year, Favorite Duo or Group Pop/Rock and Favorite Social Artist at the 2019 American Music Awards and Top Duo/Group and Top Social Artist at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards. BLACKPINK’s ‘DDU-DU DDU-DU’ music video reached 1 billion views last Nov. 11 since its upload on YouTube on June 15, 2018. With this, BLACKPINK became the first K-pop group to achieve the record for a single music video. YouTube announced that BLACKPINK’s “Kill This Love,” which won the Music Video of 2019 at the E! People’s Choice Awards, is the No.1 most viewed K-pop music video worldwide in 2019 with 669 million views followed by BTS’ “Boy with Luv” with 629 million views.
9. ‘Parasite’ sets sight on Oscar nomination – The critically-acclaimed and box office hit “Parasite” is aiming to be the first Korean film to bag a nomination at the 92nd Academy Awards, or the Oscars. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the shortlist and “Parasite” is in the running for consideration in the Best International Feature Film, formerly called Best Foreign Language Film, and Original Song through “A Glass of Soju.” The film earlier bagged bagged three nominations for the 77th Golden Globe Awards: Best Foreign Language Film, Best Director for Bong Joon Ho and Best Screenplay for Bong and Han Jin-won.
10. Kim Woo-bin returns after battle with cancer – Korean star Kim Woo-bin has made his comeback after being sidelined for two years and six months due to cancer. He made his first public event at the 40th Blue Dragon Film Awards held on Nov. 21. In May 2017, his agency announced the “Uncontrollably Fond” actor was diagnosed with nasopharyngeal cancer. He underwent three chemotherapy sessions and 35 radiation treatments. He will start shooting a film in 2020.