The 13 Biggest K-pop Scandals, From Sexscapades to “Strong Cigarettes”

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The 13 Biggest K-pop Scandals, From Sexscapades to “Strong Cigarettes”

There's more to the glossy world of K-pop than horse dancing and pretty girls. To get you up to speed on K-pop's seedy side, we've ranked the scene's biggest scandals, from the silliest to the most serious. —Jacques Peterson

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G-Dragon “Accidentally” Smokes Weed

South Korea ranks No. 1 in the world for hard liquor consumption, and it's not unusual to see K-pop stars boasting on TV about getting bombed. But drug use of any kind is completely verboten. A lesser star than Big Bang's G-Dragon might have been jailed for smoking pot, but after he tested positive for marijuana use late last year, the rapper offered up the least likely excuse for toking up since Bill Clinton said he didn't inhale: According to GD, he accepted what he thought was a “strong cigarette” from a stranger at an after-party, and was just too drunk to realize that it was actually a blunt.
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Boy Band Stars Deny Love

Sadly enough, gayness is still controversial in K-pop. There's been speculation about the sexuality of charismatic 2AM leader Jo-Kwon since the boy band debuted in 2008. His Newlyweds-style reality series We Got Married helped quiet the rumors—until 2010, when netizens dug up a series of poignant old love messages in which  Kwonnie and U-Kiss member Soohyun professed their love and desires to “eat,” “sleep,” “live,” and “lay” together. Jo-Kwon denied everything and claimed that the two men were just close friends. Soohyun, meanwhile, jokingly thanked his buddy for all the publicity brought on by the scandal.
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SeeYa's Nam Gyuri Covers Beyonce With Uncovered Breast

When Nam Gyuri of the then-popular girl group SeeYa let her breast hang out during a vigorous 2006 performance of Beyonce's “Crazy In Love,” the result was less dramatic than Janet Jackson's infamous wardrobe malfunction from two years before. (In a way, the act was also less coy.) The nipple slip left Gyuri in tears and her name in the headlines for months. But the incident also served her better than Jackson's did: Gyuri dramatically increased her public profile, cemented her status as  SeeYa's main star and charted a path to becoming a successful actress.
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Seungri's Kinky Sexcapades Exposed

This September a mystery female spilled the beans to a Japanese tabloid about her one night stand with Big Bang's maknae, Seungri. In the article—which ran alongside photos of a post-coital Seungri curled up asleep in a hotel bed—the woman claimed the star choked her during sex, flouted some basic etiquette and never kissed her the entire time. Once the scandal broke, Seungri briefly stepped out of the spotlight for “self-reflection”, die-hard fans argued that the photos had been doctored, and everything eventually returned to normal.
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Lee Hyori's Producer Rips Off Jason DeRulo

K-pop princess Lee Hyori quit promoting her 2010 album H-Logic shortly after its release when it was discovered that producer Bahnus had plagiarized seven of the tracks from artists including “Whatcha Say” singer Jason DeRulo. Hyori claimed she was duped by Bahnus, who was later fined $255,000 and thrown in jail. Still, nothing could offset the damage done to Hyori's reputation. The superstar and sex symbol once voted “the Beyonce of K-pop” hasn't released an album since, and instead worked on her image with charity work and safe TV gigs.
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Ivy Tangled in Trouble

K-diva Ivy can't seem to escape scandal. In 2007, the video for her hit “Sonata of Temptation” was banned for plagiarizing a fight scene from Final Fantasy VII (pictured)—a mere hint of trouble to come. Later that year, the media discovered that Ivy's ex-boyfriend had tried to blackmail her with a sex tape and nude photos. The disgruntled ex was arrested, but (much to the dismay of Ivy's male fans) the tape and photos never surfaced. Soon after, rumors spread that Ivy had been two-timing popular R&B singer Wheesung. Then, in 2009, her comeback single “Touch Me” (written by Psy) was banned for its sexual content. Fans were ready to believe anything when a sex clip said to feature the singer leaked in 2010, although it was later found that the woman in the video was a Chinese non-celebrity. Ivy didn't return with new music until this year.
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Kara Plays Chicken With Their Label

Many of K-pop's biggest controversies stem from disputes between idols and their labels—hardly a surprise considering the strict rules Korean trainees and idols have to adhere to, and the so-called “slave” contracts they're often bound to. Fearful of lawsuits and bad publicity, few idols try to break them. So it was a shock when, early last year, superstar girl group Kara filed a suit against their label, DSP Media, to have their contracts terminated. The girls cited mismanagement, an overloaded work schedule, and issues with their pay—all claims that DSP denied. Everyone from record execs and other artists to union members and fans had something to say about the headline-grabbing scandal, and for a while, it looked like one of Asia's biggest groups was done for. But after four months, the dispute was finally resolved. Kara rejoined DSP, and after seeing their album sales spike from all the publicity the scandal generated, they returned to the charts bigger and better than ever.
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Daesung Runs Over Motorcyclist

In May of last year, Big Bang's Daesung accidentally ran over a motorcyclist—already lying in the road after wiping out—while reportedly driving 12 mph over the speed limit. It was unclear whether the man died due to his crash or Daesung hitting him. Police decided there wasn't enough evidence to charge Daesung, and he settled with the victim's family for an undisclosed sum. He then took a few months off for “self-reflection.” In March of this year, Daesung made a massive comeback with Big Bang's release of Alive, the first Korean album to crack the Billboard 200.

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T-ara Busted in Fake Bullying Scandal

This past July, T-ara unceremoniously booted rapper Hwayoung. Nosey netizens, who took a few of the group's ambiguous tweets out of context, then accused the girls of bullying her. The media ran with the bullying angle, and the fallout was severe: T-ara lost multiple endorsement deals and saw their sales slump. One member was suddenly sacked from a TV series she was set to star in, and another had her character written out of the show she was already acting in. Hwayoung and T-ara denied the rumors, but few people believed them, and when T-ara returned with a new single, “Sexy Love,” in early September, it failed to top the charts as their previous hits did. Sales of “Sexy Love” remained steady, though, as the girls promoted the song with a series of pre-taped performances. They didn't, however, do any live interviews or public appearances.
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SM Messes With Super Junior Formula

In 2007, SM Entertainment announced plans to spin-off a Chinese-language subgroup from their thirteen-member boy band Super Junior. Super Junior's fans, known as named ELFs, were enraged, fearing that the subgroup's two new Chinese members would be added to Super Junior and somehow ruin the band. The ELFs issued petitions and held protests outside of SM's headquarters, waving signs reading “Only 13.” When SM ignored them, the ELFs got together, purchased approximately 58,000 shares of the company's stock, and released a statement saying they'd do anything to keep SuJu as-is. SM finally conceded and promised that the subgroup's new members would not be added to the main group.
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Agency CEO Sexually Assaults Trainees

Last April, the former crime boss and nightclub owner Jang Seok-woo was arrested for sexually assaulting female trainees at his entertainment agency, Open World Entertainment. According to reports, Seok-woo plied his victims with doctored alcohol before assaulting them in the basement rehearsal studio. He also allegedly used his authority to coerce his male trainees to attack their female counterparts—while he watched from a closed-circuit TV in his office, directing the assaults via text messages. He was officially charged in August and sentenced to six years in prison.
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TVXQ Implode

The boy band TVXQ were the biggest pop act in Asia (they held the Guinness record for the world's largest fan club!) in 2009 when three of the group's five members challenged their contracts with SM Entertainment. They questioned their cut of the group's income, said that grueling schedules were booked without their consent and claimed that their 13-year contracts were too long. SM held a press conference to say that three of the group's members simply wanted to to be released from their contracts so they could start a cosmetics company. The court granted the members a temporary injunction that allowed them to form a trio, JYJ. (The remaining members of TVXQ continued as a duo.) And while JYJ have found some success in Asia, without SM's support they're unable to secure spots on the Korean music programs on which most K-poppers promote themselves. With the contract dispute ongoing, that's unlikely to change soon. Meanwhile, TVXQ's original fan base has shattered, with some taking JYJ's side, others sticking with the reduced TVXQ and the rest hoping for a reconciliation.
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Fans Expel Jay Park, Then Beg for His Return

2PM leader Jay Park bowed out of the group in 2009 after netizens uncovered some anti-Korean ramblings that he had posted to a friend through his private MySpace account. The most inflammatory comment—“Korea is gay ... I hate Koreans”—was written years prior when a homesick Park (he was born and raised in Seattle) first arrived in the country to begin training with JYP Entertainment. Park issued an official apology, but it wasn't enough to quell the notoriously nutty netizens, some of whom even started petitions calling for Park's suicide. The singer eventually quit the group and returned to the States—whereupon Korean fans began calling for his return. As part of the reversal, they boycotted the remaining 2PM members and even hired a plane to fly over Seattle with a banner reading, “J. What time is it now?” Park returned in 2010 with a viral cover of B.o.B.'s “Nothin' On You,” which he later officially released in Korea, where it became a huge hit. Park has since carved out a successful career not only as an artist but also as a writer and producer for stars like U-Kiss and Younha.

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