K-Pop Icon Seungri Gets Prison for Pimping Prostitutes, Gambling With Millions

  • Seungri was found guilty of illicit, gambling-related foreign exchange transactions in Las Vegas
  • He must also pay ₩1.15bn ($1m) for his involvement in organizing prostitution in Gangnam
  • Police booked him and Big Bang’s former CEO in August 2019 for illegal overseas gambling 
  • The prostitution pimping case centered around the notorious Gangnam nightclub Burning Sun
Gold Gangnam style statue in Gangnam district, South Korea
Seungri is going to jail for three years for his illegal foreign exchange transactions involving millions gambled at Vegas casinos, and for pimping prostitutes in the Gangnam district (pictured above). [Image: Shutterstock.com]

Three-year sentence for Seungri

A military court in South Korea has sentenced Seungri, a former member of K-pop boy band Big Bang, to three years in prison. He was found guilty of organizing prostitution, plus what The Guardian cited as “overseas gambling at luxurious casinos in Las Vegas involving illicit foreign exchange transactions.”

K-Pop columnist and author Tamar Herman took to Twitter on August 12 to share news of Seungri’s sentencing:

The military court found Seungri, of real name Lee Seung-hyun, guilty on all nine counts against him on Thursday, over two years after allegations first emerged concerning the ex-pop star.

Seungri’s latest court appearance saw him in official South Korean military dress. After dramatically retiring from show business in March 2019 as the sex and gambling scandal broke, he enlisted with the armed forces. Seungri appeared before a military court because he is still actively on military service.

Gambling with millions

Seungri, along with Big Bang’s former CEO Yang Hyun-Suk, was first booked by local South Korean police at the beginning of August 2019 for violating the country’s Foreign Exchange Transaction Act.

Later in August that year, police indicated they would be summoning the pair for questioning about their alleged partaking in and receiving money from gambling overseas, which is not permitted in South Korea. Seungri and Hyun-Suk allegedly spent a lot of time gambling with millions of dollars in Sin City casinos. 

alleged partaking in and receiving money from gambling overseas

Initial suspicions relating to the Big Bang pair’s casino expenditure came after the US Treasury Department informed Korean authorities that the two men had purchased casino chips using big amounts of cash. There was no record of these funds having being wired from South Korea. 

Seoul Central Prosecutors’ office then indicted Seungri without arrest in January 2020 for allegedly pimping prostitutes for investors, embezzlement, bribery, unlawful gambling, violation of foreign currency exchange, and contravening food hygiene laws.

Scandals around the Burning Sun

The court also ordered Seungri to pay a fine of ₩1.15bn ($1m) for his involvement in the prostitution pimping case centered around the Burning Sun, a notorious nightclub in Seoul’s glitzy Gangnam neighborhood.

he “carried out systematic sexual prostitution”

According to media reports, Judge Hwang Min-je said it was difficult for Seungri to be unaware of money being paid to the women for sex, and that he “carried out systematic sexual prostitution.” Seungri denied most of the charges and shook his head as the court delivered his sentence, Reuters reported.

The Burning Sun nightclub, which has since shuttered, saw Seungri manage the venue’s publicity while occupying a seat on the board. CNN cited Seoul Metropolitan Police as naming the Burning Sun a site for “bribery, violence against customers, securing prostitutes for VIPs, rape, drug trafficking and drug use.”

CNN said the K-Pop-star scandal has raised questions over the treatment of women by music celebrities, in addition to drawing attention to sexual harassment and voyeurism in South Korean society.

At the time he left the band in 2019, Seungri went on Instagram to post: “I just cannot bear causing any further damage to people around me, while being hated and criticized by the public and being treated as a nation’s enemy during the investigation.”

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