[ENTERTAINMENT]Drug scandals are a bad trip for stars

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[ENTERTAINMENT]Drug scandals are a bad trip for stars

"It was the first time I regretted being an entertainer," Kim Jeong-eun told reporters at a news conference Wednesday. One of Korea's most popular actresses, Kim has a cute and perky image, which has won her many deals for lucrative TV commercials. But that clean image fell in a ditch of doubt after Kim's friend and fellow actress Seong Hyeon-a was busted for drug use March 7.

Rumors immediately began flying that Kim was also a suspect. About a week later, prosecutors asked her to take a drug test, and she agreed. She didn't want the news to reach the press, but it leaked anyway and the rumors grew. Convinced she was becoming guilty by association, she called the press conference to show that her test results all came up negative. On the surface, Kim may seem to have overreacted - but she had her reasons.

Recently, the local entertainment scene has been swept up in a rash of drug scandals, and many celebrities have been charged. One scandal that broke last November doused the crown of the TV actress Hwang Su-jeong, who had had a wholesome image. Hwang was busted for using methamphetamines with her boyfriend - who, to make matters worse, was married.

Put bluntly, involvement in a drug scandal is essentially a death sentence for an entertainer's career. You're blacklisted from the business; advertisers pull your ads, you're fired from work you're doing and you can't find any more work.

Hwang's arrest spawned numerous rumors about other celebrities, and some have turned out to be true. Several personalities have been disgraced by having their images plastered across the front pages of tabloids.

Production companies and advertising agencies have become quite cautious since the drug scandal outbreaks. The word in advertising circles is: "Before you cast a star in a commercial, have them undergo a drug test first."

Another personality caught recently for using drugs was Na Young-seok, a fashion model and actress, who was arrested for using the party drug ecstasy. "If I hadn't been in the entertainment industry, I would never have been exposed to drugs," she claimed. Also arrested this year, for using marijuana, was the pop singer Psy. He recently released a new album, "Saeng" ("Alive"), but his fan base seems to have eroded.

One of Korea's first celebrities to be tangled up in drug scandals was Lee Hyun-woo. The singer was first arrested for using marijuana in the early 1990s, then was busted three more times for using harder drugs. He managed to make a successful comeback in the late 1990s, and now is an anti-drug advocate.

An official of the narcotics investigation department at the Seoul Prosecutors Office told the JoongAng Ilbo English Edition that its investigations are not targeted primarily at entertainers, but are aimed at eradicating drug use in general. In particular, he pointed out, ecstasy use is on the rise.

Meanwhile, Kim Jeong-eun, the actress with the clean test results, isn't taking any chances. She said she will soon host an event called "Concert to Stop Drug Use."

by Chun Su-jin

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