Suspect clears ex-police chief of role in scandal

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Suspect clears ex-police chief of role in scandal


From left: Seungri, Jung Joon-young

The business partner of former Big Bang member Seungri denied being protected by the head of Korea’s police force in 2016, saying the high-level police officer mentioned in one of his mobile group chats was a senior superintendent, which is several ranks lower.

Seoul police officers who questioned Yu In-seok and other suspects in the mushrooming sex, drugs and police protection scandal on Thursday revealed parts of Yu’s testimony to local reporters, but did not explicitly say which senior superintendent he described. Nor did they explain whether he and Seungri acknowledged protection or other special treatment from the police.

A senior superintendent is arguably the lowest rank of what is considered a high-level police officer in Korea, and senior superintendents include the head of a police precinct, head of a division within the Korean National Police Agency, a metropolitan police agency and a provincial police agency, among others.

At the center of the scandal is Burning Sun, a nightclub in Gangnam District, southern Seoul, which Seungri, 29, and Yu had a stake in. Seungri, whose real name is Lee Seung-hyun, was the youngest member of the world-renowned boy band Big Bang before he announced via Instagram on Monday that he was bowing out of the group and quitting show business altogether. The nightclub shut down last month after an avalanche of corruption allegations connected to drugs and prostitution arose.

The head of the Gangnam Police Precinct in 2016, when raunchy mobile chats were shared on the communication app KakaoTalk by Seungri, Yu and six other people, was a police officer who currently leads the Public Security Division within the National Police Agency. That officer denied any involvement in the case on Friday in a telephone interview with the JoongAng Ilbo, saying he has never heard of Yu and “can’t remember” giving any special favors to anyone while serving as Gangnam police chief in 2016.

Allegations that some police officers were involved in Seungri’s sex scandal simmered from the beginning, but it was only recently that the suspicions reached as far up as the nation’s police chief when a lawyer who claimed he had Yu and Seungri’s Kakao chats said on national radio this week that a former commissioner general, Korea’s highest-ranked police officer, could be connected.

The lawyer, Bang Jeong-hyeon, told a CBS radio program that he received the Kakao chats from an anonymous person via email and decided to submit them to the government’s Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission in late February. Bang said that in one part of the group Kakao conversations involving Yu and Seungri, someone said, “I saw Yu texting with the police chongjang yesterday and it was amazing.” There’s no chongjang rank in Korea’s police force, and Bang believes the person was erroneously referring to cheongjang, which could include the head of the National Police Agency, also known as the commissioner general, or the head of a metropolitan or provincial police agency.

Bang continued that a person, at one point, told his Kakao group chat members that the chongjang told him to “not worry” when a worker from a rival business next to theirs took photos of irregularities at their business and reported them to the police. Bang did not say in the CBS interview which of several businesses the members managed together the chongjang was referring to.

Seungri was also summoned by Seoul police on Thursday as a suspect and returned home Friday after 16 hours of grilling. The singer has yet to acknowledge any of the charges against him. As he left the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency, Seungri told reporters that he would postpone his military service and “sincerely” respond to investigations.

Seungri initially said he would start his military service on March 25. All able-bodied men in Korea are obliged to serve for about two years. Seungri’s lawyer said he would soon release a statement on the allegations.

Singer Jung Joon-young was also summoned for questioning as a suspect on Thursday and left the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Friday morning after 21 hours of grilling. Jung, 30, rose to stardom after appearing as a contestant on the fourth season of the Korean singing show "Superstar K" in 2012, where he placed fourth. Jung was in the same controversial Kakao group chat as Yu and Seungri, and faces allegations of recording sex tapes with at least 10 women without their consent and sharing the videos on Kakao.

Jung admitted to the charges and said he would “halt” his activities in the entertainment industry but did not explicitly say he would retire from show business like Seungri.

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