Jung Joon-young
This picture taken on March 12, 2019 shows K-pop star Jung Joon-young (C) surrounded by reporters as he arrives at Incheon international airport in Incheon. A burgeoning K-pop sex scandal claimed a second scalp as a singer who rose to fame after coming second in one of South Korea's top talent shows admitted secretly filming himself having sex and sharing the footage. Image Credit: AFP

Hong Kong: A K-pop singer apologised on Wednesday for filming and sharing intimate videos of women without their consent as South Korea reckoned with a widening inquiry centered on another celebrity's misconduct at Seoul nightclubs.

The Seoul police say the 30-year-old singer, Jung Joon-young, is suspected of violating sexual violence laws that prohibit the non-consensual filming and sharing of intimate videos. He was met by investigators on Tuesday at Incheon International Airport after he arrived on a flight from Los Angeles, where he had been filming a variety show.

In a written statement shared by his agency, MAKEUS Entertainment, on Wednesday, Jung admitted to illicitly filming women and sharing the videos in group chats online.

Men competitively upload illegally filmed videos and encourage one another so that they upload again and the cycle perpetuates

- Yunkim Ji-yeong

"I kneel down to apologise to the women who appear in the videos," he wrote, adding that he would withdraw from the entertainment scene and repent his "unethical and unlawful acts" for the rest of his life.

Jung's admission comes after another K-pop singer, Lee Seung-hyun, who performed under the name Seungri, announced his retirement on Monday after being named a suspect for "offering sexual services" at nightclubs. The 28-year-old singer has denied the allegations but nonetheless chose to leave the entertainment scene and quit his boy band, Big Bang.

The police have said that the two cases are "related and not related," but noted that Jung's case could be seen as a "derivative" of their inquiry into Lee's conduct.

Jail time

Under South Korean law, those found guilty of taking explicit photos or videos without a subject's consent can face up to five years in prison or a fine of up to 30 million won, or $26,500 (Dh97,334). The distribution of intimate photos or videos without consent carries the same maximum punishment.

But critics say the police and prosecutors are lax about enforcing the law. In 2018, only roughly a third of the 6,800 reported cases were taken to trial, according to statistics from the Supreme Prosecutors' Office of the Republic of Korea. And fewer than one in 10 trials led to prison sentences that year.

A game?

Yunkim Ji-yeong, an assistant professor of feminist philosophy at the Institute of Body and Culture at Konkuk University, said such illicit filming and sharing of the videos were commonplace in South Korea.

"Men competitively upload illegally filmed videos and encourage one another so that they upload again and the cycle perpetuates," she said.

She added that while tens of thousands of South Korean women protested illicit filming in a half-dozen rallies in 2018, some women were still surprised by the allegations because they contradicted the idealized image of pop idols. "These cases show that these male celebrities were using women to conduct illegal activities," Yunkim said.

MAKEUS Entertainment said in a statement that Jung's contract had been terminated after he made an apology.