Blackpink’s Jennie working on a new solo.
Blackpink’s Jennie Image Credit: Instagram/@jennierubyjane

Seoul: A now-deleted video showing K-Pop megastar Jennie of Blackpink apparently smoking a vape indoors has sparked online outcry, with Seoul’s foreign ministry telling AFP Tuesday it had received a formal complaint.

In the footage, uploaded as part of a live blog on YouTube for fans, but subsequently removed even as copies of it spread across the internet, Jennie appears to exhale vape smoke while a bevy of hair and make-up artistes work closely on her face.

Smoking cigarettes or vapes indoors is illegal in South Korea and the footage triggered headlines and online outrage, with “indoor smoking” and “Blackpink Jennie” becoming top trending topics on X in the South.

“Controversy over Jennie’s indoor smoking ... exhaling smoke in the face of her staff,” was the headline of the Yonhap news agency’s report on the incident, typical of the widespread reporting in Korean-language media.

One internet user claimed the incident likely happened in Italy’s Capri, where Jennie had been filming, and said they had requested that the South Korean Embassy in Italy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs probe the Blackpink star, the Korea Times reported.

The user urged Seoul to request “an investigation from the Italian authorities regarding Blackpink’s Jennie’s indoor smoking incident and take strict action,” the report said.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs told AFP on Tuesday that they had received a petition related to the incident.

Most successful K-Pop girl groups

Blackpink is one of South Korea’s most successful K-Pop girl groups, with their songs topping charts both locally and internationally.

Blackpink’s other achievements include being the first K-Pop girl group to reach the top of the US Billboard 200 chart, and the first Asian artistes to headline prestigious music events such as Coachella.

“Posting such a video on her own SNS channel raises serious questions about her common sense ... It is deeply disappointing,” said one commentator on South Korean portal Naver.

Smoking rates are relatively high in South Korea, but according to official data, as of 2022, only five per cent of South Korean women smoke, compared to 30 per cent of men.

South Korean pop stars undergo rigorous training for years before their debut and are held to high behavioural standards, with smoking, dating and swearing largely forbidden, especially in the first years following their debut.

Jennie has previously confessed to struggling with these expectations.

“It’s really harsh,” Jennie, who debuted with Blackpink in 2016, said in a Netflix documentary, adding that she had to endure “being told that I’m not good at stuff”.

Following the backlash, Jennie issued an apology via her agency, Oddatelier. “We sincerely apologise to everyone who felt uncomfortable with Jennie’s actions in the content released on the 2nd,’ the statement read.

“Jennie acknowledges and deeply regrets her mistake of vaping indoors and causing inconvenience to the staff. Jennie has personally apologised to all the staff on-site who may have been affected.”