South Korea police question K-Pop star over alleged drug use

[1/5]G-dragon of K-pop group BIGBANG arrives at a police station to appear for questioning regarding his alleged illegal drug use in Incheon, South Korea, November 6, 2023. REUTERS/Kim Hong-Ji Acquire Licensing Rights

INCHEON, South Korea, Nov 6 (Reuters) – The former front man for the K-pop band BIGBANG, known as G-Dragon, appeared at a police station for questioning on Monday over allegations of illegal drug use, the latest in a string of South Korean artists embroiled in high-profile narcotics cases.

The investigation against the singer and rapper, whose given name is Kwon Ji-yong, comes amid an ongoing crackdown on illegal drugs by the government of conservative President Yoon Suk Yeol.

After the allegations surfaced in late October, shares of some K-pop agencies fell, including Kwon’s former agent YG Entertainment (122870.KQ), though they have since rebounded.

Leaving the police station after four hours of questioning, Kwon, 35, denied the allegations and said a drug test taken during questioning came back negative. He said he was cooperating with the police investigation.

As he arrived for questioning earlier, Kwon, who was dressed in a dark suit, said: “There is no truth to (the accusation of) illegal drug-related crime.”

The police station in Incheon was the same location where the star of the Oscar-winning film “Parasite”, Lee Sun-kyun, was separately also questioned over the weekend over an allegation of illegal drug use.

Lee declined to comment as he left the police station on Saturday, only saying he had answered all the questions asked by police to the best of his knowledge.

A series of arrests on drug charges in recent months, including of chaebol heirs and celebrities, has prompted authorities to tighten a crackdown on narcotics and customs inspections.

South Korea has tough drug laws, and crimes are typically punishable by at least six months in prison or up to 14 years for repeat offenders and dealers.

Social media and foreign travel have made illegal drugs more accessible, drug rehab advocates say.

Kwon is not the first member of BIGBANG to face criminal charges.

In 2017, T.O.P., whose legal name is Choi Seung-hyun, received a suspended 10-month jail sentence for marijuana use, after he pleaded guilty and sought leniency to avoid a prison term.

Seungri, whose real name is Lee Seung-hyun, was convicted in 2021 of collusion in a tax evasion, bribery and prostitution scheme and served an 18-month prison sentence.

BIGBANG dominated the K-pop scene after their debut in 2006. Kwon and four other former and current members have pursued solo careers.

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Jean Harris

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