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K-Pop Stars Convicted for Gambling

By Hannah Smith | August 05, 2019 09:39 AM EDT

K-Pop Stars Convicted for Gambling
(Photo : Drew Rae)

Who wouldn't want to earn some extra riches? There are different ways to do it, but, in South Korea, gambling is not one of them. You can get into serious trouble for it. The K-pop industry will tell you. K-pop Star winner Jung Jin Woo received a 1 year prison sentence for gambling on illegal gambling websites - a message to all those in South Korea that gambling will not be tolerated.

Now another big name from the K-pop world has gotten into trouble for gambling offences. This time, it's Shoo, former member of the band S.E.S.

Gambling and the law

In case you didn't know it, gambling in Korea is just about illegal. Any form allowed, which is hardly any, is so because it promotes public welfare or a specific industry in some way. Casinos exist in the country, but the majority are only open to tourists, except for one. Amazingly, a South Korean can't escape their country's gambling laws abroad - it's still an offence for them to gamble.

The fact that a certain type of gambling is legal in South Korea doesn't make it socially acceptable, however - and even less so if it's a K-pop star. Whereas in the West it's normal for pop stars to walk on the wild side, the South Koreans expect theirs to be role models. Vices should remain behind closed doors.

K-pop stars convicted of gambling

Jung Jin Woo may have won thousands of fans when he finished among the top eight in K-pop Star 5 and became part of the group PLT, but he wasn't with the authorities. Once Jung Jun Woo had been eliminated and the show finished in 2016, they announced that they'd been investigating his illegal gambling activity, which they'd been doing since 2014. His stepfather tried to take the fall for him, but the authorities were wise to it and dished out a one year prison sentence to Jung Jun Woo regardless.

Jung Jin Woo isn't the only K-pop star to have run into trouble over gambling offences. In 2013, H.O.T star Tony An was arrested for illegal gambling, as were four other showbiz personalities, in the 'Gambling Five' scandal. The five were rounded up for betting millions on the English Premier League through their smartphones. Tony An received a six month suspended prison sentence.

Shoo found guilty in 2019

Shoo was a teenage singing sensation in the 1990s and 2000s as part of the K-pop band S.E.S, who performed hit songs such as "I'm Your Girl" and "Remember". She walked away from pop music in 2006 to pursue an acting career. Despite appearances over the last 12 years, she's not been able to achieve the same level of success as she did in her teenage heyday.

The authorities have convicted Shoo for being more than an occasional gambler. The former K-pop star had been visiting casinos across the world regularly for several years, which prompted the South Korean government to consider her a 'habitual gambler' and that she is, therefore, violating the country's gambling laws.

Her activities first came to their attention when two private lenders file civil lawsuits against her, accusing her of not paying back a loan she had taken from them for gambling at a casino in South Korea. Her Japanese roots helped her escape conviction of the charges of domestic gambling and fraud. Prosecutors dropped the charges after deeming her eligible to gamble at the South Korean casino.

However, Shoo had also been spotted at casinos in Las Vegas and Macau, which was more problematic, and the authorities decided to take another look at her activities. They believed her to have lost around KRW790 million (approximately $707,000) between May 2016 and August 2018 through some reckless poker tactics she used in Macau - Shoo clearly had no concern with going all-in, although even if she'd won, she'd probably have had all of her winnings taken anyway!

The stakes were high. If found guilty, Shoo faced up to a potential three years in prison, as well as a possible fine of KRW20m (approximately $17,143). Despite the offences committed, the courts have been relatively kind to her in their sentencing. They sentenced her to six months in jail, suspended for two years. She'll also have to perform 80 hours of community service. The court felt it had to act, given the frequency of her gambling and her reputation.

Gambling aside

Unfortunately for the K-pop world, there have been other scandals. Earlier this year, the club Burning Sun, in the Gangnam district in Seoul, was closed down following allegations of assault, drug-related offences, police corruption and prostitution. The club had connections with K-pop star Lee Seung-hun, known better as Seungri, whose business partner owned the club. Seungri had used his celebrity status to promote the club and attract investment.

Not long after the closure of the club, a South Korean entertainment website then published text messages from a chat between the star and his business partner. The messages revealed that the star had been in a group chat with other male K-pop idols. Explicit content had been shared in the chat between members that detailed exploits of intimate encounters with members of the opposite sex. These women were unaware and had, of course, not given their consent.

K-pop may have had its scandals, but this larger-than-life industry keeps bouncing back as it always does. Their idols' brushes with the law have taught fans some useful lessons. With these lessons learned, fans can continue to look forward to fantastic music and fabulous gigs.


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