Supreme Court affirms ex-Big Bang Seungri’s jail sentence of 1.5 years; set for release next year

Published May 26, 2022, 11:18 AM

by Jonathan Hicap

South Korea’s Supreme Court upheld on May 26 the prison sentence imposed on former K-pop boy band Big Bang member Seungri, 32, who was convicted on nine charges including prostitution brokerage and overseas gambling.

The First Division of the Supreme Court under Justice Rho Tae-ak issued the decision affirming Seungri’s imprisonment of one year and six months.

Former Big Bang member Seungri (Instagram)

On Aug. 12 last year, the General Military Court found Seungri guilty and sentenced him to three years in prison and ordered him to pay a fine of 1.15 billion won (about $950,000). He was immediately taken into custody.

He was convicted by the military court for the following charges: prostitution brokerage in violation of Act on the Punishment of Arrangement of Commercial Sex Acts Etc., embezzlement, overseas gambling, procuring prostitution service, violation of Foreign Exchange Transactions Act, violation of Food Sanitation Act, violation of the Act on Special Cases Concerning The Punishment, Etc. of Sexual Crimes, violation of an Act on the Aggravated Punishment Etc. of Specific Economic Crimes and mobilizing gang to threaten people.

Seungri’s conviction stemmed from the Burning Club scandal in early 2019. On March 11, 2019, Seungri announced his retirement from the entertainment industry due to the scandal.

“I have decided to retire from the entertainment industry as the issues that caused social controversy are so great,” he said then.

After Seungri’s conviction last August, an appeal was filed with the court. Last Jan. 27, the High Military Court of the Ministry of National Defense held a hearing.

During the hearing, Seungri admitted all the charges and expressed his intention to reflect. The High Military Court appeared to have taken this into account and reduced his sentence to one year and six months.

After the verdict, Seungri and the prosecution filed their respective appeals, which resulted in the Supreme Court deciding on the matter.

Seungri filed an appeal to know whether the crime of habitual gambling, a violation of Korea’s Criminal Act, was established.

“The habit of gambling is recognized when the nature, method, frequency and scale of so-called baccarat played by the accused [Seungri] are taken into account,” the court said.

However, the Supreme Court rejected the appeal of the prosecution that 1.15 billion won (about $909,000) should be collected from Seungri.

Prosecutors argued that Seungri borrowed $1 million worth of gambling chips from a hotel casino without reporting it as a foreign exchange transaction, and the money equivalent to the amount of chips should be collected from him.

The Supreme Court court found Seungri guilty of arranging prostitution from December 2015 to January 2016 for investors from Taiwan, Japan and Hong Kong to get investment for his clubs and other businesses.

He was also found guilty of embezzling 528 million won (about $417,000) of funds from the Burning Sun club.

Seungri was also convicted for habitual gambling from 2013 to 2017 with 2.2 billion won ($1.7 million) at stake, and mobilizing a gang to threaten people.

Since August, Seungri has been serving his sentence at the Military Correctional Institution. With the Supreme Court decision, Seungri will be converted into a civilian status and he will be transferred to a regular prison where he will serve the remaining nine months of his sentence until he is released in February 2023.

Seungri debuted in Big Bang in 2006.