As we witness one Hallyu star become the subject of a police investigation, there is also another under investigation involving a different Hallyu star taking place. However, in this case he is presented as the victim, as it was revealed recently that actor Lee Byung-hun had been blackmailed by two young women: an unknown model — dubbed “B” by the media, but whose name has now been revealed as Lee Ji-yeon — and a rookie singer, who was later revealed to be BTS labelmate Glam‘s Da-hee.
Lee Byung-hun has always had something of a reputation when it comes to his love life, though this is not a universally accepted one; many consider him somewhat of a creep, while others prefer to give him the benefit of the doubt. But, recent events may have tipped the actor into creep territory.
It was revealed that Lee, who married actress Lee Min-jung in August last year, invited the aforementioned two ladies to his marital abode for drinks. You know, just old friends catching up. This news came with revelation that the two women were attempting to blackmail the actor — not exactly what old friends do to each other.
Initial reports had the women asking Lee Byung-hun for one billion won (almost one million USD) for some “memorial photos” — that has now turned to a five billion won (approximately five million USD) sum — to keep a hidden video recording of the meeting at Lee’s house, reportedly containing conversations relating to sexual experiences, a secret.
After being threatened with revealing said video to the public if the money asked was not paid, Lee Byung-hun contacted the authorities rather than his bank; police found that Da-hee and Lee Ji-yeon had already arranged to flee to Europe after receiving the money from Lee and, after deciding that they were a flight risk, promptly arrested the two.
In a perplexing and shocking sight, they were led into the Seoul Central District police station with their hands tied with rope. I don’t know if the officers had forgotten their handcuffs or were worried about the strain they might put on the ladies’ wrists, but, whatever the reason, that’s the sight that greeted the press. Some images have the rope blurred out, but it feels like a largely ineffective move.
That Da-hee was one of the blackmailers came as a shock to many; she had a pretty active 2013, first with the release of underrated single “In Front of the Mirror,” followed by a starring turn in Mnet drama Monstar. The musical drama also gave her a chance to show off her pipes, which would have, one may think, led to increased interest in both Da-hee and Glam, on which Big Hit Entertainment could then capitalise with a comeback for the girl group.
For all we know, that could have very well been the plan. But, there was no Glam comeback and limited solo activities. Fans of the group have been impatient for an announcement of a new release or some sort of news from the ladies, but this wasn’t the kind of update they were expecting.
With Da-hee’s arrest, Glam’s future becomes even more unclear. This isn’t the group’s first brush with scandal: many believe that former member Trinity left the group because she was ousted as an alleged Leeteuk sasaeng. The group still managed to do well after Trinity’s departure, but this scandal is bigger: in addition to Da-hee being one of the group’s two vocalists, there is also the fact that an arrest has been made. Big Hit Entertainment has been distancing itself from the issue as well, claiming ignorance to the whole matter due to lack of contact with Da-hee.
Both women have at least partially admitted to the charges against them; now they have to face the legal repercussions of their actions. The maximum punishment for this crime is said to be ten years in prison, as well as a twenty million won (almost twenty thousand USD) fine. There has even been prior discussion of life sentences being delivered under special legal circumstances.
The reason for the harsh penalty is said to be due to the large sum of money the women attempted to extort. In June, a woman blackmailing JYJ‘s Yoochun for 100 million won (almost ten thousand USD) with personal photos was sentenced to ten months in jail; and the former manager and two accomplices who blackmailed actress Han Hyo-joo via her father for forty million won (almost forty thousand USD) all received suspended prison terms of less than a year each. As such, it can be expected that Lee Byung-hun’s blackmailers would likely face heavier penalties because of the amount of money they were asking.
The contents of the recording, as reported in the media, have puzzled many; what could possibly have been said that would be worth blackmailing Lee Byung-hun for five million dollars? The theory is that the recordings contained more than just dirty talk, and it is one that has taken root in netizens’ minds. It actually got to the point where Lee’s self-created agency BH Entertainment felt the need to come out and iterate that there was “nothing special” in the video.
Unfortunately, this may be backfiring on Lee, as netizens have taken the view that the star “doth protest too much.” All of his actions throughout these events seem to have only invited more scorn for him. What Da-hee and Lee Ji-yeon did was a crime, and they deserve to face the consequences for it. But, as many would see it, the two ladies wouldn’t even have such an easy opportunity to blackmail Lee in the first place if he wasn’t being such a philanderer.
In a likely attempt to quell the disapproval, Lee Byung-hun wrote a public apology, reportedly for the sake of Lee Min-jung, who has remained silent as events unfolded. If it was for her, then I think that is a pretty shitty move: to be making public apologies that would be better off made in private. Lee Min-jung is his wife, after all; surely, they have other means of communicating besides through the press?
Now, Lee Byung-hun is taking aim at “malicious rumours” being spread online, with BH Entertainment releasing a statement outlining its intent to legally pursue any false reports and rumours made about Lee and his involvement in this matter.
Considering the outcome of the cases of blackmailing above, it’s almost certain that Da-hee and Lee Ji-yeon will be sentenced to jail time. Many have pointed out the judicial misogyny where male celebrities who have committed more violent crimes and received lesser punishment — actor/singer Ryu Si-won’s fine for domestic abuse and comedian Jo Hyung-ki’s one year prison time for killing a woman while driving and hiding her body spring to mind — as well as more lenient treatment during investigations (Anyone? Anyone?). These cases may be different, but the apparent tendency for male celebrities to get off easier than female celebrities is difficult to ignore.
I hope that Lee Byung-hun gets the legal justice he deserves. But I also (perhaps futilely) hope that the punishment given to the two women isn’t affected by the fact that the plaintiff is a famous and powerful male celebrity.
Readers, what do you think of these events?