Seungri, K-Pop star and now former member of boy band Big Bang, announced in an Instagram post on Monday that he was retiring from music. The announcement came after the star was charged with violating South Korea's anti-prostitution laws.
Formed in 2006 by South Korean talent agency YG Entertainment, the five-member Big Bang has been wildly popular in and out of South Korea.
"I've decided to retire as the case that sparked this controversy has become too big," he wrote in the post. He continued, saying that he had been criticized by the public for the past month and a half and currently is under national-level investigation. Denying the charges against him, the star thanked his fans, both in and outside South Korea, who have supported him over the past decade.
The star noted that he has been denounced as if he was a traitor to his country, and did not want others close to him to suffer because of the scandal.
"For the sake and honor of Big Bang and YG [Entertainment], my career is ending here. I apologize to all of you again," he concluded.
The 28-year-old singer, whose real name is Lee Seung-hyun, allegedly directed staff at the Burning Sun, his luxury private nightclub, to provide sexual services to potential foreign investors. He was first declared a suspect after a group chat dating back to 2015, in which he appears to talk about sexual services, was exposed.
Some fans remained loyal to the singer and the band. According to Bloomberg, under the Twitter hashtag #SeungriDeservesBetter, one user wrote: "We call on the real fans' voice, do not fall into the shameless trap, we support Seungri!"
Over on China's Sina Weibo, some of the singer's Chinese fans used a similar hashtag, #NobelSeungri, to voice their support for the star, saying they did not believe the accusations and that the singer had nothing to hide.
Other fans criticized the singer for taking advantage of the group's fame to promote his business. Angered by the sex scandal, some Big Bang fans released a statement urging YG Entertainment to kick Seungri out of the band.
The singer's retirement announcement immediately sparked heated online discussion in China. Some Sina Weibo users ridiculed the naivety of the singer's loyal fans, suggesting that the singer was guilty and this was the reason he retired. It also seems that a majority of the non-fan population of Sina Weibo users are not willing to tolerate Seungri's alleged misconduct and his fans' defense of him.
"He has already decided to retire. Please stop hurting people with words. Could you just leave Big Bang with their last bits of dignity?" shot back one supporting fan.
For those who believed the accusations, they said they were disappointed by Seungri's misconduct and the irreversible damage he caused to the band's reputation. Mostly, the band's fans were disappointed to see the band being taken down by a series of scandals and feared that it would never be the same again.
The band's rapper, Choi Seung-hyun, better known by his stage name T.O.P., received a suspended jail sentence in 2017 for marijuana use. Band leader G-Dragon, who is currently serving out his two-year mandatory military service, was also investigated for marijuana use after testing positive in 2011. G-Dragon claimed he had accepted what he thought was a cigarette offered by a fan during a party, but threw it away when he realized it was not a regular cigarette. He was not charged.
Just a memory
G-Dragon, the band leader, began his military service in February 2018 and so will not be discharged until October. Many of the band's fans have been eagerly awaiting his return so that they could see the entire band perform again, but now it seems that may never happen due to Seungri's retirement.
#TheLastPerformancebyFiveMembersofBigBang rapidly rose to through the trending charts on Sina Weibo. By midnight on Monday, the total number of posts with the hashtag had reached 36,000.
Some netizens posted videos of the five members performing, saying they were saddened by the possibility that this would be the last time they could see the band together. Others shared videos or music from the band to pay tribute to the group and their memories of the five. Many posts said it was a shame that the band had reached this point, noting that they felt it was a great loss for fans around the world. As to Seungri's misconduct, many noted he had no one else to blame but himself.
No matter what side netizens were on, all agreed that his retirement from music marked the end of an era for the band.
"The band will never be complete again. The good times of my youth will only ever be a memory," commented one netizen.
This is not the first time that Chinese fans have turned their backs on a star due to misconduct. Chinese actor Wu Xiubo, who allegedly had an extramarital affair with a Chinese actress, sparking widespread outrage on the internet.
As a result, a film he starred in was canned and scenes he shot for several TV shows were cut.