The untold truth of Big Bang
Big Bang has been one of the biggest names in K-Pop since 2006, when the five-piece boy band made its debut. The members soon became known as the “kings of K-pop” in their home country, and their influence soon spread across continents. In 2011, Big Bang became the first Korean group to be named best worldwide act at the MTV Europe Music Awards (via CNN). Rival K-pop group BTS would ultimately conquer America before Big Bang, but the latter still has a huge following Stateside, despite the numerous scandals that have embroiled its members.
The K-pop industry is known for being super strict, with idols expected to follow a stringent set of guidelines. Artists run the risk of being fired if they date someone (a big no-no in Korean entertainment). They allegedly have to follow insane diets to stay in shape, and they’re expected to work crazy long hours — all with a smile on their faces. Agencies want the ideal idol, someone who can be a role model to fans of all ages. While Big Bang’s agency, YG Entertainment, works hard to paint the group’s members in this light, the reality is that they’ve got some skeletons in their respective closets. From the prostitution scandal that shook the industry to the military service drama, this is the untold truth of Big Bang.
Seungri quits K-pop after prostitution scandal
Actor and Big Bang member Seungri sensationally announced his retirement from the entertainment industry in March 2019, after becoming embroiled in a prostitution scandal. According to Seoul Metropolitan Police (via CNN), Gangnam nightclub The Burning Sun is being investigated on a string of serious charges. including violence against customers, securing prostitutes for guests, drug trafficking, and rape. Seungri, who handled promotions for the club, stepped down as a board member and apologized to fans during a concert.
“I think I’d better leave the entertainment industry at this moment,” he posted to social media. “I just cannot bear causing any further damage to people around me, while being hated and criticized by the public and being treated as a nation’s enemy during the investigation. I’m truly grateful for all my fans in Korea and in the world for showing much love for the past 10 years. I feel that I need to end it here for the reputation of YG and Big Bang.” According to The Japan Times, the superstar entrepreneur is accused of attempting to provide his business investors with prostitutes — a claim he has denied.
Seungri’s first sex scandal
The CNN report on the Seungri prostitution scandal described him as having “maintained the squeaky-clean image required of South Korean entertainers” over the years, though this isn’t entirely true. In fact, the singer was at the center of another scandal in 2012, when Japanese gossip mag Friday obtained images of him shirtless in bed. They were supposedly taken by a Japanese woman, who claimed to have had a one-night stand with the K-pop idol while he was in Japan working on solo material. According to the woman who took the pics, Seungri likes to play rough in the bedroom, as she sensationally revealed during her interview with the magazine (via Soompi).
The superstar’s image changed overnight, something he admitted when he appeared on Korean talk show Incarnation the following year. “It was the first time in history that an idol became the center of a scandal like that,” he said (via KPopStarz). “The magazine I was published in is very famous — they don’t even bother talking about anyone who is not famous. It was my first scandal and it was so big. I was scared and shocked. I think a lot of people started to think I was an adult because of that scandal.”
Daesung was acquitted after the death of a motorcyclist
Big Bang was embroiled in another serious story when member Daesung hit a motorcyclist with his car in May 2011. According to the Yonhap news agency (via CNN), the motorcyclist was already collapsed on the road when Daesung approached in his Audi. A taxi driver had reportedly gotten out of his vehicle to check on the motorcyclist, but the K-pop star apparently saw neither of them. Daesung hit the motorcyclist and then the parked taxi before coming to a stop.
Police confirmed that Daesung was exceeding the speed limit, but tests showed he was not intoxicated at the time. The motorcyclist reportedly did have alcohol in his system and had crashed into a street lamp prior to being run over by Daesung. The idol was acquitted, but the incident took a toll on Daesung’s mental health. After reading what people were saying about him online, he even considered taking his own life. “I wasn’t hungry at all and everything was just blank,” he said (via Soompi). “I felt so sorry that I cried every day… I never thought I would get hurt by netizen comments, but it was impossible not to after reading some of the comments… The worst one was calling me a ‘murderer.’ I realized how scary and brutal that word could be.”
Did G-Dragon dodge military service?
In South Korea, all able-bodied men are expected to serve in the military for 21 months, regardless of how rich and famous they are. Even the biggest K-pop stars can’t avoid conscription, though some of them have been known to try. Big Bang rapper and producer G-Dragon made headlines in his home country in 2019, when he was accused of trying to dodge his military duties. According to The Korea Times, the superstar attempted to get out of serving on medical grounds but was found to be healthy enough for the role.
“Kwon Ji-yong (G-Dragon’s real name) will have to serve on active duty as he was rated ‘appropriate’ during the re-evaluation,” an army representative confirmed. Rumors that the celeb was on the verge of being dishonorably discharged spread like wildfire when it transpired that he failed to advance from the level of private. “Although it is true Kwon has not advanced to corporal, he will acquire the next status before long, after he meets the examination requirements,” an army spokesperson said.
According to Dispatch (via The Korea Times) the real reason G-Dragon had remained a private was due to an “excessive use of vacations.” The Korean news agency alleged in March 2019 that the superstar had taken nearly 100 days off since joining the army in February 2018, though G-Dragon’s camp disputed that figure. “Kwon has used 76 vacation days ― 47 of those days were for medical treatment,” his management claimed.
G-Dragon’s marijuana scandal
The military debacle has been damaging to G-Dragon’s reputation, but it wouldn’t be the first time he’s had to win over the Korean public. In 2011, the musician tested positive for marijuana. That might not seem like such a big deal, but using pot can have serious consequences in Korea — citizens have even been warned to not even smoke in countries where it’s legal. The Big Bang star was in Japan (where the drug remains illegal) when he tried it at a party, though he claims he had no idea what he was smoking. The way G-Dragon tells it, he was offered a joint by a stranger in the restroom and he mistook it for a cigarette.
“I thought it would be rude to refuse, so I accepted it without giving it a second thought,” he said during an appearance on Korean talk show Healing Camp (via AllKPop). “I was intoxicated from the alcohol, and I just figured it was a really strong cigarette. I never smelled [marijuana] before, so I couldn’t tell the difference. It looked like the cigarettes that I smoke.” When the host of the show called BS on his story, G-Dragon insisted that he was telling the truth. “It wouldn’t be possible for my lies to be believable, and if I was lying, I would never have been able to face the public,” he said.
T.O.P smoked P.O.T, too
G-Dragon isn’t the only member of Big Bang to land himself in trouble over a small amount of marijuana. Bandmate T.O.P was found out after authorities began looking into a K-pop trainee named Han Seo Hee, who was suspected of illegal drug use. “While investigating Han Seo Hee, police learned that T.O.P had also smoked marijuana with her,” Koreaboo reports. “Police examined Han Seo Hee’s belongings and were able to verify her claims of smoking with T.O.P.”
The actor and rapper admitted that he’d smoked pot with the female trainee on a handful of occasions in the privacy of his home, and he was subsequently indicted on drugs charges. On top of a 10-month jail sentence (suspended for two years), the superstar was told that he would have to re-enlist in the military and start his 21 month service from scratch. “I’m truly sorry that I disappointed my fans and the public,” he said after leaving court (via Billboard). “I will do my best to make a fresh start and not to make such a mistake again with what I’ve learned from this lesson.”
G-Dragon has been accused of plagiarism on multiple occasions
Big Bang fans often wax lyrical about G-Dragon’s songwriting abilities, though the group’s leader has actually been accused of plagiarism on more than one occasion. In 2017, fans noticed that his song “Intro: Middle Fingers Up” from his record-breaking solo album, Kwon Ji-Yong, sounded an awful lot like “iSpy” by U.S. rap artist KYLE. According to KPopStarz, a number of die-hard V.I.P’s (the collective name for Big Bang fans) called it a coincidence, but many weren’t convinced.
KYLE isn’t the first American rapper that G-Dragon has been accused of ripping off. In 2009, G-Dragon’s name was dragged through the mud for allegedly plagiarizing the Flo Rida song “Right Round” with his remarkably similar track, “Heartbreaker.” Sony Korea reportedly sent G-Dragon a strongly-worded letter and ordered him to stop promoting the song, but the Big Bang member’s agency apparently managed to mop the mess up for him. YG Entertainment reportedly contacted Flo Rida personally to clear the air, and the Florida-native even wound up featuring on a 2010 “Heartbreaker” remix.
Before he was named and shamed as a pot smoker, T.O.P’s biggest scandal involved an item of clothing. Like the rest of his bandmates, he’s known for his flashy wardrobe, but long before this super stylish emcee was a famous idol, he made one serious fashion faux pas — one that was offensive to more than just the eyes. Back when the group was still in its infancy, T.O.P wore a jacket that had the symbol of the rising sun across the chest. This image might not raise many eyebrows in the West, but in Asia, it’s one of the most reviled images of all time.
“During the Second World War and well before, the Empire of Japan used the Rising Sun flag for not just state use or functions but also naval jacks and army banners, cementing its image as a symbol for an aggressive and imperialist Japan,” Christopher Sayas of Pacific Atrocities Education wrote in a blog about the controversial symbol. “To many Koreans, Filipinos, Chinese, and countless Asian ethnicities, the Rising Sun Flag occupied the same moral space as the swastika and the Nazi flag.”
T.O.P isn’t the only Big Bang member to find himself under fire for flippant use of this triggering symbol. A photo of what appears to be G-Dragon laughing and posing with a rising sun cutout have also circulated online, though the image is blurry and his identity has not been confirmed.
The time G-Dragon got a little too close to a backup dancer
If you’ve ever seen a Big Bang music video, then you’ll have some idea of how intense the concerts can be. The guys go at a high tempo, singing, rapping, and dancing, often in perfect synchronization. Some of the dance routines have been called into question by concerned members of the fan base, however, with one in particular causing outrage. In what became known as the “G-Dragon dry humping incident” (via AllKPop), the performer got a little too close to one of his backup dancers while on stage, sending Big Bang fans young and old into a rage. Before long, the dancer in question was giving interviews, trying her best to clear the whole thing up.
“He likes to let loose and push boundaries,” lead dancer Aimee Lee Lucas explained. “Everyone agreed so that’s what we worked on. There was no humping … If you watch the [footage], the whole bit lasts only a few seconds. He straddles me for a bit, we do some ‘acting’ and then we’re done. I had to lift myself [on the stand-up bed] and hang there and support all my body weight with my arms. I could only do that for a couple of seconds, so there wasn’t any time to do any humping.” Okay then.
Which member makes the most money?
The fact that K-pop idols don’t get a particularly large percentage of the money their music makes is no secret. According to former JJCC member Prince Mak, some artists receive as little as 10 percent. Only the biggest names in the industry have the sway to demand more, and Big Bang is most definitely among the K-pop elite. The wealthiest member of the group is thought to be G-Dragon, who reportedly earns as much as $700,000 annually though songwriting royalties. “He is not doing any business, but he just has a lot of money,” Seungri said of his friend and colleague (via the South China Morning Post).
You only need to take a quick look at G-Dragon’s social media feeds to get an idea of how much cash he has at his disposal. According to Koreaboo, the musician has two Lamborghini Aventador LP700-4 sports cars (one in white, and one in black) and he isn’t afraid to show them off. He posts pictures of everything from designer watches to private jets, living up to his “King of K-pop” moniker. According to E! News, the man is worth an estimated $21 million.