Allegations of sexual assault and rape at Club Burning Sun in Gangnam have led to the closure of the club. Police have confiscated financial records and CCTV footage from the nightclub as part of an investigation into increasingly vocal protests from the alleged victims and the public. Around January 2019, reports began to surface as the victims reported to the Gangnam police that they’d been drugged and sexually assaulted in VIP rooms, or dragged to hotels after hours and forced to have sex.
Some victims took to posting petitions on the President’s website, drawing wide attention and collective condemnation. Following that, the police called in Club Burning Sun Representative Lee Moon-ho and Director of Operations Han to answer questions related to the club’s supposed patterns of sexual abuse of its customers. No charges have yet been filed.
Staff Habitually Drugged Women for VIP Customers
In an interview on MBC two nights ago, a purported VIP at Club Burning Sun claimed that the staff regularly drugs women and brings them to the VIP members’ rooms for sex. According to the accuser, the staff regularly use GHB (gamma-hydroxyButrate), known in Korean slang as ‘물뽕 (mool-bbong).’ It is a common date rape drug that causes mild intoxication and grogginess, but most significantly memory loss.
The staff mix it in female clubgoers’ drinks and lead them to the private rooms where important club members rape them. According to the anonymous VIP member’s account, staff members allegedly received large tips from Chinese VIP members, and that the staff also sexually assault these women. The anonymous VIP member also claimed that he received regular weekly text messages from staff with details about potential victims, often accompanied by videos of drugged women, urging him with messages such as, “She’s waiting.”
Victims also claimed collusion on the part of the police, with several of them stating that they were pressured by police officers to withdraw their reports. These claims of possible corruption, along with the recent online circulation of a rape video allegedly made in the bathroom of a VIP room, likely set the inquiry on its current full-scale trajectory. There seems also to be financial record evidence that the club was actually purchasing these date rape drugs through a Chinese liaison named “Anna”.
Seungri, the face of Club Burning Sun, Apologizes
Seungri, of Big Bang fame, was once the most visible owner of Club Burning Sun. He is still widely acknowledged as the face of the club, however in the wake of this blossoming scandal, both Seungri and club representatives deny that he has any official ties to Burning Sun anymore.
He was reportedly at the club the night of the first reported incident, but was no longer on site when the incident actually occurred. On February 3rd 2019, Seungri released an official statement explaining his position as a promoter of the club, and apologized for not taking more responsibility for the culture of the club.
The police investigation is ongoing. They continue to gather evidence and testimony to determine the extent of the potential wrongdoing. Stay tuned for updates as the story develops.
Have fun, but be cautious
The issue of sexual violence in clubs is not a new topic in Korea or elsewhere. Although there haven’t been many reports of club-endorsed date rape, there have been plenty of claims of sexual assault and molestation in club settings. In light of the Club Burning Sun rape allegations, an article published this week detailed a number of young Korean women’s experiences with sexual assault in clubs.
Some of them involved date rape drugs and some did not, but they all followed patterns of male patrons preying on the inherent vulnerability of female customers in intimate spaces where alcohol consumption is involved. These stories, along with the Burning Sun sexual assault scandal, serve as a reminder: although Seoul’s nightlife is exciting and still largely safe, awareness and safe drinking practices are still of utmost importance.