BIGBANG star T.O.P. has been booked in Korea for consuming liquid marijuana through the use of a vape pen.
The 29-year-old K-pop star, who’s real name is Choi Seung Hyun, has been serving in the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency band unit for his mandatory military service since February. He allegedly vaped the banned substance at his home in Seoul on at least three different occasions with a female friend in her 20s last October. Police reported that Choi’s female friend, who was also a K-pop trainee, had multiple drug offenses on her record, according to Allkpop.
The police were tipped off in March, though how has not yet been revealed, and Choi was subjected to a hair follicle test at the police facility he was training at which came back positive for marijuana, according to The Korea Times. The Seoul Drug Criminal Investigation Department filed official charges against Choi on June 1, and the K-pop star was taken into custody without being arrested.
The rapper reportedly denied the charges at first, initially saying, “I only smoked electronic cigarettes and I didn’t know it was marijuana.”
“Police have sent the case to the prosecution, recommending indictment,” according to Yonhap (via ChannelNewsAsia).
A standard punishment for the use of marijuana in South Korea comes with five years of jail time or a fine of up to 50 million won ($44,560).
YG Entertainment, the record label that manages T.O.P., released the following statement on June 1, via (Allkpop):
“First and foremost, we would like to apologize.
After confirmation, we have learned that Choi Seung Hyun (T.O.P’s real name) did in fact admit to the charge of smoking marijuana before his military enlistment, following through with all investigative measures by attending the police’s investigation in the midst of his public service duties and deeply reflecting on his actions afterward.
Once again, we apologize for worrying so many people.”
South Korea is home to some of the strictest marijuana laws in the world. Police have the authority to stop anyone on the streets for drug use. Tests are typically done using the hair follicle test, which can detect the drug as far back as three years. It doesn’t matter when, where or how you took the drug — the detection of THC, the primary substance in marijuana, is enough to get detained.
However, despite how severe the charges seem stacked against Choi, he isn’t the first k-pop star to fall into this kind of situation. YG Entertainment artists like Park Bom and G-Dragon were also engulfed in drug scandals. G-Dragon in particular, the leader of BIGBANG, claimed to have consumed marijuana unknowingly after a fan offered it to him in 2011, yet the 28-year-old was not prosecuted or penalized.
There has also been speculation that past K-pop stars were able to skirt punishment because of YG Entertainment’s then-government connections wherein protection allegedly came from Choi Soon Shil, a friend and aide to the recently impeached South Korean President Park Geun Hye who also reportedly happens to have a financial stake in YG Entertainment.
BIGBANG fans are now speculating that T.O.P. was formally charged and now faces jail time because that alleged protection no longer exists.