South Korea's playground for the rich and famous has been rocked by a major scandal over the alleged drugging and rape of young girls, exposing the underbelly of the country's massively popular "K-pop" scene.

Police have arrested more than 350 people in connection with claims of endemic sexual abuse and exploitation in Seoul's Gangnam nightclub district, where K-pop stars mingle with wealthy businessmen and VIPs.

The case has led to intense scrutiny of South Korea's multi-billion-dollar K-pop industry, a global export that was once synonymous with squeaky-clean pop bands but is now facing allegations which resonate with the Weinstein scandal in the US.

Several high-profile K-pop stars, such as singer Seungri, have been dragged into the scandal and interviewed by police, though they strenuously deny any wrongdoing.


According to a BBC investigation, victims were drugged with an undetectable substance known as GHB, before being dragged into nightclub back rooms or alleyways and then raped by one or more men, sometimes while being filmed on mobile phones.

According to the BBC investigation, VIP guests — who often spend more than $20,000 per night at Gangnam's bars — collude with nightclub reps to drug and sexually abuse their victims.

Victims of abuse in Gangnam told the BBC that they fell unconscious after their drinks were spiked at the request of VIPs. One of them said she woke up in a hotel room with a man looking down on her. "He forced me to lie down but I didn't want to, so I kept getting up. When I got up, he would grab my neck and force me down on the bed," she told the BBC.

A former nightclub host claimed that one particular "VVIP" — an elite guest — was "well-known for his crazy appetite for unconscious women". The source said: "He ordered me to bring two totally drunk or unconscious women to him." The specific request was "bring me zombies".

Another Gangnam club regular said he recalled a waiter bringing unconscious women into a VIP club room. "I don't know if someone drugged her but I had a woman who was clearly hallucinating and unconscious," he told the BBC.

There have also been claims that the scandal was initially covered up police. The Korean National Police Agency says it has created a special unit to investigate sex crimes against women in Gangnam.

- Telegraph Group Ltd