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Dark side of K-pop: The East Light leader claims years of abuse

Members of teenage K-pop boy band The East Light have suffered years of physical and verbal abuse and threats from a music director, the group’s leader Lee Seok-cheol told a press conference Friday.

Lee, the 18-year-old band’s leader and drummer, fought back tears as he described abuse dating back to 2015.

In a media report released Thursday, Lee had accused Media Line Entertainment Chairman Kim Chang-hwan of turning a blind eye to the abuse meted out to The East Light members by the resident producer. He said Kim saw them getting beaten but merely told the producer to “go easy on the beatings.”

“From 2015 to 2017, our music director made sure we did not make mistakes during practice rehearsals. He habitually beat us with a baseball bat or a steel microphone while forcing us to hold a push-up position,” Lee said.

The alleged physical and verbal abuse occurred in the practice room, the recording room or the rooftop.

“Lee Seung-hyun, the band’s bassist and (my) brother, suffers from psychological trauma and is receiving psychiatric treatment right now. The producer locked him in a fifth-floor studio and beat him to a pulp.”

Lee also claimed the producer choked him with his hands or by wrapping guitar cables around his neck, when he made mistakes.

Lee claimed the producer threatened to ruin his music career if he told anyone about the abuse. He said that was why he felt unable to tell his mother when she asked him about the bruises on his body.

He added that he had decided to come forward because he did not want anyone in the K-pop industry to suffer the same kind of treatment, calling it child abuse, as most K-pop trainees start out as young teenagers.

Asked if the brothers had compelling evidence in moving forward, Lee said the company does not have any cameras in working order, but claimed to have voice recordings of the incidents.

In response to Friday’s press conference, the Media Line chairman apologized for his “inadequate” management of his employees.

“It was very saddening when I first heard about the abuse one year and four months ago,” Kim said, denying any recurrence of abuse since then. Kim emphatically denied any involvement in the allegations.

Furthermore, the head of the agency vowed to press defamation charges on behalf of the remaining four members of the boy band if the accusations are found to be false.

The Lee brothers plan to file criminal charges against the assailants next week, Lee’s lawyer Cheong Ji-seok said, adding on that other members are welcome to ask for representation in the abuse case against Kim and the producer.

The Jakarta Post / The Korea Herald

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