YG's Return to the Helm: Can Yang Hyun-suk Shake Off the 'Retaliation Threat' Allegations?
Yang Hyun-suk, the chief producer of YG Entertainment, has found a potential way out of the long-standing trial over alleged threats of retaliation. During the fourth appellate trial, Han Seo-hee, a former trainee who had previously claimed public interest reporting and coercion to change her statement, made a surprising declaration of 'no desire for punishment'.
On August 25, the Seoul High Court's Criminal Division 6-3 held the fourth appellate trial for Yang Hyun-suk, former CEO, and Mr. Kim, a former YG manager, who were charged with violating the Act on the Aggravated Punishment of Specific Crimes (threats of retaliation, etc.). Han Seo-hee appeared as a witness again, testifying about the circumstances related to the alleged threats.
Yang Hyun-suk was indicted for allegedly trying to cover up accusations that B.I, a member of YG's group iKON at the time, had purchased and consumed drugs in August 2016. He consistently denied claims that he had told Han Seo-hee that "killing someone like you in the entertainment industry is no big deal." However, the prosecution sought a three-year prison sentence for Yang in the first trial, stating that he "clearly made threats that induced fear."
Yet, in December 2022, the first trial court ruled that "to punish for threats or coercion, the victim must have changed their statement under duress caused by the defendant's actions. Considering various circumstances, there isn't sufficient evidence that Yang's remarks instilled fear in the victim," thus acquitting him. The prosecution appealed, arguing that the first trial court had misinterpreted the facts and legal principles.
During the appeal, the prosecution stated, "Even though the court acquitted the defendants, it acknowledged that Yang met the victim at the YG building and tried to persuade or pressure her, and that other company officials abetted him. The defendants' actions in this case are not beyond reproach. Kim Han-bin (B.I), the leader of the popular idol group iKON, committed drug offenses, and the defendants tried to cover up his crimes."
Throughout the second and third trials, Yang consistently denied the allegations of threats, emphasizing the lack of credibility in Han Seo-hee's claims. However, Han's recent testimony seemed different from before. She appeared more composed and somewhat indifferent, contrasting her agitated demeanor during the first trial. At one point, she made a significant statement: "I do not wish for the defendant (Yang Hyun-suk) to be punished."
She elaborated, "It felt like an uphill battle, being in this ambiguous position between a celebrity and an ordinary person for six years. I've grown tired over the four years of the trial. All I wanted was a sincere apology from Yang Hyun-suk. I don't see that happening, which is regrettable, but I want to end this fight. I don't want to hold grudges against anyone, and I came here hoping that this trial wouldn't go wrong because of me. If he had just apologized, I wouldn't be here."
She became emotional as she spoke.
However, this doesn't mean Han Seo-hee has retracted her claims about Yang's alleged threats. She reiterated her previous statements, recalling the time when she was asked to change her statement and felt threatened by Yang's social status.
Yang Hyun-suk, who was present as a defendant, listened to Han Seo-hee's testimony with a stoic expression, his eyes barely open behind his mask. He too seemed worn out from the prolonged trial.
With Han Seo-hee expressing her desire not to punish Yang, the trial has entered a new phase. If he is acquitted again in the second trial, the chances of Yang being completely freed from these allegations will increase. While the prosecution can appeal to the Supreme Court, the chances of overturning a case lost in both the first and second trials are historically low. The verdict for the second trial is expected to be decided between October and November at the latest.
Naturally, this paves the way for Yang Hyun-suk's full return to the industry. He has already announced the debut of "Baby Monster" in September through the YG channel and declared his return as the chief producer. With the debut of Baby Monster in September, BLACKPINK's contract renewal, TREASURE's domestic and international activities, and other issues, Yang now seems to have a solid foundation to lead as the chief producer without the mental burden of the trial.