Seoul - The South Korean prosecution is investigating a large prostitution ring involving female celebrities, it was revealed on Thursday.
The prosecutors' office for Ansan, Gyeonggi Province, has been looking into the ring, allegedly involving about 30 female celebrities, for several months. The prosecutors' public relations department declined to confirm the number of suspects.
The investigators have questioned a number of suspects and are now seeking a warrant to detain the individual alleged to have been in charge of hooking up celebrities with the clients.
Although there have been widespread rumours of female celebrities receiving support from wealthy or powerful men in return for sexual favours, this is the first time the authorities have secured evidence of a prostitution ring.
A related scandal broke out in 2009 when actress Jang Ja Yeon killed herself amid allegations that she was forced into providing sexual favours.
The prosecution is thus said to be planning to conduct a stringent investigation, prompting pundits to predict that penalties that are stiffer than usual could be in store for those found guilty.
The Act on the Punishment of Acts of Arranging Sexual Traffic stipulates that prostitution is punishable by a prison term of up to one year or a fine of 3 million won (S$3,500), and those who organise prostitution face up to three years of imprisonment or a fine of up to 30 million won. However, prosecution is often stayed for first-time offenders.
Those suspected of prostitution are said to include a number of well-known figures, such as an actress in her 30s who made her debut after winning a prize in a beauty pageant in the 1990s. Another key suspect is said to be an actress who has appeared in a number of television dramas.
Once the first stage of the investigation is complete, the investigators plan to summon those suspected of purchasing their services.
The men involved in the case are said to consist of businessmen, executives of large companies and other wealthy individuals.