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Riize’s Seunghan to ‘indefinitely’ halt activities due to controversial past

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Seunghan of boy band Riize [SM ENTERTAINMENT]
Seunghan of boy band Riize [SM ENTERTAINMENT]

Seunghan of boy band Riize decided to “indefinitely” halt all group activities on Wednesday due to controversial pictures and videos from his past that went viral online, posted before his official debut just two months ago as a member of one of the most anticipated rookies of the year.

“Seunghan sincerely regrets disappointing the team, the members and fans with the issues surrounding his private life that have been spreading across online communities,” Riize’s agency SM Entertainment said in a statement on Wednesday.

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“He has expressed his wishes to halt group activities because of the mental burden and a sense of responsibility for the team. We agreed that it would be difficult to continue under the current circumstances and decided to indefinitely stop his group activities.”

This leaves six members remaining in the band — Sungchan, Shotaro, Eunseok, Wonbin, Sohee and Anton.

Seunghan had been one of the most controversial figures in the K-pop scene, even before his official debut on Sept. 4.

Riize, the newest boy band from SM Entertainment, poses for photos during a showcase held at the Blue Square music venue in central Seoul on Sept. 4. [YONHAP]
Riize, the newest boy band from SM Entertainment, poses for photos during a showcase held at the Blue Square music venue in central Seoul on Sept. 4. [YONHAP]

A picture that went viral on Aug. 28 showed Seunghan kissing an unidentifiable woman in bed. The picture, first posted on X (formerly known as Twitter), was uploaded with the caption “Riize Hong Seung-han took a teenage girlfriend to a motel.”

Nothing has been confirmed about the woman in the picture, but the fact that a K-pop trainee had taken a photo with a girlfriend was enough to anger Riize fans for ruining the group’s reputation even before the band’s official debut.

Seunghan apologized two days later on Aug. 30, but another video went viral on Nov. 18, showing him smoking and recording himself while doing so, before his debut. He had passed the legal smoking age but his behavior was deemed inappropriate for a K-pop trainee, resulting in Riize fans holding an LED truck protest in front of SM Entertainment headquarters on Wednesday.

“I am fully aware of the damage that my imprudent actions have caused,” Seunghan said in a handwritten letter on Wednesday. “I truly regret my actions. I want to apologize to the fans and Riize members who had supported me.”

Seunghan of boy band Riize during the band's debut showcase on Sept. 4 [NEWS1]
Seunghan of boy band Riize during the band’s debut showcase on Sept. 4 [NEWS1]

However, SM Entertainment warned that those spreading false rumors or fabricating videos will be subject to legal measures by the agency. The agency has found the person who first leaked the photos and videos and will be pressing charges against the perpetrator, it said.

“The photos and videos that are circulating were shot before [Seunghan’s] debut, in his free time,” the agency said.

“They have been manipulated and edited to mislead the audience. The perpetrator created nonexistent online chats to spread lies and damage the artist’s reputation […] We are looking to take legal action against defamation, cyber bullying, blackmail and more.”

Seunghan’s indefinite hiatus does not mean that he is dropping out of the band. However, some SM Entertainment singers in the past who took time off due to scandals quit a few years later, such as Kangin of boy band Super Junior and Lucas of NCT.

Kangin was caught drunk driving in 2016 and quit his band in 2019 after sitting out group activities for three years. Lucas had also been mired in rumors regarding his personal life and SM Entertainment announced his indefinite “break” in August 2021. He quit two years later, in May this year.

BY YOON SO-YEON [yoon.soyeon@joongang.co.kr]