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Korean Star Returns Home to Face Gambling Probe

19 January 2011 by admin

shin-jung-hwan_seoulbeatsAfter five months in hiding, South Korean television star Shin Jung-hwan arrived at Gimpo International Airport in Seoul this morning. The entertainer was met not with adoring fans, but with a police interrogation related to his recent gambling activity in the Philippines.

According to reports, Shin gambled away hundreds of millions of won* playing baccarat in a hotel in Cebu, Philippines. Shin was reported to have flown into Cebu City on August 27 of last year for a vacation, where he lost a lot of money and then borrowed more to continue gambling. After amassing a gambling debt, he was unable to leave the Philippines and was a no-show for the taping of his TV shows Star Golden Bell and Bouquet.

It was reported that Shin surrendered his passport to Korean lenders in Cebu City as part of his collateral to take out the debt. In Korea, it is a crime to use a passport as collateral. When Shin never arrived in Korea for the taping of his shows, rumors circulated that he could not return due to contracting dengue fever and was confined to a hospital. It is believed that Shin was the source of that rumor, as an attempt to provide fans with a more reasonable explanation for his absence. A television crew then visited Cebu and found that he showed no symptoms of dengue. Shin then allegedly went into hiding, going from the Philippines to Hong Kong and Nepal without notifying anyone, including his family. He eventually flew from Tokyo International Airport back to Korea, where he arrived this morning.

Shin’s irresponsible vacation in the Philippines may land him in jail in Korea, where habitual gambling is illegal. If Shin is found guilty of habitual gambling, which seems likely if the reports of his vacation combined with his troubled past are true, he could face up to three years in prison and a fine of 20 million won. He could also face a fine for violating Korea’s Passport Act.

Due to this incident and his inability to return for taping, Korean television network KBS fired Shin from Star Golden Bell. This wasn’t Shin’s first trouble with gambling. In 2005, he was fined 7 million won for participating in illegal gambling in Korea, which resulted in him losing his role on various television shows. Shin Jung-hwan began his career as a singer in the K-pop groups Roo’ra and Country Kko Kko before branching out into television.

*1 South Korean won = 0.0009 US dollar

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