K-pop star Jennie faces backlash over indoor vaping video

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SEOUL, South Korea, July 9: A now-deleted video showing K-pop megastar Jennie of BLACKPINK apparently smoking a vape indoors has sparked an online outcry, with Seoul’s foreign ministry confirming to AFP on Tuesday that it had received a formal complaint.

The footage, initially uploaded as part of a live blog on YouTube for fans but later removed, shows Jennie exhaling vape smoke while hair and makeup artists work on her face. Smoking cigarettes or vaping indoors is illegal in South Korea, and the video quickly triggered headlines and online outrage. “Indoor smoking” and “BLACKPINK Jennie” became top trending topics on X in the country.

Yonhap news agency reported the incident with the headline, “Controversy over Jennie’s indoor smoking… exhaling smoke in the face of her staff,” reflecting the widespread media coverage in Korean-language outlets.

One internet user claimed the incident likely occurred in Capri, Italy, where Jennie had been filming, and reported the matter to the South Korean Embassy in Italy and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, according to the Korea Times. The user urged Seoul to request an investigation from Italian authorities and take strict action against Jennie.

South Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed to AFP on Tuesday that they had received a petition related to the incident.

BLACKPINK is one of South Korea’s most successful K-pop girl groups, with their songs topping charts both locally and internationally. They were the first K-pop girl group to reach the top of the US Billboard 200 chart and the first Asian artists to headline prestigious music events such as Coachella.

“Posting such a video on her own SNS channel raises serious questions about her common sense… It is deeply disappointing,” commented one user on South Korean portal Naver.

Smoking rates are relatively high in South Korea, but according to official data from 2022, only five percent of South Korean women smoke, compared to 30 percent of men. South Korean pop stars undergo rigorous training for years before their debut and are held to high behavioral standards, with smoking, dating, and swearing largely forbidden, especially in the early years of their careers.

Jennie has previously spoken about struggling with these expectations. “It’s really harsh,” she said in a Netflix documentary, recalling her training period. “We were not allowed to drink, smoke or get a tattoo,” she said, adding that she had to endure “being told that I’m not good at stuff.”

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