Over the past month, a wave of disturbing allegations of school bullying have rocked the sports and music industries in South Korea. Recently, similar allegations have been levelled against television stars, and this has begun to affect shows currently airing and others that are upcoming. Ji Soo, one of the leads of the period action drama River Where the Moon Rises , apologised for his misconduct and left the popular show after serious claims of abuse were levelled against him on Tuesday. Other K-drama actors, including Jo Byung-gyu, Park Hye-soo and Choi Ye-bin, have also faced allegations of abuse, which their agencies have denied. Depictions of school bullying are among the most common and effective storylines in Korean TV shows. One need look no further than recent series such as The Uncanny Counter (starring Jo Byung-gyu), True Beauty and The Penthouse (which features Choi Ye-bin) for instances of extreme emotional and physical cruelty that play out in the claustrophobic confines of school classrooms, bathrooms and back alleys. Not merely dramatic fabrications, these stories reflect a pervasive social problem. Social hierarchy and the demanding style of Korean education makes schools pressure-cooker environments where bullying is common and intense. Six new Korean dramas to look out for in March 2021 In February, twin volleyball stars Lee Jae-yeong and Lee Da-yeong left their team Heungkuk Life Pink Spiders following allegations they bullied classmates while at school, which they admitted. This triggered an avalanche of similar allegations that encompassed the K-pop industry . Much like the wildfire spread of the #MeToo movement in late 2017, school bullying allegations have swollen in a matter of weeks, implicating singers such as Soojin of (G)I-DLE , Seventeen member Mingyu, Chuu from the band Loona, and Kihyun of the group Monsta X, all of whom denied the claims. Meanwhile, Hyunjin of the band Stray Kids suspended his activities after issuing an apology. On February 16, an accuser came forward to claim that Jo Byung-gyu had been verbally – but not physically – violent towards them when they attended school in New Zealand. It’s not the first time Jo has been the subject of school bullying claims – a different person accused him in 2018. Jo’s agency threatened legal action. The actor has since stepped down from the KBS variety show Come Back Home , and his replacement was officially confirmed this Wednesday. Park Hye-soo, who appeared in the films Swing Kids and Samjin Company English Class , came under fire when, on February 20, a former classmate accused someone, believed to be Park, of physical violence in school. Park’s agency denied the claim, and the accuser eventually said they were referring to someone else, but since then other classmates have supported claims that Park was a bully in school. The Korean drama Dear M , starring Park, was due to begin airing on February 27 but has been indefinitely postponed with various allegations against its star unresolved. Choi Ye-bin, who plays a school bully in the hit series The Penthouse , the second season of which is currently on air, has also been accused of verbal abuse when she was in middle school, but her agency has denied the accusation and former classmates have defended her online. Ji Soo was hit with the most serious school abuse allegations yet to affect a Korean TV star, and for him there was no escape. On Tuesday an internet user described Ji’s abusive acts in school, which included throwing food at other students and shooting them with a BB gun. Other accusers weighed in with allegations of sexual abuse; some claimed Ji filmed himself having intercourse with a middle school student in a bathroom, and then circulated the footage among friends. Ji posted a handwritten apology on Instagram on Thursday, in which he expressed his sincere apology to those who suffered because of him, the guilt he has carried with him for his past misconduct, and his desire to atone. Filming for River Where the Moon Rises was suspended on the same day. Netflix’s US$500 million Korean content budget: what it buys, and signifies Six episodes of the show have been aired and Ji Soo has already filmed 18 of the 20 planned instalments, but on Friday it was revealed that he had left the series and would be replaced, with Mr. Queen actor Nam In-woo reportedly in negotiations to take over his role. The volume and intensity of these allegations about stars abusing fellow students when they were at school has triggered widespread discussion in South Korea. Some fans have come to the defence of the celebrities accused, citing a lack of evidence and the outsized power that internet users wield over celebrities’ careers. The allegations are unlikely to stop here, but with so many productions and careers affected by what are for the most part unsubstantiated rumours, the entertainment industry – already precarious to navigate because of the coronavirus pandemic – has become that much more complicated.