Ha Jung Woo Opens Up About His Experience Being Blackmailed By Celebrity Phone Hacker
On April 13, Star News released an exclusive interview report about Ha Jung Woo’s experience being blackmailed by a celebrity hacker.
Earlier this week, two people were indicted for hacking the phones of various celebrities, including Joo Jin Mo and Ha Jung Woo. Their phones were hacked and used for blackmail purposes for about three months. The hacker was reportedly paid 600 million won (about $495,000) by at least five of the celebrities.
The Star News reporters spoke with Ha Jung Woo three times about the hacking, as well as about the allegations that he was using Propofol. The first time was when the actor was filming a movie in Australia, the second time on the day that his film “Closet” premiered, and the third time via phone call when he was in Los Angeles.
According to Ha Jung Woo, he first realized he had been hacked on December 2, 2019. The actor received text messages from the hacker that included messages and photos from Ha Jung Woo’s own phone. Specifically, the hacker had sent Ha Jung Woo photos of messages that the actor had exchanged with his former girlfriend, as well as photos from a vacation abroad they had taken together. The actor had responded, “Are you going to threaten me with things like this?” and the hacker replied, “Because you’re famous.”
The blackmail threats continued for about a month. After conferring with the people around him, Ha Jung Woo notified the cyber investigation team at the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency on December 5, a few days after the initial threats. He gave up his phone entirely to the digital forensics team.
An officer at the cyber investigation team warned Ha Jung Woo’s representative, “You may have come to us as a victim, but after we investigate the contents, you could become a suspect.” This was a reference to the fact that certain celebrities, most infamously Jung Joon Young, were found to have committed crimes after an investigation of their cell phone contents. Ha Jung Woo’s representative stated that there was no issue about that and willingly surrendered the phone.
The hacker, unaware that Ha Jung Woo had already notified the police, continued to threaten him. Ha Jung Woo changed his phone number, but the hacker found the new number and continued contacting him. At one point, the hacker told him that he had information from hacking other celebrities as well. That was when Ha Jung Woo realized that many Korean celebrities were being blackmailed by the hackers.
Ha Jung Woo said, “The most difficult thing was dealing with the constant threats at a time when I was in the media constantly because I was promoting my new film.” While he was doing a V Live broadcast for his film “Ashfall,” the hacker sent him a message saying, “I’m enjoying your broadcast.” Ha Jung Woo said, “I thought I was going crazy.” He explained that that was why he had suddenly excused himself during the V Live broadcast, saying he needed to go to the bathroom.
The hacker told Ha Jung Woo repeatedly that he would drop the hacked information on the same day that “Ashfall” premiered. Ha Jung Woo responded, “If you can do it, do it. If I had the money to give you, I’d use it to catch you instead.”
The hacker continued to threaten the actor during his interviews with reporters about his film “Ashfall.” Whenever Ha Jung Woo suddenly went to the bathroom during an interview, it was to calm down his anger and regain a sense of calm. He said, “At times like that, I couldn’t breathe.”
At the end of December, the hacker appeared to have given up. Ha Jung Woo received a message around December 30 that said, “After this final text, I will no longer contact you.”
Ha Jung Woo said, “I am just a victim of cell phone hacking. I handed over my cell phone and all my digital forensics information to the police. The police investigation was made possible because I notified the police.” The Star News reporters confirmed that that the investigators had learned that there were multiple victims of the hacking because of Ha Jung Woo’s information. The investigators had worked with Chinese authorities in order to arrest two of the criminals last month.
In February 2020, Ha Jung Woo responded to reports that he was a habitual user of Propofol, an anesthetic drug. He explained that he had received the drug legally for an operation at a plastic surgery clinic and that he had used another name for the operation at the recommendation of the clinic’s director. At the time, the actor had stated that he could reveal the text messages between him and the clinic’s director to back up his claims.
It turned out that Ha Jung Woo was confident about being able to produce this evidence because he had kept all his digital forensics information for use in the hacking case. His representatives turned over all his messaging records to the prosecution for investigation in the Propofol case as part of his witness statement.
The prosecution then carried out a search-and-seizure warrant on the records of the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency’s cyber investigation team in order to obtain Ha Jung Woo’s digital forensics information, presumably in order to check whether Ha Jung Woo’s statement matched with the forensic information he had previously turned over for the hacking case.
Ha Jung Woo said, “I don’t know why a blackmail victim is being treated like a criminal.” He had been greatly upset by the allegations of Propofol use. When he met with the Star News reporter for their one-on-one interview, he had walked over an hour in the cold to get there, saying that he could not endure it if he didn’t walk.
The prosecution is still conducting their investigation into the allegations of Propofol use. Ha Jung Woo, who is currently back in South Korea, intends to cooperate actively with the investigation.