A story circulated by managers of K-pop group Oh My Girl — that performers were held at LAX for 15 hours last week after authorities accused them of coming to the United States to engage in prostitution — is patently untrue, a federal official told L.A. Weekly tonight.
The official, who did not want his name used, said the young women were never suspected of prostitution.
The group's management firm, WM Entertainment, said in a widely distributed statement that after arriving at LAX from South Korea Dec. 9, members were held by U.S. customs officials because they believed the women were possibly "working women."
"They were mistaken as 'working women' (prostitutes), which the U.S. has a big issue with right now," the statement read.
The firm said that the members' luggage contained "outfits" that set off alarms with authorities. Plus, the firm said, when asked what relationship they had to one another, the women answered "sisters," which in Korean culture can mean close friends, but which authorities found strange.
However, the official who spoke to us said the only thing that set off alarms was the members' lack of a necessary performance visa. He said that federal authorities determined the group was here to perform and thus needed that specific visa.
Managers said the act came here for a photo shoot and something called Unforgettable 2015. It's not clear to us if that was a scheduled performance.
Our source said federal officials believed the members of Oh My Girl had been coached to say they had arrived stateside for purposes of tourism, which would not have required a performance visa.
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Essentially, the official said, the women lied, and when feds discovered that they didn't have the necessary visa, they were instructed to catch the first flight back to South Korea.
In fact, he said, the members were not held for 15 hours: They simply had to wait for their flight.
The statement issued by WM Entertainment attracted headlines far and wide for an otherwise under-the-radar act. Oh My Girl is now famous — or infamous.
That, the federal official said, might have been the whole point of this saga.