Seoul Court Rejects Popera Star Kim Ho-joong’s Request to Delay Arrest Warrant Hearing

Seoul—A Seoul court on Thursday rejected a request by embattled popera star Kim Ho-joong to postpone an arrest warrant application hearing on his reckless driving charges. The previous day, prosecutors applied for an arrest warrant for Kim on charges of ramming into a stationary taxi in the opposite lane with his vehicle late on the night of May 9 in Seoul's southern Gangnam district while driving drunk. He then allegedly left the scene without taking post-accident measures.

According to Yonhap News Agency, Kim's lawyer filed a request with the court to delay the planned hearing, but the court rejected the plea. The request apparently came ahead of Kim's two-day concert scheduled from Thursday to Friday, titled "World Union Orchestra Super Classic: Kim Ho-joong and Prima Donna." If the hearing takes place on Friday noon as planned, he would be held in custody until the court's final decision, making it impossible for him to take the stage. Kim performed Thursday evening in front of 7,500 fans at KSPO Dome inside Olympic Park in southeastern Seoul. He did not appear during the first portion of the concert, but then took the stage after about 90 minutes into the show. Before his first song, Kim bowed his head toward the audience, drawing groans from fans concerned about the singer's well-being. During Kim's performance, a few in the audience shed tears and noted that Kim's voice wasn't as rich and powerful as it normally is. Kim sang six songs.

Though the official program listed a duet performance with a soprano, Kim only performed solo. The singer drew a standing ovation toward the end of his final song. He did not return for an encore and left without commenting on his legal situation. Dumir, the organizer of the show, announced earlier Thursday that Kim will not be on the stage Friday. The company said all the other artists on the bill will perform as scheduled, and fans will have until 8 p.m. Friday to ask for a full refund. The 33-year-old singer rose to stardom after appearing on the audition show "Mr. Trot." He came under public fury after it was reported that his manager initially lied to the police that he was behind the wheel at the time of the accident and that Kim appeared before the police 17 hours after the accident, apparently to evade a blood alcohol test.

Police, meanwhile, have secured camera footage showing Kim stumbling as he left home and got in his SUV before the hit-and-run accident, which happened around 10 minutes later. Additionally, police have obtained testimonies from workers at a bar and companions who were with Kim indicating that the singer drank around three bottles of soju, a Korean distilled liquor. Kim earlier claimed to have consumed about two glasses of beer mixed with soju and about four separate shots of soju, while denying that he was fully intoxicated. Arrest warrants have also been sought for Lee Kwang-deuk, the head of Kim's management agency, and another agency official on charges of instigating Kim's flight from the accident site or destroying evidence.

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