SEOUL • He said he was under stress three years ago, but was eventually too scared to take drugs to dull his emotional pain.
The confession by B.I, leader of South Korean boy band iKON, came out in a statement he posted on Wednesday after media outlet Dispatch reported that he allegedly sourced for drugs in 2016.
The claim was based on Kakao Talk chats between the artist and a dealer.
In his post, B.I also announced his decision to quit the group to spare the other members embarrassment.
iKON's management agency, YG Entertainment, initially defended B.I, saying all members of the group have never failed drug tests.
After B.I posted his statement, the company followed up by saying it had cancelled its contract with him.
But his fans - and others who have been keeping tabs on the months-long K-pop scandal that has engulfed many artists, from singers Seungri to Choi Jong-hoon - feel that B.I should not exit show business.
A petition on Change.org to get him to reclaim his iKON spot has drawn more than 550,000 signatures.
His supporters feel that while B.I was tempted to take drugs to escape his worries, he stated that caution got the better of him.
Others are outraged that YG is not standing by him, with the bosses changing their minds, perhaps to protect the image of the company in a competitive K-pop industry rather than cater to the welfare of its artists.
Some berated the company, whose shares took a beating after former BigBang singer Seungri got into trouble over allegedly sourcing prostitutes for investors, saying it has not learnt to manage crises, resorting simply to dumping artists at the first sign of trouble.
Netizen E_Williams feels that B.I is better off without YG, noting that the backing of fans should see him bounce back with another label.
But some netizens are reserving judgment till more facts come out.
Netizen Ohboy69 echoed their thoughts when he wrote: "Since it was three years ago, there is no way of knowing whether he took the drugs, and of course he wouldn't admit to taking them.
"(But) I hope he stays strong and doesn't do anything reckless again."
Meanwhile, another petition has been filed, this time with South Korea's anti-corruption authorities.
Supporters of the petition want a probe into what they deem as interference by YG over drug investigations.
According to Dispatch, B.I's name was provided to the authorities when they caught the drug dealer.
But the dealer retracted the information when YG apparently took an interest in the case.