Kyungbok High School’s poor management regarding the recent incident raised controversies.
Although all the executives belatedly admitted their faults and apologized for the sexual harassment controversy related to girl group aespa, the move of passing on responsibility has further worsened the situation and made it become a gender conflict.
aespa (Karina, Winter, Giselle and Ning Ning) attended the 101st-anniversary event of Kyungbok High School on May 2nd. Kyungbok High School is the alma mater of SM Entertainment’s CEO Lee Soo-man. It is known that other SM groups, including Girls’ Generation, Red Velvet, and NCT 127, previously visited this school.
As aespa has become a representative girl group of the 4th generation by releasing a number of hit songs, such as “Black Mamba”, “Next Level”, and “Savage”, in just a year after their debut, many audiences, including students and teachers, gathered at the event to meet them.
The performance ended successfully, but some students at Kyungbok High School were criticized for their SNS posts after the show. In the photos released on the Internet, aespa was surrounded by a huge crowd without bodyguards, making it hard for the girls to move.
In particular, some male students left sexually harassing comments on social media sites, such as “I did everything except touching them”, “I touched their bodies”, etc. They reportedly tried to ask aespa members to hold their hands. These behaviors quickly spread to all online communities, causing a huge controversy to arise.
As the situation grew out of control, Kyungbok High School explained, “After conducting an in-school investigation, it was found that several outsiders who were not our school’s students visited the venue, but for safety reasons, they were not allowed to enter. Therefore, it can be inferred that the malicious comments posted on SNS are false.”
However, this apology, which seemed to be trying to avoid responsibility, only fueled more controversy and criticism. Netizens pointed out the problems of public education and raised the opinion that it is inappropriate for SM to send their artists to Lee Soo Man’s alma mater every year to perform.
In addition, the gender conflict intensified over the sexual harassment controversy with aespa being the victim. The male and female communities in Korea have shown different reactions over whether or not the students at Kyungbok High School were at fault, and there have been several heated debates and even “wars” taking place online regarding this matter.
In response to the backlash, Kyungbok High School issued a second apology to aespa, “Even though we tried to maintain the order during the performance, some students were acting immaturely. The school will immediately provide performance watching etiquette, cyber etiquette, and gender sensitivity education for all students. We apologize for damaging the image of SM Entertainment and aespa.”
Kyungbok High School‘s late apology does not seem to be enough to soothe the public. Male students’ immature, inappropriate behavior, Kyungbok High School‘s complacency, and the fact that they can make the annual event that has been taking place for years disappear without doubt deserves criticism. While the controversy over sexual harassment emerges as a social issue, the public’s negative gaze toward Kyungbok High School is expected to continue for the time being.