In the Korean showbiz, sexual harassment is an ongoing issue that continues to instill fears in various forms.
Sexual harassment is taking place in various forms within the entertainment industry in South Korea. Some individuals engage in acts of sexual assault, while others engage in inappropriate and offensive behavior.
It has been a long time since the #MeToo movement exploded in the Korean entertainment industry, exposing numerous criminals disguised as artists. However, the issue of rape and sexual harassment has persisted and remains just as distressing as ever.
The Korean showbiz face various allegations of rape and sexual harassment
On June 1st, The Korea Herald reported that a former employee of the Busan International Film Festival (BIFF) accused ex-BIFF Executive Director, Huh Mun Young, of sexual abuse. The individual reported the incident to the Gender Equality Center in Korean Film and until recently, has reportedly received counseling from the center.
In particular, Huh Mun Young was accused of giving employees absurd and unfair tasks at work. He also used inappropriate language and displayed gender discrimination towards staff for many years.
However, Huh denied the allegations, even telling the press via a text message it is difficult for him to control his feelings due to the “unbelievable situation”. He also pleaded that the BIFF committee accept his resignation.
“It will take a considerable amount of time to get the facts straight and if I make a comeback to the directorial post, the issue will go on to damage the festival. This is the ultimate reason why I’m resigning,” Huh also said, adding that he would take legal action if necessary.
Afterwards, the Busan International Film Festival accepted Huh Mun Young’s resignation on June 2nd.
At the same time, Wikitree reported that a 25-year-old former idol (referred to as A) was convicted of sexually assaulting a fellow group member for several years. A left his group as the investigation began, and later admitted to the charge of sexual harassment, but denied the accusation of rape.
According to reports from the South Korean media, A recently appeared in a movie that recently aired at the Cannes Film Festival. However, the exact identity of the former idol has not been disclosed.
On the other hand, the CEO of this idol group’s agency shared with the media, “As soon as we learned about the incident, we separated the two individuals. We also provided therapy and gender education to the artists. We are trying to protect the victim and terminate the contract with the offender, but we have not been able to contact him for several months. Regarding his trial and the release of his movie, we have not received any information from the offender nor from the film production company.”
At the end of May, DongA Ilbo reported that bodybuilder and dating show participant Yang Ho Seok was sentenced to 10 months in prison by the Central District Court of Seoul for attempted rape. In particular, Yang Ho Seok was accused of attempting sexual assault against a female employee at an entertainment establishment in Seoul back in February.
Sexual harassment: from the workplace to television and social media
Sexual harassment in the South Korean entertainment industry is alarming, as it not only occurs directly, but also significantly affects online platforms and television.
According to Women News, when a gif of Sana, a member of girl group TWICE, was uploaded on a website targeted at men, she was subjected to a series of inappropriate, if not explicit comments.
Meanwhile, Jinsol, a former member of girl group April, has complained about the harassment she faced on social media. In particular, Jinsol expressed hope that the online community would stop creating gif images by slowing down videos of female singers wearing short or tight clothing. The former April member wrote, “When I search my name on social media, some posts (like these) appear, and I really hate it.”
Seolhyun, who debuted as a member of girl group AOA, also criticized the behavior of belittling and sexually harassing female idols. In an interview, she mentioned certain gifs, expressing that they continuously emphasized specific body parts on her in an uncomfortable way. Seolhyun also said, “I think it would be great if my friends didn’t have to face this situation, but they couldn’t avoid it.”
To fight against the ongoing stream of sexual harassment directed at idols, fans attempted to join forces. At the time, 42,000 people signed a petition submitted to the Blue House, demanding the closure of a website specifically targeted at men. According to the petitioners, users of this website often post uncomfortable pictures of celebrities, write sexual comments, and share images of women wearing pantyhose, close-up shots of legs and ankles, or nude pictures.
According to Media Daily, due to the serious situation of sexual harassment in entertainment companies, South Korea is actively taking steps to raise gender awareness within organizations and government officials. They have launched campaigns to prevent sexual harassment in the workplace and expanded training on preventing harassment and sexual assault for executives, up to team leaders.
Gyeonggi Province even organized a special education session on preventing harassment and sexual violence in the auditorium of the provincial government building on May 31st, with the attendance of about 300 officials, including Governor Kim Dong Yeon.
Regarding the ongoing issue of sexual harassment in the entertainment industry and other fields in general, Governor Kim Dong Yeon stated, “Culture is changing at a very fast pace, yet it is difficult for us to change ourselves. Things we do, sometimes unintentionally, can be perceived as sexual harassment and pose a serious threat to gender equality. I want to change the culture of the public sector, starting from the issue of harassment and sexual violence. I hope we can reflect on ourselves and think about things that we are not aware of, and gain better awareness from them.”
These words may be true for Mijoo, who originally debuted under girl group Lovelyz. In the past, she faced strong opposition for making inappropriate comments during an interview. In particular, when interviewing a male student for a web content, Mijoo inquired about his relationship with his girlfriend.
According to SCMP, Mijoo made speculative remarks such as, “How far have you gone in your relationship with your girlfriend? You must have gone all the way, right?“, and even looked at the student’s lower body, making him uncomfortable.
In addition, South Korean media outlet Boon News believes that previously, sexually harassing comments and actions often originated from misconceptions about sexuality among men. The standards for evaluating sexual harassment were also different in the past, due to different perceptions between men and women.
“However, we now have to look at the issue from the perspective of victims and perpetrators, rather than regarding it as a gender matter between men and women. It is time for everyone to be cautious about their comments and actions towards people of different genders, and even of the same gender,” said Boon News.