The current investigation involving Burning Sun, Seungri, Jung Joon-young and their associates are one side of a coin. On the other side being Jang Ja-yeon’s life, death, and legacy.
Police have been having a busy 2019. For the past few weeks, the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency has taken on multiple cases revolving around former BIGBANG member Lee Seung-hyun, popularly known as Seungri, and singer and TV celebrity Jung Joon-young that involves sex trafficking, creating and sharing illegal sexual footage, using and distributing drugs, rape, and collusion with corrupt police.
As the investigation of the two moves forward, several other K-pop idols including Highlight’s Yong Jun-hyung and F.T. Island’s Choi Jong-hoon become implicated in these allegations, their cases have started to expose the seedy underbelly of the K-pop world.
Past reports exposing unfair “slave” contracts, abusive and intense rehearsal and training sessions, and agencies’ tendency to overwork their talent for profit have painted the mechanisms fueling the K-pop machine in a negative light. However, adding in the factor that the stars themselves can be equally unethical adds another profound layer of grime to the picture. It illustrates that the issues exposed in these investigations and the actions that these stars engaged in are a result of larger societal factors.
These factors include but are not limited what Crystal Tai, a writer for South China Morning Post argues is “South Korea’s culture of toxic masculinity” and what Haeryun Kang, a freelance journalist and editor, says it is the “pervasive power inequality between men and women in countless, unseen sectors of Korean society.”
Indeed it is clear that Lee, Jung, and other men who were empowered in their masculinity, fame, and wealth, took advantage of several women wrongfully and illegally for their benefit, entertainment, and pleasure. While Lee and Jung’s victims have not publically identified themselves out of fear, they do have a voice in the form of the late Jang Ja-yeon and her advocate Yoon Ji-oh.
Like these unknown women, the talented, pretty, and well-liked Jang Ja-yeon was victimized by men in positions of considerable power including show producers, journalists, media and entertainment executives at the behest of her agent Kim Sung-hoon who pimped her out for preferential treatment.
Jang revealed this information in a seven-page letter with a list of 31 names she left behind after taking her life just five months after her debut movie role as Sunny in 2009’s film Boys Over Flowers. Notably, while her case was hastily closed in trials following her death, it was reopened in the midst of the 2018 #MeToo movement after prosecutors discovered ack of conduct on behalf of the investigators at the time.
Currently, her case is ongoing with details unfolding alongside Lee Seung-hyun’s and Jung Joon-young’s, acting as a ying to their yang. The interesting juxtaposition of these investigations plays like two sides of the same coin.
On one side are the salacious details of powerful men uninterested in the rule of law as they drugged, raped, filmed, and trafficked women for their own means. On the other, is the heartbreaking tale of a woman who was on the receiving end of their dehumanization and is an example of the real-life consequence to their actions.
Unfortunately, I may have painted Jang as too much of victim. Jang’s side of the coin shouldn’t be viewed as a sad and powerless story, but also as a woman who sought change. Her friend and advocate Yoon Ji-oh who witnessed some of the abuse Jang endured said that she doesn’t believe (link in Korean) that the seven-page letter Jang wrote was a suicide note. Instead, Jang intended those pages of papers were to act as legal documents to enact justice.
But how that coin will land? Will it heads where justice is served a movement to rejects the actions of these men and to expose and punish those like them? Or will it be tails, where only the surface is cleaned but the scum beneath remains?
After allegations of sexual harassment and assault against prolific actor Oh Dal-su arose during the Korean #MeToo movement, the actor stopped all of his activities. Now his new agency is looking to pick up the pieces left behind.
According to an earlier report from one media outlet, after his contract expired last September actor Oh Dal-su met with several different agencies to look for a new representative. Ultimately, he joined C-JeS Entertainment (C-JeS) the home of such talent as Kim Jaejoong, Hong Jong-hyun, Choi Min-sik, and Hwang Jung-eum.
With his new home in entertainment established, there was some speculation that the actor intended to return to regular activities. However, given the gravity of accusations put against the actor, many felt that it was inappropriate. It seems like C-JeS is aware of this sentiment and has decided to clarify what they are doing with actor Oh.
“We are working on figuring out his unpublished projects, ” said an agency representative, ” but we don’t mean to start any full-scale activities.”
The actor stepped down from several projects including the second installment of the “Along with the Gods” film, “My Mister,” and more. While producers were able to continue and work through his sudden absence, movies that the actor filmed and completed but were not released before the #MeToo movement don’t have it so easy.
The agency said that there are three films that have not been released because of Oh’s involvement including Control and I Want to See Your Parents’ Faces, (working title) a movie about parents being called to a school meeting about a student found unconscious. Besides Oh, Sol Kyung-gu, Moon So-ri, and Ko Chang-seok star in the film.
Among his unrealized films, I Want to See You Parents’ Faces is the most important since he plays a crucial part in the plot and cannot be edited out. Moreover, the movie also cost 6 to 8 billion won to make, and the filmmakers and distributors have also decided they cannot wait any longer.
Yang Ye-won will be fighting back against malicious commenters who have attacked the YouTuber since she came forward during the Korean #MeToo movement.
On Wednesday, YouTube creator Yang Ye-won announced through a legal representative that she plans to file a lawsuit against some 100 malicious comments.
According to her announcement, she will be charging them for insult and defamation. It is expected that she and her legal team will collect comments posted online and on social media sites as they turn to take stern measures.
Last May, the creator posted a video where she confessed to being a victim of a sexual crime. In the video and a letter that she shared on both Youtube and Facebook, Yang reveals that when she was in her early twenties and working as a fitting model, personnel at a studio took advantage of her. Knowing that she aspired to go into entertainment, the manager said he would connect her to some people in the business and had her sign a contract.
Later at a scheduled shooting, she was confronted with twenty men “holding cameras in their hands while smoking” and a door that was locked once she entered the building. According to her confession, she was forced to pose almost naked under threat by the manager. Yang later found out that the photos were uploaded online.
People from all over the country supported her after she came forward with even celebrities like Suzy working to make sure Yang found justice. However, a countersuit from the studio manager who alleged that she had “exaggerated too much” and contended that she went on to participate in a total of 13 photo shoots at the studio marred the case. Moreover, the owner of the studio later took his life in the midst of the investigation, which generated more negative press.
Feminism, Sexual Violence, Political Corruption. “Thanks” to these social outbursts, South Koreans today are the most liberal than they had ever been throughout history or even compared to 10 years ago. Ever since the 2016 Candlelight Revolution, the Koreans have finally realized the importance of having their voices heard.
Most countries require that their citizens put a public face on that is different from a private one. This was especially more extreme in South Korea, ultimately putting a ‘socially conservative’ frame on the country itself. The citizens eventually ended up confining their honest opinions to their closest friends and families, or only to themselves. However, many millennials in the country are starting to realize that it’s okay to be vocal about their opinions, as long as there exists a mutual respect between one another.
As a result, we have brought some good into the country, removing many corrupted politicians and celebrities though a variety of movement alike #MeToo. Moreover, the relationship between North and South Korea is looking better than ever before, taking one step closer to making peace in the world and hopefully, a unification of the divided country.
During times like this, not only the public, but also many celebrities are trying to have their voices heard. Many of these celebrities use their power of influence to first, inform the public of ongoing social issues, and second, influence them to make the right decisions (or at least the decision that they think is right in their opinions).
We often call these people the “opinion leaders,” people who are well-known enough to have the ability to influence the public opinion on the subject that matters to everyone. While some have done an exemplary job of an opinion leader, I would like to discuss why I personally believe that it’s dangerous for celebrities to become opinion leaders.
Their careers are entirely based on their image.
Celebrities tend to act based on the certain image they had established at the beginning of their careers. In some way, they are the only ones still living with two faces – a public one and a private one. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for this particular image tends to make it easier for them to get offered a role in dramas and films.
However, it also plays an important role when they want to publicly speak their minds. It’s hard for the public to ignore the already established image of these celebrities that most of the time, people tend to connect their present statement to that of their past. Often, they find something that they have said in the past simply to build a particular image that might backfire against their present belief.
The next thing you know, the heavy criticism of enraged K-Netizens falls mercilessly. At the end, most celebrities end up apologizing for their comments, not wanting to lose the image they had worked so hard to establish.
One of the examples is rapper San E, who recently released track “Feminism” to attack on the modern day feminists and/or feminists under the false pretenses.
After the recent “Isu Subway Station” controversy, involving two women and three men in an argument over feminism that later developed into a physical quarrel, San E poured fuel into the fire by releasing a video that contained the women’s rather hateful comments towards men. This video suggested that San E was accusing the women for starting the fight, which had enraged many active feminists.
The following day, San E released a track “Feminist,” in which he claimed while he is a feminist, he does not understand the logic of modern day feminists. He specifically said, “I would understand if my grandmother said that back in the day, but what’s so unfair about your life (that got you this mad)?”
After the track was released, people started calling San E a hypocrite, arguing that he was never a feminist. They dragged out previous tracks that were produced by the rapper, of many containing lyrics that clearly suggested women in subordinate position.
The rapper came on strong (although we will never truly know what he intended to do with this track), but unable to fight against the fans and public turning their backs on him and scheduled events being canceled because of the song. At the end, San E backs down by flip-flopping his stance on the social issue.
The lack of professional knowledge and in-depth research into the subject.
Most of these social issues require many hours of studying and researching. They are never simple enough to learn in one sitting, looking through a few news articles and reading the posts on social network services. Real opinion leaders should put time and effort into studying the subject and be able to look at it from different aspects. At the end, they will establish an unwavering opinion that will stay firm despite the possible counter-attacks.
However, the celebrities simply don’t have enough time to properly educate themselves. The only time they are able to encounter the problems in real life are when they are moving from one event to another, which is not a lot considering the lack of sleep that needs to be fulfilled during the transportation time.
I am well-aware that these celebrities only have good intentions; they know what their power of influence can do and they want to donate that to make the world a better place. But, this needs to be supported by a thorough research, otherwise disaster struck where the celebrities hastily root for the wrong person, when not every detail has been revealed.
Suzy, for example, had to face a lot of hate and even legal battles when she showed support for the alleged sex crime victim, YouTuber Yang Ye-Won in May, 2018.
It was a good try on Suzy’s part for wanting to help the seemingly unfortunate and powerless victims, but she acted too quickly and hastily that it only cost her reputation and probably a big amount of money in the lawsuit.
The Dark Side of Media Play
The last point is not necessarily the fault of celebrities (as they weren’t either for the above two points). Rather, it is the problem of media play in South Korea and how they tend to take advantage of these celebrities’ remarks for personal profit.
It is only natural that the audience is intrigued by the comments of celebrities, more than those of professional educators/researchers. The netizens are always searching for ways to tie themselves into celebrities – the urge to relate to them as same human beings.
The media knows this a little too well. At the end, it doesn’t matter what the truth is behind the situation, most of these media outlets just need an excuse to write an article that is offensive enough to draw attention from the public, with their only goal to increase the visibility of their papers and websites.
At last, what was started off as a celebrity’s wish to use his/her power to bring light into the world, it ends up being one of the tool for media players to play around with for their personal gains. The only victims are the celebrities and their fans, who might now never reveal their true sides to the public.
I fully support the celebrities, who want to use their power of influence to make the world a better place.
However, with a power so strong, they need to also realize that there comes a great price. They need to realize that many of their fans consists of young students, who may lack knowledge in the politics and other relevant fields regarding these social issues. Out of these young fans, many of them will follow their celebrities without much doubt, doing and saying as they were heard and saw.
Although there exist some mistakes, one thing is for sure. Slowly but surely, South Korea is growing as a country, taking a small step at a time to make a better society.
by. Dasol Kim
Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.
#MeToo Movement in South Korea is now adding new articles in contracts that actors have sign to appear in dramas and movies.
Since the beginning of this year, #MeToo Movement has driven a great wave in the entertainment industry. Famous celebrities such as Oh Dal-Su, Cho Jae-Hyun, and recently Lee Seo-Won were accused of sexual harassment as part of the movement. As a result, they all stepped down from dramas and films they appeared and were about to appear in.
As this situation continued, it greatly affected many dramas and films. They had to cast new actors as replacements, re-film the finished works, and edit the inappropriate parts for damage control. Recently, actor Lee Seo-Won admitted his fault and stepped down from tvN drama ‘About Time,’ leaving the staff members to quickly cast Kim Dong-Jun as a replacement.
According to a source, “because of the damages from #MeToo Movement, many production teams have added new articles to contracts. The article states if any accusations regarding #MeToo Movement are made against the actor, he or she has to pay a penalty.”
The penalty includes the performance fee the actor was originally going to receive by starring in the drama/movie, in addition to the penalty itself.
A culture critic Lee Ho-Kyu said, “many production teams worry about casting because of possible damages from #MeToo Movement. However, they can’t directly ask the actors about it. Also, even if they do, they are just going to say no. Therefore, it is only right to re-write the contracts in order to prevent the possible damages.”
Korean YouTuber Yang Ye-won, who is currently managing channel “Beagle Couple” with 181 thousand subscribers, confessed that she is a victim of sexual crime.
On May 17, Yang took on her social media to open up about her victimhood. In the video and a lengthy letter she shared through YouTube and Facebook, Yang speaks about an incident she experienced in her early twenties.
“I applied for a part-time job as a fitting model, dreaming and studying to become an actress,” writes Yang. “I visited a studio, where I felt good about compliments they said about my appearance.”
“I told them that I want to be an actress and the manager there told me that he would connect me to directors and take profile pictures for free. I was deceived by that and signed a contract that the manager handed me.”
Yang continued to tell what happened at the studio. “Later I went back to the studio for the scheduled shooting, where the manager locked the door with a lock. In the studio, about twenty men were there holding cameras in their hands while smoking.”
“The manager gave me underwear which I’ve seen only in porns. I said no, but the manager threatened me that he would sue me for financial damages,” she painfully continued. “Twenty elderly men surrounded me and requested to pose one by one.”
After sharing details about what happened at the site, Yang says, “I found my pictures uploaded to a port site on May 8.”
“Some people even sent screenshots of such pictures to my boyfriend through Instagram direct message. I wanted to die.”
However, she chose to stand up and ask for help after finding similar pictures of other women.
“I found a familiar face there, who used to dream about being an actress with me,” says Yang. “She was tricked the same way and just like I was, she also was living in a tremendous fear.”
“I am a victim. I didn’t want any of that, I was so scared, and even now, I just want to kill myself. I know there are more victims and the number must be increasing even at this very second. Don’t blame them,” Yang adds, asking people to spread her video and the letter so that such victimization is not repeated.
Yang Ye-won is a YouTuber who shares vlogs with her boyfriend. Since her confession, several people have confessed their victimhood of similar sexual assaults.
Actress Cho Hae-Jung returned to her Instagram after two months of staying silent.
On April 28, Cho Hae-Jung posted a screenshot of a song ‘Adult’ by singer Sondia, which is an OST track for tvN’s drama ‘My Mister’. The picture also showed a part of the song’s lyrics that say: “Don’t give up.” Whether it carried a secret meaning or not, many netizens criticized that it was too soon for her to return to social media.
It’s been two months since her father, actor Cho Jae-Hyun was accused of sexual harassment as part of the #MeToo Movement. After the scandal broke out, Cho Jae-Hyun wrote a hand-written letter admitting his fault and stopped all activities.
When the news came out, netizens did not hesitate to post malicious comments towards the father, but also the daughter. To prevent further damage, Cho Hae-Jung blocked the commenting function on her Instagram and stopped posting pictures for a while. However, after two months of staying silent, she decided to suddenly return to her Instagram.
When she posted the new post, netizens criticized that it was too soon for her to return. It didn’t matter that the post was uploaded to Cho’s Instagram story, which is set to disappear after 24 hours. Whether it was a permanent or not, many netizens still argued it was not the right time for her to be active on SNS.
Will Entertainment has terminated their contract with actor Jo Min-ki, who is currently involved in a sexual harassment scandal.
On February 26th, Will Entertainment announced: “about the actor’s sexual harassment scandal, which has been continuously happening, our agency has been discussing how to take action. Not only the scandal is negatively impacting the society, but also we didn’t keep good communication with the actor. Therefore, we have decided to terminate the contract with Jo Min-ki.”
Jo Min-ki is currently involved in a sexual harassment scandal as he reportedly sexually assaulted his students at Cheongju University, while he was teaching as an assistant professor.
Because of the scandal, he stepped down from his role in the OCN drama ‘Children of a Lesser God’, which will air next month. Jo has also announced he will thoroughly participate in police investigation.