Listen to their voicesThe arts and entertainment world has been rocked by the spread of the Me Too movement as victims of sexual harassment and abuse rush forward to speak out against big names in the community. A poet fielded as a Nobel literature prize candidate from South Korea, a renowned playwright and producer, a veteran actor, and multiple big wigs in the theater world have been accused of sexual misconduct. From the flood of revelations, it looks as if sexual crimes had long been a common practice in the Korean literary and arts community.
Many in the field believe the problem was bound to surface. In the traditionally patriarchic society, women have long been treated as lesser than men in Korea. The male-dominant culture and mighty power bestowed on directors and producers, as well as the domineering training system, all placed women in a weak and disadvantageous position. Being known as an “artist” has also been a license to engage in all kinds of misbehavior and excesses. Playwright and producer Lee Youn-taek, who has long dominated the theater world and has been accused by multiple women for sexual advances and assault in the past, drew criticism after he said his behavior was “customary” in the theater community.
Online petitions demanding an investigation into Lee are piling up. The association of stage actresses has demanded legal action and victims are prepping lawsuits against him.
The culture ministry separately conducted their own investigation. The government promised a law to protect female artists when tales of sexual abuse were revealed on social media in 2015 and 2016, but actions did not take place. The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family should also look into the affair. The issue is as serious as the blacklisting of anti-government cultural figures that led to criminal investigations in relation to the wrongdoings of the previous government. A thorough fact-finding process must take place in order to root out inequalities and threats in the cultural and arts scene. The scandal must not end with only a shaming of the industry, but it should help establish gender equality across the arts and entertainment community.
JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 21, Page 30