Lee Yoon-taek, artistic director of Yeonheedan, one of South Korea's top theatre groups, has been accused of sexual violence, including rape. The case is the latest scandal as the #MeToo campaign slowly gathers momentum in Korea's art and culture sectors, which are deeply male-dominated, reports variety.com. The #MeToo movement was initially started by the actresses and models in Hollywood against sexual misconduct in their workplace.
Yoon-taek held a press conference on Tuesday where he said he deeply regrets his past misconduct, and would take legal responsibility. "I offer my sincere apology to all the victims. Sometimes I might have committed the acts in spite of myself. Other times, I might have felt guilty but ended up not suppressing the dirty desire within. But I did not rape any one. Not everything on social media is true," said Yoon-taek. Allegations against Yoon-taek were initially raised by Kim Soo-hee, head of Seoul-based theatre company Mee-in.
She said that over a period of 20 years many actresses in Lee's troupe had been forced to offer him intimate massages. After Kim went public with the assertions, other Yeonheedan staff and talent revealed their own experiences of abuse by Yoon-taek. "In 2005, I was raped by Lee while I was offering him a massage. I got pregnant and had to have an abortion. Lee gave me some Korean Won 2 million ($2,000) and an apology. Later, as the matter became forgotten, he started sexually assaulting me again," stage actress Kim Ji-hyun wrote on her social media account. Another actress Lee Seung-bi, accused Yoon-taek of punishing women who refused to cooperate, reports variety.com.
"While practising lines, Lee groped around my groin. I pushed him away with all my power and ran away. Afterwards, the number of the shows that I had been originally booked to perform was reduced from seven to five. Lee subsequently stigmatised me as the first actress to boycott a National Theater show, when in fact I was ruled out by Lee," she said.
The allegations have triggered an online petition at the Korean President's website with over 20,000 people having signed it, demanding a thorough investigation and appropriate punishment. The Korean Playwrights Association said that it had expelled Lee, and withdrawn its recommendation that Lee become a board member of the Arts Council Korea.
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