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Korean Sex Assault Crisis Deepens With Cover-up, Charges Against Festival Director

The catalog of sex crime allegations is fast becoming a crisis for the Korean film industry.

Kim Yong-bin, former head of the Bucheon International Fantastic Film Festival, was Wednesday indicted on a charge of indecent assault. One day earlier, it emerged that staff of the Korean Academy of Film Arts attempted to bury details of a female-on-female assault that has since resulted in a suspended prison term for director Lee Hyun-joo.

Kim has been accused of sexual assault by two women. One, a former programmer, reported that Kim touched her backside in the festival offices in 2013 and praised how well her jeans fitted her. The other says Kim assaulted her during a workshop meeting a month later.

Kim has denied the allegations, but the police have now charged him. He is free on bail until next week, when the case will be addressed by prosecutors.

Lee, whose lesbian romance “Our Love Story” won multiple prizes, was found guilty in December 2017 of a sexual assault in 2015.

The Korean Film Council (KOFIC) now reveals that Lee’s victim complained to a KAFA professor who told her not to make trouble. The Academy head was also made aware of the complaint, chose not to take action.

New KOFIC chairman, Oh Seok-geun this week apologized to the victim and said that the Council will take measures to avoid further incidents.

As the #MeToo campaign has gained momentum in Korea, other institutions are now weighing in. Last week, the National Assembly’s education, culture, sport and tourism committee, KOFIC and Women in Film Korea jointly launched Deun-Deun: Center for Gender Equality in Korean Film.

On Tuesday, Culture Minister, Do Jong-hwan promised to increase efforts to root out sex crimes in the culture industry, and to protect rights and interests of artists. “(The government) will not let the term ‘art’ mean the exploitation of women or allow violence towards them,” said Do.

According to the police, some 70 people have been accused since the beginning of #MeToo. Ten, including prominent film director Kim Ki-duk and renowned stage director Lee Yoon-taek, have been charged with crimes. Earlier this month, veteran TV actor Jo Min-ki committed suicide after multiple accusations were made against him.

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