South Korean Director Retires After Sex Assault Verdict, Social Media Storm

South Korean director Lee Hyun-ju says she will immediately retire from filmmaking. She was found guilty in December of a sexual assault against another woman in the industry in an incident that took place in 2015.

Acclaimed for her 2016 film “Our Love Story,” Lee was given a two-year jail sentence, suspended for three years, plus 40 hours of sex-education therapy.

This week Lee was stripped of an award she received from Women in Film Korea late last year. The organization said it did not know of the charges or the verdict against her when it awarded the prize. Korean law protects the identities of both the attacker and the victim in sexual assault cases. Lee, who had been known only as “A,” chose to identify herself.

She issued a statement Thursday that ran the gamut from contrition to an avowal of innocence and an accusation that the trial judge was biased.

“Although I accept the ruling, I feel I have been falsely accused….I agree that my behavior has hurt the victim and the victim’s boyfriend, regardless of the reasons,” Lee said. “Thanks for those who supported and liked ‘Our Love Story.’ I am sorry to disappoint many people. To me movies were all I had in life, and I lived for it until now. However, I will quit working in the film industry to take responsibility for the issue.”

Lee’s acceptance of responsibility and retirement, however, are unlikely to end matters. The victim, still identified only as “B,” has taken to social media with a series of recriminations. A friend of Lee’s from their school days, she said the incident occurred after she got drunk with friends and was taken by Lee to a motel to sleep it off. When she woke up, B said, she was largely unclothed. Lee said the sex between them was consensual, but B has insisted otherwise.

B accused Lee of forcing the matter to trial rather than privately accept that the incident had been one-sided. She said that Lee had not apologized and that Lee had used the Women in Film award to promote her film in the same month as the court found her guilty.

“Our Love Story” won the top film prize at the 2016 Jeonju film festival. The film earned Lee the best new director prize in 2017 at the Blue Dragon Awards.

Women in Film Korea said it learned of Lee’s assault case Feb. 2 through a report. “The board members believe she has clearly violated the cause of the association’s establishment and have decided to cancel her award,” the organization said in a statement.

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