Lee Yoon-taek, artistic director of Yeonheedan, one of South Korea’s top theater 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.
Lee held a press conference Tuesday. There 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 Lee.
Allegations against Lee were initially raised by Kim Soo-hee, head of Seoul-based theater 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 Lee
“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 KRW2 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.
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Another, Lee Seung-bi, accused Lee of punishing women who refused to cooperate. “While practicing 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 stigmatized me as the first actress to boycott a National Theater show, when in fact I was ruled out by Lee).”
The explosive allegations have triggered an online petition at the Korean President’s website. Over 20,000 people have signed, 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 The Korean Playwrights Association said that it had expelled Lee, and withdrawn its recommendation that Lee become a board member of the Arts Council Korea.
Film director, Kim Ki-duk and Ko Un, South Korea’s senior poet, have also been accused of sexual misconduct. A court cleared Kim of sexual assault, but fined him for slapping an actress.