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Sexual harassment and assault

Actress accuses top South Korean director Kim Ki-duk and male star of rape

Actress said the two men ‘shared stories of raping actresses and there was a sense of competition between them’

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 3:41pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 March, 2018, 10:20pm

A South Korean actress has accused award-winning film director Kim Ki-duk and a top actor of rape, as the country’s nascent #MeToo movement begins to spiral.

The fresh allegations against Kim come after his presence at this year’s Berlin Film Festival caused controversy following a fine for physically assaulting a different actress.

In the latest case an actress, who refused to be named, said that Kim repeatedly tried to enter her hotel room when they were shooting a movie in a remote village several years ago.

“It was a living hell … so many nights, he came to my room and slammed the door or phoned me at the room repeatedly until I responded,” she told Seoul’s MBC television station.

Kim eventually summoned her to his room to “discuss a script”, she went on.

“Then he raped me.”

The film’s male star Cho Jae-hyun also raped her, she said.

The two men “shared stories of raping actresses and there was a sense of competition between them”, she said in an investigation aired late Tuesday.

The actress said she had quit acting afterwards and was in therapy for years.

Her accusations come as the #MeToo movement gradually gains ground in South Korea, which remains socially conservative and patriarchal in many respects despite its economic and technological advances.

Earlier this week a provincial governor and former presidential contender resigned after an aide accused him of multiple rapes.

Lee Youn-taek, a prominent playwright and former director of the National Theatre Company, apologised last month for sexually assaulting numerous women, saying he had not been able to control his “filthy desires” and inviting punishment.

Kim - who has won prizes at the Berlin, Cannes and Venice film festivals - was fined 5 million won (US$4,600) by prosecutors last year for physically assaulting an actress on set.

They dismissed sex abuse charges citing lack of evidence but the case sparked controversy at this year’s Berlinale, which invited Kim despite its support for the #MeToo campaign against abuse and mistreatment of women.

I’m panicking. I am a sinner. But many of the things I see in news are so different from truth
Cho Jae-hyun

Kim told MBC television in text messages that he was only involved in “consensual sexual relationships”.

“I never tried to satisfy my personal desires using my status as a film director,” he added.

Kim has previously rejected abuse accusations against him, saying he ensures no one “suffers” on the sets of his ultraviolent, sexually explicit art films.

Cho, who has starred in many of Kim’s films and is known as his “alter ego” told the station he would talk about the accusations “once an investigation begins”.

“I’m panicking,” he said.

“I am a sinner. But many of the things I see in news are so different from truth.”

Cho apologised last month after being accused of sexually abusing female crew members and students. He was fired from the college where he was teaching and removed from a TV drama production.

Another actress interviewed by MBC Tuesday said Kim repeatedly asked to see her breasts and her naked body during an audition process that felt “deeply humiliating”.

All three of Kim’s accusers remain anonymous for fear of public shaming.

Women in South Korea’s movie industry, both on screen or behind cameras, shy away from making open accusations against senior staffers or directors for fear of permanently damaging their careers.

South Korea’s strict defamation laws do not allow truth as a defence, meaning that people can be sued for libel even when they are telling the truth.

That makes it extremely difficult for victims of sexual violence to speak out, women’s rights activists say, because the perpetrator can sue, saying his reputation has been damaged.

Additional reporting by The Washington Post