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Even before Tuesday’s edition of PD Notebook aired, the South Korean investigative news show similar to 60 Minutes dominated local headlines as its preview featured snippets of several actresses opening up about sexual abuse allegations — including rape — by Venice Lion-winning filmmaker Kim Ki-duk.
The accusations are the latest and most shocking revelations as the #MeToo movement takes South Korea by storm, with women going public about sexual abuses they’ve experienced in various sectors ranging from politics to theater.
A former actress, who asked to remain anonymous on the program, said Kim sexually harassed her multiple times during pre-production for a film she was cast in. During production, when cast and crewmembers lodged together, she said the director raped her in her room following repeated attempts to violate her.
She claimed, however, that she was raped by not only Kim but also the now disgraced actor Cho Jae-hyun. Kim and Cho are among South Korean cinema’s iconic collaborators, akin to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, and the veteran actor recently announced his resignations from both a local university and film festival organizing committee, admitting through a statement that he was “guilty,” when several female crewmembers of theater and TV productions reported his sexual misconduct. The actress in question said Cho’s manager also attempted to rape her during the filming.
The actress said Kim had promised her the lead role in his next project, but on the condition that she maintain sexual relations with him. But the alleged rape victim said she “was unable to do anything” and received psychiatric therapy while suffering from a panic disorder after the first film project with Kim.
“I sought advice from a well known actress [after the rapes], but she said ‘this is how the film industry is,'” she said. “It made my entire body tremble and quiver to watch [Kim Ki-duk’s and Cho Jae-hyun’s careers] thrive,” she said about the internationally feted filmmaker who won the Venice Golden Lion for 2012’s Pieta, among other prizes at Cannes and Berlin Film Festivals. “Why are victims the ones forced to give up their dreams?” she said.
Meanwhile, another actress claimed she was fired from a leading role in Kim’s film because she refused him sex. This actress in question had already received wide media attention for suing Kim in late 2017, saying he slapped her on the set of the 2013 Venice title Moebius and forced her to do an unscripted sex scene. The local court ordered Kim to pay a fine of roughly $5,000 for physical assault, and the actress made an appeal because she felt it did not address the sexual violence she suffered.
Two days prior to production of Moebius, Kim tried to force her to engage in a three-way intercourse with him and another woman. When she refused the threesome, however, he fired her immediately, telling her, “I cannot work with an actor who cannot trust me.” This actress went public about this incident for the first time through PD Notebook, though she had appeared multiple times before the local press. Her identity continues to be withheld, in accordance with South Korean human rights and media standards for crime victims.
She added how it took her four years to take legal action against Kim because other cast and crewmembers “were afraid to come forth as witnesses,” fearing possible blows to their careers for speaking out against one of South Korea’s most famous artists.
A male crewmember who briefly worked for Kim and a male filmmaker agreed to give interviews for the program, but only after being promised complete anonymity through face blurs and audio distortions. Both said that “horrifying incidents” have notoriously occurred on the set of the decorated director’s films, but people kept silent because nobody dared lash out against a powerful man like Kim.
A third actress said she was cast for one of Kim’s projects but left after she fled during a pre-production meeting, pretending she needed to use the restroom. She “felt scared” as Kim verbally harassed her with inappropriate sexual remarks and questions, such as asking her about the color of her private body parts.
“My agency was sorely disappointed about [my missing the opportunity to take part in Kim’s project],” but “years down the road, I still cannot forget that time in the café.” “I left [the film business] but my successors are in a position to advance their careers through [sexual favors] instead of their talent.”
The controversial director, meanwhile, sent the creators of PD Notebook a long SMS message after refusing to take their calls and interview requests.
“The #MeToo movement continues to become increasingly drastic […] and bury people alive even before the truth has been revealed,” read parts of the message revealed on Tuesday’s show. “I’ve never fulfilled my personal desires through movies.”
He was also quoted as saying: “I have stolen a kiss … but never did anything beyond that without a woman’s consent” and that “I have been involved in intimate relationships, but it was always consensual. I am, however, ashamed of this as a married family man.”
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