South Korean actor Cho Jae-hyun acknowledged over the weekend the sexual harassment accusations that have recently been made against him by female crew members of theater and television productions. In a statement, Cho said, “I am a culprit” and that he plans to step away from acting.
The news has come as a shock to South Koreans, as Cho, 53, was not only an established film, theater and television actor in the country, but also a powerful executive who helped revamp the domestic theater scene through state-sponsored projects and promote documentary films as a festival director.
“I confess. I have led the wrong walk of life. During my nearly 30 years of acting, [I am responsible for] so many mistakes as well as sinful words and actions against my colleagues, crew members and juniors,” Cho said in a statement released to the local press Saturday. “I am a culprit,” he continued, adding that he plans to “put everything down.”
On Monday, local media reported that Cho submitted his resignations as director of the DMZ International Documentary Film Festival and professor of Kyungsung University in Busan, the former of which he had led for a decade since 2009. The actor is also stepping down from a theater company he had been running in Seoul while his scenes from the currently airing TV series Cross are being slimmed down. It remains unclear whether or not he will leave the show entirely as he plays the title role.
Cho is the latest prominent figure in South Korea’s entertainment industry to be ousted by the #MeToo movement, the global social media-led campaign that has seen thousands of women and men publicize allegations of sexual harassment and assault. In addition to the entertainment business, #MeToo has made an impact in South Korea’s legal and religious professions.
Cho’s frequent collaborator, filmmaker Kim Ki-duk is also at the center of a harassment and abuse scandal, after an actress came forward about mistreatment on the set during the shoot of the 2013 Venice title Moebius. And there has been a raft of sexual harassment claims against other seasoned figures in the entertainment industry.
Filmmaker Cho Keun-hyun canceled scheduled appearances in promotional events for the recently released costume franchise Detective-K: Secret of the Living Dead, as aspiring actresses unveiled his predatory, Harvey Weinstein-like demeanor during meetings. The director is known to have escaped overseas and is currently unable to be reached, according to a PR rep for Detective-K.
A string of female students taught by actor Jo Min-ki at a local university also came forward about being groped and harassed by the TV star. Jo has since denied the accusations while the school administration has said it is closely investigating the situation.
Actor Oh Dal-su, popular for his comic film roles, also came under fire as an unidentified Internet user made claims about his alleged sexual misconduct, but he has denied the allegation.
While names or specific cases have yet to be pointed out in the enormously popular K-pop industry, Amber, member of the girl band f(x), drew attention several months ago for her comments on the issue that she made via social media.
“It,” she said through Twitter, referring to sexual harassment and assault, “happens everywhere, even here. I want to add my voice as well. Not only from what I have experienced but also from what I have seen my friends and loved ones have to go through…,” continued the singer. “And because it’s so common, I hate to say it…the feelings become so numb and we all felt that we just had to ‘deal with it.'”