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Squid Game star O Yeong-su appeared to acknowledge some guilt as he spoke to the press while entering the courtroom Friday for the first day of his sexual misconduct trial in Seoul, South Korea. Clad in a gray jacket and hat, the 78-year-old actor said to a group of reporters, “I am sorry. I think I behaved badly.”
The stage and screen veteran, best known for his role in the smash-hit on Netflix, was indicted by local prosecutors in November for allegedly inappropriately touching a young actress while the two were on tour for a play in 2017. The police report said that O attempted to hug the unidentified woman by force and kissed her on the cheek while they went out for a stroll together. O has admitted that he held the victim’s hand but denies there was any indecent assault. The allegations were originally brought in 2021, but the police dropped the case due to a lack of evidence. Later, the prosecutors reopened the investigation after the woman appealed.
The accuser’s lawyer declined to comment for an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, but the attorney has previously said the victim was 22 years old at the time of the crime and that she was a junior member of the theater company, where O was starring in a play.
“O admitted his wrongdoing when the victim asked for an apology, but he has denied the charges during the investigation, failing to show any remorse for his act,” the attorney said in an initial statement to the press.
According to local press reports, the accuser’s attorney said in court Friday that the young woman decided to take criminal action after struggling for years with trauma while watching O appear frequently in the media after Squid Game became a global sensation. In January 2022, the actor’s fame reached new heights when he won a Golden Globe for best supporting actor for his performance in Squid Game — a first for a Korean screen performer.
The woman reportedly submitted to the police and the court text messages she exchanged with O and details of her medical history, including psychiatric treatment she received after the alleged incident.
O previously claimed in an interview with JTBC, the local broadcaster which initially brought the woman’s allegations to public knowledge, that he only held the accuser’s hand to guide her way while they were strolling around the lake — and that he had apologized not as an admission of guilt, but because the woman said she wouldn’t make an issue if he said he was sorry.
“We are providing legal support for the victim and will continue to follow O’s trial,” a spokeswoman for Korea Women Link, a Seoul-based women’s group, told THR. “Since the trial is pending, we cannot discuss further about the details of the allegations.”
Prior to Squid Game, O was best known as a prominent stage actor who had appeared in acclaimed local adaptations of plays like King Lear and Faust. He also appeared in a number of award-winning films, including director Kim Ki-duk’s Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring.
Since the scandal began he has faced various forms of fallout. Following the indictment, O dropped out of the play Love Letter, while a government-funded advertising campaign about regulation innovation featuring O was suspended entirely.
The Korean arts scene came under intense scrutiny in 2018 after a series of female actors came forward and revealed their stories of sexual harassment and assault at the hands of male colleagues and directors.
On Friday, members of local civic groups stood outside the courtroom and shouted at O, claiming that he should admit to his wrongdoing and that Korea’s #MeToo movement hasn’t ended yet.
O’s next trial is scheduled to resume on April 14.
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