‘Me too’ wave spreading in S. Korean society

February 8, 2018

SEOUL, Feb. 7 (Yonhap) — A series of women have come forward with “me too” accounts of groping and other sexual misconduct they have suffered at the hands of men in positions of power since a female prosecutor bravely shared her own story last week.

The prosecutor, Seo Ji-hyun, raised the accusations against a former senior prosecutor, claiming that he groped her during a funeral dinner in 2010 and that senior Justice Ministry officials tried to cover it up, transferring her to a remote post.

The alleged victim appeared on TV and spoke about her hardship, sparking public outrage. The justice ministry launched a special inspection team to look into the allegations, and the team interviewed the female prosecutor on Sunday.

Another female prosecutor raised similar allegations this week that her then-immediate boss pestered her to let him escort her home after an office dinner in 2003. She said he kissed forcefully her, sticking his tongue into her mouth in front of her home.

These allegations have emboldened other women to share their own stories.

Lee Hyo-kyung, a member of Gyeoggi Province’s legislature, wrote on Facebook last week that a member of the council dropped his pants in front of her while singing and dancing at a karaoke bar after a dinner with other members six years ago.

“I was the only woman present at the dinner, and I thought I would be ostracized if I took issue with it at the scene,” Lee said in the Facebook posting. “I posted this in support of the brave act of prosecutor Seo.”

Lee also said she has suffered verbal harassment by other council members.

The “me too” wave is also shedding a fresh light on a poem that Choi Young-mi wrote last year about the groping that she suffered at the hands of a senior poet 30 years older than her.

The poem, titled “Monster,” talks about how she ended up sitting next to the senior poet, notorious for groping young women, and suffered what she had feared. Choi also said in the poem that she later rose up against the senior poet after seeing him groping another women at a year-end party.

A Twitter account dedicated to rooting out sexual violence in literary circles posted a tweet calling for more such revelations. It was re-tweeted more than 1,400 times and an unidentified victim also posted a claim on the account that she had suffered sexual violence from a senior writer.

The “me too” wave has also hit the movie industry.

Earlier this week, an association of female movie professionals called off the awarding of a prize to a woman director following revelations that she was indicted and convicted on charges of sexual violence against a female colleague.

An association of Korean movie directors also said it has decided to expel her from the organization.

The revelations came as the victim posted a piece of writing saying she’s joining the “me too” movement. The victim also wrote about how other people had tried to silence her and persuade her to drop the accusations.

Political circles are no exception to the “me too” wave.

Ryu Yeo-hae, a former member of the Supreme Council of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, filed a lawsuit this week against the party’s leader, Hong Joon-pyo, claiming that Hong grabbed her hand against her will and insulted her.

Hong has vehemently denied the accusations.

During a parliamentary interpellation session Tuesday, Rep. You Seung-hee of the ruling Democratic Party took the podium of the National Assembly with a sign saying that she supports the “me too” campaign.

Rep. You Seung-hee of the ruling Democratic Party holds a sign saying that she supports the "me too" campaign during a parliamentary interpellation session on Feb. 6, 2018. (Yonhap)Rep. You Seung-hee of the ruling Democratic Party holds a sign saying that she supports the “me too” campaign during a parliamentary interpellation session on Feb. 6, 2018. (Yonhap)

Ordinary people have also increasingly been stepping forward with their “me too” accounts on Facebook and other social media.

A woman posted a lengthy piece of writing last week about how her graduate school professor repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward her. She also said another lecturer made inappropriate physical contact with her but her calls for help were ignored.

Similar accounts of sexual misconduct have ensued on the bulletin boards of colleges.

The public is overwhelmingly in support of the “me too” campaign.

According to a Realmeter survey conducted last Friday, 74.8 percent of the 501 respondents said they support the campaign while 13.1 percent voiced opposition.

Support was widespread across the age, region and other categories.

President Moon Jae-in has called for the creation of a work environment in which female workers may freely report any sexual abuse without having to fear negative consequences.