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South Korea joins MeToo Movement

While largely limited to the entertainment industry, it is likely to spread to others, not excluding the government, in much the same fashion as it spread in the West.

While widely seen in worldwide headlines recently, respective of this year’s Winter Olympics, South Korea is making headlines again, but for a different reason. South Korean President Moon Jae-in voiced support for the east Asian country’s blossoming #MeToo movement. He said that legislation alone can’t solve the problem of sexual harassment and assault, and that the culture must change its views. The Associated Press reports:

SEOUL, South Korea (AP) — South Korea’s president joined a growing number of supporters of the country’s MeToo movement, adding momentum to recent allegations of sexual misconduct against some of the most powerful men in the nation’s art and entertainment industry.

President Moon Jae-in said in a meeting with his advisers Monday that he respects victims who spoke out and urged authorities to investigate the cases thoroughly, according to his office.

Moon also said gender violence and sexual misconduct can be uprooted only when culture and views change, calling for a wider MeToo movement in the country.

In recent weeks, many women in conservative South Korea have publicly accused high-profile figures in art, entertainment, religion and literature of sexual misconduct.

The accused include Lee Yoon-taek, a former arts director at the National Theater of Korea and a legend in the country’s theater community, and Cho Jae-hyun, a veteran actor known for leading roles in movies directed by Kim Ki-duk, a frequent participant in international film festivals. Kim also faced allegations of sexual and physical abuse on a film set and was fined for physically abusing an actress. Other well-known men in performing arts and religion were accused of sexual harassment or rape.

Some of the accused, including Cho and Lee, issued public apologies, but that did not stop more women from coming forward. Lee, however, denied allegations of rape. Cho reportedly resigned from his position as director of a local film festival and offered to quit acting.

The latest round of accusations was fueled by a female prosecutor, Seo Ji-hyeon, who talked in a live TV interview about mistreatment she received after trying to speak out about a senior male prosecutor who groped her at a funeral in 2010. People were shocked that prosecutors, one of the most powerful groups in South Korea, could be vulnerable to sexual misconduct if they are female. The justice ministry has since launched a probe of the case and Seo received strong public support.

In the past, many women in South Korea have used social media to disclose sexual harassment in film and literary circles, but this is the first time that the movement has been publicly backed by the country’s leader.

“I actively support the MeToo movement,” President Moon told his top advisers. “We should take this opportunity, however embarrassing and painful, to reveal the reality and find a fundamental solution. We cannot solve this through laws alone and need to change our culture and attitudes.”

Just as in the west, many of the cases that hit the news in South Korea are coming out of the entertainment industry. Numerous other parties are also under fire over alleged sexual harrassment, and, just as in America, these allegations are leading to powerful figures, mostly in film making, to toss in their towels.

The MeToo movement is gaining international ground, as evidenced by this new state supported round of allegations coming out of the closet, and, while largely limited to film and music industries, is likely to spread to others, not excluding the government, in much the same fashion as it spread in the West.

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