6 in 10 female entertainers pressured to provide sexual services in S.Korea

Posted on : 2010-04-28 12:16 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
An NHRCK report confirms an array of human rights abuses and is significant in the wake of the suicide of actress Jang Ja-yeon last year
 May 2009.
May 2009.

More than six out of every ten women in the entertainment industry (60.2 percent) have been asked to provide sexual services for broadcasting officials or prominent figures in society, and nearly half of those who refused (48.4 percent) suffered disadvantages in casting or advertisement appearances according to a study by the National Human Rights Commission of Korea (NHRCK). The study lends significant insight into the reality of human rights violations against women in the entertainment industry, which surfaced as an issue in March 2009 when actress Jang Ja-yeon’s suicide made waves in South Korean society. Jang left a suicide note stating she was coerced into having sex with prominent men in exchange for advancing her career.

The NHRCK, under Chairperson Hyun Byung-chul, revealed on Tuesday the results of a study commissioned from the Korean Women’s Development Institute (KWDI), which consisted of in-depth interviews with 111 women in the entertainment industry, 240 aspiring female entertainers, and 11 entertainment industry officials. Based on the human rights violations revealed by the commission, it has been confirmed that female performers are suffering not only from sexual harassment and sexual assault but also abusive language from their companies and pressure to undergo plastic surgery.

“I have been called out several times to dinners and drinking parties due to demands by the company,” said one female entertainer in her mid-twenties during an in-depth interview. “There was no definite incident, but I felt... it was a very unpleasant situation. It is the reason I did not sign a contract with that agency later on.”

In addition to demands to serve drinks and provide sexual services, the study cited 31.5 percent of performers as having experienced harassment including having parts of their body touched, such as their breasts, buttocks or legs. Also, 21.5 percent were found to have been asked directly to engage in sexual intercourse, while 6.5 percent had experienced violent criminal acts such as sexual assault.

The survey also showed that 55 percent of female performers had been asked to engage in “sponsorship relationships” with prominent figures. An aspiring entertainer in her early twenties said during an interview, “A man old enough to be my father has dinner with me and asks me outright, ‘Will you be my lover?’ I say, ‘No. I am afraid.’ Then he says, ‘I’ll make it so you can do whatever you want to do, and I’ll buy your youth.’”

When asked about their experiences with unfair transactions with agencies, nearly half of respondents, or 49.2 percent, said that they had been pressured into making unpaid appearances at events, and some 36.5 percent responded affirmatively to the statement, “I have had my contract transferred without prior consent.” The study also showed instances of some agencies under straitened circumstances using female performers as a means of receiving “sponsor” support to continue operations.

Aspiring entertainers were found to have suffered more violations of their right to self-determination over their bodies compared to current entertainers, and the study showed that 72.3 percent and 58.7 percent of aspiring performers were respectively urged to diet and undergo plastic surgery.

NHRCK standing commissioner Moon Kyung-ran, who oversaw the study, said, “Unless institutional measures are put in place to resolve structural problems in the entertainment industry, a second or third Jang Ja-yeon incident could occur.” Moon emphasized the need for amendment to related laws and for independent efforts to address the problem, such as the establishment of an association for women in the entertainment industry.

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