SEOUL: A South Korean actor accused of sexual assault was found dead Friday, reports said, as a wave of #MeToo accusations sweeps the country’s still male-dominated society.
Jo Min-ki, who had been accused of sexually molesting at least eight victims, was found hanged in a storage area in the building where he lived in Seoul, Yonhap news agency cited police as saying, adding suicide was suspected.
Most of his victims were drama students at a provincial university where he taught, it said, adding the 52-year-old had been forced out of his professorship over the scandal, leaving his career in tatters.
Jo’s roles were mainly in television series, but he also appeared in a number of films.
The #MeToo movement has gradually gained ground in South Korea, which remains socially conservative and patriarchal in many respects despite its economic and technological advances.
Allegations of abuse have been made against prominent men in fields ranging from politics to the arts.
Earlier this week, provincial governor and former presidential contender Ahn Hee-jung resigned after an aide accused him of multiple rapes.
The last straw came when Ahn called her into his office on the night of February 25 and apologised for having hurt her, talking about the country’s #MeToo movement, she told a television interviewer.
“And then he raped me again,” she said, holding back tears.
Ahn presented himself to prosecutors on Friday for questioning, apologising and saying he would cooperate with the investigation.
It was a stunning fall – Ahn was the governor of South Chungcheong province and came second to current President Moon Jae-in in the contest for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination last year.
A governorship is seen as a springboard to a presidential bid and Ahn had been tipped as a front-runner among liberal hopefuls to succeed Moon, who can only serve one term.
“First of all, I offer my words of apology to the people and the provincial residents,” Ahn said outside the prosecutors’ office, as a barrage of flashbulbs went off.
“I also feel deeply sorry for my wife and children,” he added, although he did not apologise to his accuser.
Thinly veiled poem
In the arts, the most high-profile figures to be accused are award-winning film director Kim Ki-duk and poet Ko Un.
An actress who refused to be named this week accused Kim and a top actor of rape, saying she had quit acting afterwards and was in therapy for years.
The allegations came after Kim’s presence at this year’s Berlin Film Festival caused controversy following a fine for physically assaulting a different actress.
Kim told MBC television in text messages that he was only involved in “consensual sexual relationships”.
“I never tried to satisfy my personal desires using my status as a film director,” he added.
Seoul poet Choi Young-Mi accused Ko Un, a top poet regularly tipped for the Nobel Prize for literature, of sexually abusing many women in literary circles, after publishing a thinly veiled poem “Monster” in which she detailed her experiences at his hands.
His works and almost all references to him and two other alleged perpetrators will be erased from school textbooks, Seoul’s education ministry said this week.
Ko denied the allegations against him in a statement to the Guardian, saying he did “nothing which might bring shame on my wife or myself”.
Women in South Korea have long been reluctant to come forward about sex abuse due to fears of relentless public shaming and bullying.
But a Seoul prosecutor in January made a rare move to speak out about sex abuse by a superior on live television, triggering a wave of accusations.