Last July, in the aftermath of the suicide of actress Jang Ja-yeon, whose suicide note claimed that she had been forced by her manager to sleep with rich men, a survey of about 2,000 entertainers was conducted. Unfortunately, there were a mere 183 responses, which rendered the study almost meaningless.
Fortunately, more recent studies are giving us a clearer picture of what goes on behind the scenes in the entertainment industry, but unfortunately, the image is an ugly one.
Last October, a survey of 200 people, of various professions in the entertainment business, revealed that:
37.5% [of actresses] experienced physical or verbal assault, 25% experienced unwanted physical contact and 12.5% received “sponsorship” offers. By Sponsorship, it means those in power who support actresses, financially and also using their connections and influences (to get important roles), in exchange for sex. Many famous stars such as Ivy and Song Yoon Ah confessed to turning down such offers, while some female celebrities who seem to receive a lot of media attention compared to their popularity are rumored to have very powerful sponsors.
Now a more comprehensive study did extensive interviews with 240 aspiring actresses and 111 actresses, of whom 10% were top actresses. Eleven entertainment industry insiders, including managers, also participated. The results are far more damning that those from the previous two surveys. Sixty-point-two percent of them reported being pressured to have sex with influential figures like producers, directors, businessmen, politicians and advertising executives. The study has been written about in the Joongang Daily, the Chosun Ilbo, and the Korea Times, and the following quotes are taken from those articles. Apologies for block-quoting huge swaths of text, but it speaks for itself.
An up-and-coming actress in her mid-20s is still reeling from a nightmarish experience she had a couple of years ago.
“I was with the boss of my agency that evening,” she said requesting anonymity. “We went shopping together at brand-name shops. His behavior was unusual as he provided lavish hospitality, going on a spending spree in buying me pricy clothes and other accessories. Afterwards, he escorted me to his luxurious car.”
According to the actress, the man drove toward the area where she lived. She thought he would drive her home. But he pulled over near a hotel and propositioned her.
“He told me that how much I know about men would decide how famous I would be,” she said.
She terminated her contract with the agency but this just highlights the lack of a fundamental solution to prevent future incidents from occurring, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) said Tuesday in a 294-page report on the rampant rate of such propositioning of actresses and actress-hopefuls by those who can influence their career development in the domestic entertainment industry.
Almost 60 percent of respondents said they believed rejecting sexual advances would disadvantage their careers, and 48.4 percent said they had in fact lost out on appearances on shows because they refused.
Wealthy men were cited as the most common group of people seeking sex with the stars, cited by 43.9 percent of respondents, followed by TV producers and directors with 38.6 percent. Heads of TV production companies came next with 22.8 percent and senior businessmen with 15.8 percent.
Fifty-five percent of the interviewed actresses said they received at least one offer of “sponsorship” – a secret contract between a rich man and his favorite actress in which the actress receives financial support during a certain period of time in exchange for having sexual relations with him on a regular basis.
“I got such an offer at the initial stage of my career,” said an actress in her mid 40s in the report. “He told me if I accepted, he would support me unlimitedly. But I rejected him.”
Among those who made such offers were wealthy businessmen, TV and movie directors, and politicians, the NHRC said.
More than 6 percent said they had been victims of sexual crimes including rape.
Rape? Things are clearly worse that what some have smugly dismissed as merely “the casting couch.”
Another 31.5 percent said they were molested when men touched their bodies, including breasts, hips and legs.
Among the actresses surveyed, 58.3 percent said they had felt sexually harassed by people who “stared at certain parts of their bodies,” while 64.5 percent said they had to listen to sexually explicit jokes and 67.3 percent said they were judged by their appearance. Some were directly asked to have sex, or even suffered sexual harassment or assault. Some 21.5 percent of respondents said they had received direct requests for sex …
The NHRC said one of the main reasons for the abuses in the entertainment industry was the competition of a large number of actresses for a limited number of parts. “Each year, 48,000 aspiring actresses graduate from various acting schools in major cities, and there is no way of telling how many more women are hired by small talent agencies,” a commission official said.
Public auditions should also be encouraged to create a transparent culture,” the rights commission said. “Actresses are also urged to create labor unions or other representative bodies to improve their working conditions and protect their rights.”