Acclaimed South Korean director Kim Ki-duk, whose films have played at Cannes, Berlin and Venice, has been accused of rape and sexual harassment. The harassment allegations were made by three actresses, speaking anonymously, during a #MeToo-themed documentary by the investigative journalism programme PD Notebook which aired last night on Korean TV.
Among accusers of the former Venice Golden Lion winner (Pieta, 2012) was one actress who expanded on a previously made claim that she was fired from the director’s 2013 movie Moebius because she refused him sex. She also reiterated an assertion that she was slapped by the filmmaker. A local court ordered Kim to pay a fine of $5,000 for physical assault but the charges of sexual violence were not pursued due to lack of evidence. The same actress was recently critical of the Berlin Film Festival for programming Kim’s latest film The Time Of Humans in its Panorama strand this year.
The exposé documentary went on to reveal a rape allegation against Kim and one of his regular collaborators, the actor Cho Jae-hyun (Moebius). “It was a living hell… so many nights, he came to my room and slammed the door or phoned me at the room repeatedly until I responded,” the actress said of Kim. He eventually summoned her to his room to “discuss a script,” she alleged. “Then he raped me.” The actress quit acting and needed many years of therapy, she said. Actor Cho, well known in his homeland, told the documentary-makers he would talk about the accusations “once an investigation begins.”
Another woman said she exited a Kim movie after the director verbally harassed her with inappropriate sexual remarks. Yesterday’s doc also featured a male crew member and male filmmaker, likewise speaking anonymously, who alleged “awful incidents” on the director’s sets and a culture of fear which inhibited people from speaking out.
The director sent the production a text message in which he denied the claims. “I never tried to satisfy my personal desires using my status as a film director,” he said. The celebrated director has had to previously deny that anyone “suffers” on the sets of his violent and often sexually explicit films.
The #MeToo movement has gained significant traction in Korea in recent weeks with a handful of men being fired from senior posts or having to apologize due to harassment claims. Cho, for one, has already apologized for wrongdoing following multiple allegations against him.