Star-wannabes suffer exploitation
Female aspirants are still easy target of sexual assaults
By Kim Rahn
Stars can look good and seemingly show that having fame and wealth can mean they have everything they want. It’s no wonder that so many teenagers hope to become entertainers.
But murkiness awaits the star-wannabes, including unfair contracts with entertainment agencies or other improper demands from those in power in the showbiz industry. For some female aspirants, demands for sex and sexual harassment are other issues they suffer from.
Many people in the entertainment industry say such “bad practices” no longer exist, but this is apparently not the case as seen by recent reports from small-sized agencies, which include the rapes of female trainees by an agency head. Also there was the 2009 suicide of actress Jang Ja-yeon who was forced to have sex with bigwigs she “entertained.”
Last week, the CEO of Open World Entertainment was arrested on charges of rape. The 51-year-old, identified as Chang, sexually assaulted 11 girls who the company was training as singers or actresses from 2008 until recently, according to police.
Chang allegedly forced the trainees to drink beer laced with Rohypnol and raped them. Two of the victims were minors at the time.
Chang also allegedly got two male members of a K-pop group represented by his company and another singer from a different company to rape the girls in a dance practice room in the company building and watched the scenes in his office through closed circuit television.
Police are questioning the idol group members. The company is denying the allegations.
“Chang reigned over trainees, using the promise to make them stars as bait,” a police officer at Gangnam Police Station said.
“It seems Chang had ultimate power over the star hopefuls. The victims said they didn’t dare to report the rape to police as Chang told them he had many acquaintances in the entertainment field and would ensure they never worked again,” the officer said.
The Open World Entertainment case is not new. There have been many cases reported where management firm heads sexually assaulted or harassed trainee entertainers. They have demanded sex from them and prostituted them to other heavyweights in return for favorable treatment in the highly competitive showbiz industry.
Actress Jang Ja-yeon, who killed herself in 2009, left notes which said she had been forced to entertain and provide sexual services to business and media group heads.
Some 20 figures were named in the case, but police failed to confirm the allegation due to a “lack of evidence.”
Recently, a participant in an audition program said a management firm chief demanded sex.
In last Friday’s episode of “Super Diva,” singer-aspirant Lee Eun-ji said when she made a contract with an agency four years ago, the chief demanded she have sex with him.
“I refused and tried to annul the contract, but the agency sued me for breaking the contract and demanded I pay 300 million won in compensation. Those were hard days,” she said.
Entertainment industry sources say such things do not occur at most “normal” agencies, only at some minor ones.
“Currently, anybody can set up an entertainment agency by reporting it to the authorities. To prevent such nasty incidents, we’ve demanded the government change the law so that only those having adequate systems and budgets can be registered,” an official of the Corea Entertainment Management Association said.
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said Tuesday it would seek a screening and registration system for the establishment of entertainment management companies. A related bill has already been pending at the National Assembly, but may be cancelled if the Assembly fails to pass it before its four-year term ends on May 29.