ENTERTAINMENT

Jo Min-ki’s flip-flop on sexual misconduct with students further sparks fury

By Rumy Doo

Beleaguered veteran actor drops out of upcoming TV series in aftermath of sexual violence claims

  • Published : Feb 21, 2018 - 18:28
  • Updated : Feb 21, 2018 - 19:08
Veteran actor Jo Min-ki was adamant about his innocence, at least until Tuesday when he confronted a slew of sexual misconduct allegations.

Will Entertainment, the agency representing the embattled actor, even threatened to take strong legal action against those who spread “groundless rumors” about the alleged sexual misdeeds Jo committed while he was teaching at a local college.

On Wednesday, Jo flipped his “innocent victim” position as further accounts surfaced, detailing his nearly decadelong sexual violence against students, abusing his authority as a professor.

In a statement Wednesday, Will Entertainment said Jo would “sincerely respond to police investigation” and “the company is well aware of how serious the allegations against him are.”

Police said it launched an investigation Tuesday when allegations first surfaced.

Jo has stepped down from his role in upcoming OCN TV series “Children of God,” set to premiere Saturday, according to the agency’s statement.

The news comes as the latest in a series of sexual violence revelations fueled by the #MeToo movement, which has recently been sweeping the Korean cultural industry. 

Jo Min-ki (Will Entertainment)

The scandal surrounding Jo broke out Tuesday when local media reported he had been suspended for three months from his teaching position at Cheongju University, where he was an assistant professor for acting, due to allegations of sexual violence.

Cheongju University, in Cheongju, North Chungcheong Province, had made the decision in December after a two-month internal probe into sexual violence allegations against Jo, reports said.

Jo initially denied any wrongdoing, before reversing his position overnight. His abrupt flip-flop infuriated the public, and sparked a storm of angry reactions on social media.

“Investigations revealed that the allegations against him are true. The student who suffered the violence wanted strong punishment so we decided to take severe disciplinary action,” the school said.

Jo had handed in his resignation in the wake of a school’s internal probe, but Cheongju University has yet to formally remove him from the professor position.

The university said the actor was scheduled to be formally dismissed from his professorship on Feb. 28.

Jo had denied both the allegations of sexual violence and suspension from the university through his agency. “Jo resigned voluntarily because he felt a moral obligation to step down after ... the university’s internal probe and using inappropriate language in class,” the agency said in a statement Tuesday. It added that the allegations were “malicious rumors” abusing Jo’s celebrity status.

“Some students testified that I touched their breast when I only told the student to act from the heart and lightly tapped (the student’s) chest,” Jo told a local broadcasting station Tuesday.

But further sexual violence claims against him began to emerge later Tuesday. “(Jo) contacted me early in the morning at my personal phone number after drinking,” one student told JTBC, a cable TV station, adding that Jo had told her to come to his rented apartment.

“(Jo and some students) all went to a noraebang (karaoke bar) and everyone was drunk, singing and dancing. That’s when I witnessed him approaching a female student from behind and grabbing her breasts,” another student told SBS TV.

After Jo’s denials, theatrical actress Song Ha-neul, a graduate of Cheongju University’s theater department, put out a post on social media Tuesday and revealed that she “could not repress (her) rage.”

“Senior students have been telling us to be careful of (Jo) since 2013 when I first entered the school,” Song said. “Jo’s acts of sexual violence were common knowledge within the department.”

She alleged that Jo, who had a rented apartment nearby the campus, would often summon female students into his residence under the pretense of discussing acting. “There were so many instances where he would touch student’s thighs ... or their faces ... at dinners that I cannot even list them all,” Song wrote.

The students Jo frequently called into his residence became the target of gossip, Song said. “We were powerless and could not open our mouths, fearing inaccurate rumors would circulate.”

Song called Jo’s acts of alleged sexual violence “unforgivable.” “The school should be a place where a monster, who uses the pure dreams of students to fulfill his own filthy desires, should not be able to set foot,” she wrote.

Additional allegations surfaced Wednesday when Kim Yu-ri, another graduate of Cheongju University’s theater department, wrote a lengthy post on the school’s online message board.

She described an instance where she had been sexually assaulted by Jo after he urged her to spend the night in his residence.

“Jo was a professor and a well-established actor in the profession that we students aspired to be in,” she wrote. “I believe that is why nobody could expose the cases of suffering.”

Jo, who debuted as a theater actor in 1982, has appeared in numerous films and TV series, including a reality program that sought to highlight his affection toward his daughter.

By Rumy Doo (doo@heraldcorp.com)