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.

연예계, 끊이지 않는 여자 연습생 성추행

스타는 멋있다. 스타는 부와 명예, 그리고 원하는 것은 뭐든지 가질 수 있는 것처럼 보인다. 많은 청소년들이 연예인이 되고 싶어하는 것도 무리가 당연해 보인다.

그러나 스타 지망생들은 부당 계약이나 연예계 큰손으로부터의 각종 부당한 요구 같은 어두운 면을 마주치곤 한다. 특히 여자 연습생들에게는 성상납이나 성추행이 또다른 고통이 되곤 한다.

연예계의 많은 사람들이 그런 '나쁜 관행'은 더 이상 존재하지 않는다고 하지만, 최근의 여자 연습생들 성폭행 사건이나 2009년 장자연 자살 사건에서 보여지듯이 그런 관행은 아직도 이어지고 있다.

지난주 오픈월드엔터테인먼트 장 모 대표가 2008년부터 최근까지 여자 연습생 11명을 성폭행 한 혐의로 구속됐다. 장씨는 맥주에 최음제를 타 이들에게 먹이고 성폭행을 했다고 경찰은 전했다. 피해자 중 2명은 당시 미성년자였다.

장씨는 또한 아이돌 그룹 멤버 2명과 다른 소속사 가수에게 연습생들을 성폭행하라고 시키고 CCTV로 이를 지켜본 것으로 드러났다. 경찰은 아이돌 그룹 멤버를 조사중이지만 소속사는 혐의를 부인했다.

강남경찰서의 한 경찰관은 "장씨가 데뷔시켜준다는 말을 미끼로 연습생들 위에 군림했다. 장씨는 연예인 지망생들에게는 절대적인 권력을 지닌 듯 보였다. 피해자들은 연예계에 아는 사람이 많다며, 신고하면 다시는 연예계에 발 들여놓지 못하게 하겠다는 장씨의 말에 신고할 엄두도 못냈다고 한다"고 말했다.

이 사건 뿐만 아니라 연예기획사 대표가 연습생들을 성추행, 성폭행 하거나 성상납을 요구한 사건들이 계속 있어왔다.