South Korean director Lee Yoon-Taek jailed for sex assaults

Theatre director Lee Yoon-taek is surrounded by reporters as he appeared for police questioning on 17 March
Image caption Lee Yoon-taek, here appearing for police questioning on 17 March, has been found guilty of sexually abusing nine women

A prominent South Korean theatre director has been jailed for six years for sexually assaulting nine women.

Lee Yoon-taek was accused of abusing the actresses during training sessions at the renowned theatre group where he was artistic director.

In total 17 women came forward to accuse him of sexual violence. He was also accused of rape, which he denied.

He is one of a number of high profile South Korean men accused as a result of the worldwide #MeToo movement.

South Korean demonstrators hold banners during a rally to mark International Women"s Day as part of the country"s #MeToo movement in Seoul on March 8, 2018
Image caption Hundreds of South Korean women spoke out against sexual abuse as the #MeToo movement swept the country earlier this year

A provincial governor once tipped as a presidential contender, Ahn Hee-jung, was forced to resign in March after his secretary publicly accused him of repeatedly raping her.

Renowned poet Kim Ko Un and another director, Kim Ki-duk, have also faced accusations.

The cases for which 65-year-old Lee were jailed date back to 2010. Other allegations against him that date further back could not be heard because of South Korea’s limit on the period in which prosecutions can take place.

The court in Seoul heard that Lee had, in eight of the cases, fondled the women during voice training by putting his hands up their blouses and forcing them to massage his genitals, while he had attempted rape in the ninth case.

“The accused claims these activities were all part of acting lessons, but they should be considered sexual abuses as there was no explicit consent from the victims,” the court said in a statement.

Lee Yoon-taek arrives at the Seoul Central District Court on March 23, 2018, to attend a hearing
Image caption Mr Lee was director of South Korea’s National Theatre

Some people took to social media after the verdict to criticise the sentence.

One wrote on the South Korean platform Naver: “Isn’t the sentence too short? He killed aspiring actresses’ will to pursue their dream.

“If sexual harassment was a part of “teaching method” as he claimed, why aren’t there male victims? He is merely a pervert who used his power to sexually harass young women.”

Mr Lee, who founded the Yeonhee theatre troupe in Busan and was director of the National Theatre and winner of several awards, apologised for his past behaviour in a news conference in February.

“I offer my sincere apology to all the victims. […] Sometimes I might have committed the acts in spite of myself,” he said.

“Other times, I might have felt guilty but ended up not suppressing the dirty desire within. But I did not rape anyone. Not everything on social media is true.”

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