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[Newsmaker] Poet Choi Young-mi reaffirms sexual harassment allegations denied by Ko Un

Poet Choi Young-mi, who revealed her experience of being groped by an unnamed senior poet through her poem, on Monday reaffirmed sexual harassment allegations made against renowned poet Ko Un, who recently denied the allegations.

In a statement uploaded on Facebook on Sunday, Choi said, “The statements related to the poem ‘Monster’ are facts. I will reveal the details further, when there is an official body dedicated to investigating claims of sexual wrongdoings in the arts circle here.” 

Poet Ko Un (Korea Herald file photo)
Poet Ko Un (Korea Herald file photo)

The 84-year-old poet Ko had made an official statement through his UK publisher Bloodaxe Books.

“I regret that my name has been brought up in the recent allegations. I have already expressed regret for any unintended pain that my behavior may have caused. However, I flatly deny charges of habitual misconduct that some individuals have brought up against me,” said Ko in a statement that Neil Astley, an editor at Bloodaxe Books, provided to the Guardian.

Ko added, “All I can say at the moment is that I believe that my writing will continue, with my honor as a person and a poet maintained.”

In December last year, Choi published a poem titled “Monster,” which included details of sexual harassment by a poet named “En,” an allusion to the acclaimed Korean poet Ko Un.

During a TV news program in early February, Choi added details regarding the poem as well. Though she did not reveal the name of the poet, other news outlets and the public speculated that the allegations were aimed at Ko.

On Feb. 27, Choi sent a statement to a local news outlet, which included detailed descriptions of an incident in which she allegedly witnessed poet Ko’s indecent exposure of his genitals in front of Choi and another female poet at a gathering in the 1990s.

The controversy is expected to grow. On Monday, an additional testimony was made by male poet Park Jin-sung, 40.

In a statement uploaded on his personal blog, Park said he had witnessed Ko’s indecent exposure at a gathering in April 2008. According to Park, Ko sexually harassed a female poet who sat next to him. Park described the female poet as being in her 20s. Park added that a professor, who organized and attended the gathering, tried to hush up the incident.

Amid rising public outcry, the central and local governments appear to be trying to remove traces of the troubled poet.

Last Thursday, the Seoul Metropolitan Government said it would shut down a space dedicated to celebrating Ko’s legacy in the Seoul Metropolitan Library. The Ministry of Education has officially requested a comment from the Korea Authorized and Approved Textbook -- the copyright holder of school textbooks -- on whether it plans to remove Ko’s poems from textbooks.

By Shim Woo-hyun (