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Theater director sentenced to six years for sexual assault, marking first #MeToo jail term

By Jo He-rim
  • Published : Sept 19, 2018 - 18:04
  • Updated : Sept 19, 2018 - 20:52
Theatrical director Lee Youn-taek was sentenced to six years in prison Wednesday for abusing his occupational authority to sexually harass or assault subordinate members of his drama troupe.

The Seoul Central Court handed down the sentence, which also included 80 hours of treatment for sexual offenders. It additionally banned Lee from working at institutes related to child and teenagers for 10 years.

Lee Youn-taek (Yonhap)

“The defendant unfairly wielded his authority, exploited the victims’ status and caused irreparable damages and feelings of shame to the victims,” the court said.

Lee was indicted in April over allegations he sexually assaulted nine subordinate members of his drama troupe in 25 occasions from April 2010 to June 2016. The prosecutors had demanded seven years in term and treatment for sexual offenders. Lee was arrested on March 23.

“Lee had reined over the drama troupe, as if he is a king, and sexually assaulted some 20 actresses multiple times, but has not shown any sign of remorse,” the prosecutors said in the final hearing on Sept. 7.

Lee, who founded and operated the Street Theater Troupe, is the first public figure to receive a jail term among those accused of sexual misconduct via #MeToo revelations. Former South Chungcheong Province Gov. An Hee-jung was acquitted in the first trial in mid-August, in which he was charged with sexually assaulting his secretary, Kim Ji-eun. Kim said An raped her multiple times using his occupational authority, on a live televised interview in early March, as the #MeToo movement swept the country.

Lee has claimed all of his actions were part of his acting lessons, and not sexual assaults. He said the victims were aware of the practices and culture prior to entering his troupe, and had agreed to the direction of the teaching classes.

“My troupe was not a jail where people were forced to stay. Nonprofessionals may view some of the actions (during the training sessions) as inappropriate and awkward, but they are all just a unique aspect of my drama troupe,” Lee said previously.

In the Sept. 7 hearing, Lee said his attempt to create a higher quality play, driven by avarice and passion, led to his “mistake.” His attorney also said that judging acting training by the law may result in “nipping the bud of a new genre of art.”

In a previous police investigation, over 62 cases of Lee’s sexual misconduct were identified, occurring from 1999 to 2016. But because of the statute of limitations, only eight cases that took place after April 2010 were punishable by law, police concluded.

The current law, which allows investigations into sex offenses without the victim’s official complaint, went into effect in 2013.

By Jo He-rim (herim@heraldcorp.com)