The Korea Herald


Pageant hit by sexual harassment claims


Published : Oct. 21, 2011 - 22:46

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British beauty queen accuses committee of not paying for flights, meals

The organizing committee of an international beauty pageant held in Korea said it is looking into allegations raised by a British competitor that she was sexually harassed and offered votes in exchange for sex.

Nineteen-year-old Amy Willerton, a triple-crowned beauty queen from Wales, also claimed that participants were fed just one meal a day and that a committee member bribed police officers who came to take her report of sexual harassment.

Choi Young-chul, chief of the organizing committee for the Miss Asia Pacific World competition, said there seemed to have been a “misunderstanding due to cultural differences as committee members in their sixties and seventies patted the participants on the back.”

Choi, also known by his English name Lawrence, said that the pageant was not run smoothly and the participants began to distrust the committee after it gave an Africa award to Miss Guyana, from South America. The president of Elite Asia World Group said his committee was looking into the details of what happened.

“I had two of the organizers sexually assault me ― one tried to pull my top down. When we posed with sponsors they also tried to stick a hand somewhere inappropriate,” Amy Willerton was quoted as saying by the British tabloid Daily Mail.

“Girls were pulled aside and told they knew what they had to do if they wanted to win ― we all knew they meant sex.”

Willerton uploaded a 12-minute video clip on YouTube showing her, Miss Costa Rica and Miss Guyana leaving Korea after questioning a committee member how Miss Venezuela had won an optional “talent” round when she had not even entered it. She failed to provide an explanation in the video.

“Participants from Wales, Costa Rica and Guyana dropped out of the contest and demanded $20,000 and then 50,000 euros in damages, and when I told them that would be difficult for now, they just left,” Choi said.

He flatly denied the allegation that a committee member tried to bribe a police officer, saying he was simply reaching for his name card in his wallet.

The Daegu Metropolitan Police Agency said that the two police officers who arrived at Willerton’s hotel in Daegu upon her report told her she could go to the police station right away or file a lawsuit later. She said through her interpreter that she would consult a lawyer when she returned home, so the officers confirmed their identities and received a name card from the committee member.

Seol Yong-sook, chief of the Northern Daegu Police Station, said she plans to request a correction in the British media that the officers were not bribed.

Ha In-young, a manager on the Daegu organizing committee of the pageant, also said the accusations of sexual harassment came from “cultural differences as some (committee members) laid their hands on the (participants’) waists as they posed for photos.”

Ha said they were given Korean food on Oct. 11, but did not seem to have liked it.

According to the Daily Mail, Willerton said she was contacted by the pageant organizers online and signed a contract assuring her that all expenses would be paid, but they refused to pay for her 600-pound (1 million won) flight.

Fifty beauty queens were invited to the 15-day contest, held in Seoul, Daegu and Busan until last Saturday. Korean contestant Park Sae-byul won the Miss Asia Pacific World 2011.

By Kim So-hyun (