The Korea Herald

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Korean stars haunted by accusations of school violence

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : April 4, 2024 - 14:13

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Jeon Jong-seo (Endmark) Jeon Jong-seo (Endmark)

South Korean actor Jeon Jong-seo's agency on Thursday denied recent accusations of school bullying against the star of the critically acclaimed film, "Burning," vowing to take legal action against what it said were groundless rumors.

"We have checked with (Jeon) and her acquaintances and have found that the (rumors) in the online posts are not true at all. ... We will pursue legal action to protect the actor," Jeon's agency Endmark said in an official statement.

Jeon, 29, is the latest in the long line of local celebrities whose pasts have come back to haunt them. On Monday, bullying accusations against actress Song Ha-yoon hit local media.

Song's agency initially denied accusations later that day, but admitted on Tuesday that Song had been forced to transfer to another school "in relation to a school violence incident." The company claimed that the actress was not one of the perpetrators of the violence, while the victim claimed Song was involved.

Song's level of involvement in the incident has not yet been verified, but the punishment she received was among the harshest ones for perpetrators of school violence here. South Korean law stipulates nine levels of punitive action by the education authorities against a student found to have committed bullying. Forced transfer to another school is the second-harshest punishment behind expulsion.

Unlike Song, details surrounding Jeon's accusation remain murky as of Thursday. But the names of both actresses have been circulating in the media since the revelations surfaced.

The South Korean public has historically been unforgiving toward celebrities accused of school bullying in their past. This is evident from a string of accusations targeting actors and K-pop stars made in 2021. While association with such accusations may not be a certified career killer, celebrities' popularity tends to take a considerable dip if the accusations turn out to be true.

A 2023 survey by local pollster Real Research Korea asked 3,314 adults across the country about what they thought of school violence controversies involving celebrities. About 24.3 percent said the accused celebrities "should cease all appearances immediately" while 58.3 percent said they should "put off appearances at least until the (accusation) is verified."

Only 13.9 percent thought celebrities should be able to work until an accusation was proven to be true or false.