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Squid Game actor Oh Young-soo goes on trial for sex crimes on February 3

Squid Game actor Oh Young-soo goes on trial for sex crimes on February 3


He has long been considered one of the best theater actors in South Korea, appearing in over 200 productions since 1968 and winning numerous awards. In 2021, he rose to international fame after portraying Oh Il-nam, the cunning and older contestant in the Netflix hit Squid Game.

On Friday, he will be tried for indecent assault. If found guilty, he would be the latest example of how South Korea has tried to crack down on sex crimes as the country continues to grapple with the repercussions of the #MeToo movement.

Prosecutors charged Oh Young-soo, 78, in November after a woman filed a lawsuit accusing him of touching her inappropriately in 2017. If a district judge in Suwon, about 20 miles south of Seoul, condemns Mr. Oh, he risks prison. up to 10 years or a fine of up to approximately $12,000.

Few additional facts are known about the case and the incident. Court documents are not available under the law and authorities declined to provide further details about the accuser, citing their policy of not disclosing any information about victims of sex crimes.

Mr Oh has denied any wrongdoing but has already faced fallout since being charged. He was dropped from the cast of a South Korean play called Love Letter, in which he was scheduled to perform on January 14. The country’s culture ministry also stopped running a government ad that featured him.

I rushed to ask for replacements as soon as I heard the news, said Lim Dong-sik, the publicity chief of the broadcast network sponsoring the play in which Mr Oh was cast. Mr. Lim added that the allegations had tarnished Mr. Oh’s reputation.

Last year, Mr. Oh became the first South Korean to win a Golden Globe, Best Supporting Actor. He was too nominated for an Emmy for his performance in Squid Game, a dystopian drama that chronicles the luck of South Koreans who join a secret and deadly contest in hopes of winning a life-changing fortune.

The show touched a pop culture nerve worldwide, becoming Netflix’s most-watched new series and starring Mr. Oh portraying Oh Il-nam, an older contestant known as Player 001 in the game. Netflix did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

Suwon prosecutors filed charges on Nov. 25 after initially dropping the case. A police station in Seongnam, a nearby city, initially received the woman’s complaint in December 2021 and immediately began investigating the case, said Jang Shin-mo, a division chief at the station. That station referred the case to prosecutors in February 2022, but authorities decided not to press charges two months later, Ms Jang said.

The woman appealed and asked the police to reopen the case in May, Ms Jang said. After gathering more evidence, prosecutors filed charges last November.

People convicted of indecent assault in South Korea become registered sex offenders who are watched by the police even after serving their prison sentence. First-time offenders can receive reduced sentences, such as five years, or just a fine.

Following the accusations, Mr. Oh had become a particularly poor candidate to appear in the play Love Letter, said Mr. Lim, the publicity manager. The play is a romance featuring a pair of actors who take turns reading love letters to each other. Each character is married to someone else, but they exchange intimate letters throughout their lives.

Mr. Lim said his company decided to remove Mr. Oh from the room the day the charges were announced. Mr. Oh and the other actor who was to appear as a couple have been replaced by two other performers.

After the Department of Culture canceled government adverts featuring Mr Oh, it said in a statement it did so to avoid unnecessary controversy. The emailed statement did not explicitly mention the charges against Mr. Oh. The adverts, which had encouraged regulatory reform, disappeared from government websites, official social media and subway stations just 11 days after they aired.

Throughout his career, Mr. Ohhas has played supporting roles in film and television, including as an aging Buddhist monk in the 2003 romance film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter and Spring. This portrayal earned him the nickname The Monk Actor, a role he would reprise in other films, TV shows, and commercials.

Over the past five years, a nascent #MeToo movement in South Korea has led to sexual abuse accusations against a range of prominent men, many of whom were powerful figures in the entertainment industry. Several have apologized or resigned; a few were convicted of rape and other sex crimes and sentenced to long prison terms.

In South Korea, the legal threshold required to obtain a conviction for a sex crime is high. Prosecutors must prove that force or the threat of force was present when the sexual act was committed. But in recent years, some have called for a relaxation of the law; Women’s rights groups have argued that prosecutors should be able to secure convictions for sex crimes simply by proving that the victim did not consent.

Securing evidence in indecent assault cases can also pose problems, said Chang Dahye, a researcher at the Korea Institute of Criminology and Justice. But courts have generally ruled in favor of prosecution in indecent assault cases in South Korea. Prosecutors here have the sole power to decide whether to charge a suspect, and they are unlikely to do so unless they believe they have enough evidence to win, Ms Chang added.

The conviction rate for prosecuted sex crimes cases, she said, is more than 80 percent.

matt steven contributed reporting from Seoul.




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