After sweeping Hollywood, the #MeToo movement has made its way to Korea, with a string of actors getting busted for sexual misconduct. One of them is Jo Min Ki, who had been accused of sexually harassing many women and was undergoing police investigation. And that story has now taken a darker turn.
In the afternoon of March 9, the 52-year-old actor was found dead in a storage room in the building that he lived in. It's been reported that he had hanged himself and that it was his wife who had found him.
On the same day, a reporter who was close to Min Ki revealed on Korean show News Top 10 the last phone conversation he had with the actor three hours before his death. An audio recording of their conversation was played, in which Min Ki said: "The police told me to come in for questioning on March 6. But I delayed the date to March 12 because that day was my daughter’s college entrance ceremony.” Min Ki broke down while talking about his daughter, and was overcome with emotion while talking about his family. He said that he was extremely apologetic towards the victims, and his own family.
The same reporter shared on the show that Min Ki had started making phone calls to his friends and colleagues a week earlier and apologised for disappointing them. On the morning of his death, he also made a call to his wife, who felt that something was amiss with her husband.
In an interview, Min Ki's neighbour revealed that he saw the actor a week ago in the elevator. "He was wearing a gray wool cap, And he had the collar of his coat up to cover his neck. It would have been difficult for outsiders to recognise him. It was a pitiful sight."
A funeral for Min Ki was held at Konkuk University Hospital on Mar 9. His family reportedly asked the media to leave the premises as they wanted the funeral to be private. A representative of the late actor's family stated, "We're not in a situation where we can provide any official statement. The family is grieving and is not able to have a coherent conversation."
For years, the 52-year-old veteran actor, who also worked as a professor at Cheongju University, abused his authority by inviting his female students to his residence or karaoke bars, and offering them drinks before sexually harassing them. He also treated his male students like pimps by instructing them to bring the female students to his residence. In fact, the male students reportedly had a manual in place for protecting their female peers, including not leaving them alone with Min Ki at his place. One of his victims also accused him of sending her sexually explicit messages and nude photos of himself.
To date, 20 victims, including theatre actress Song Ha Neul, have come forward with testimonies against the actor, best known for his roles in Korean dramas like Love and Ambition, East of Eden and Flames of Desire. His most recent notable role was playing the king in blockbuster drama Moon Lovers: Scarlet Heart Ryeo.
In a lengthy Facebook expose, Ha Neul wrote that Min Ki’s sexual predatory behaviour was an “open secret” in their department, but no one dared defy or speak out against the actor ’cos of his power and position. "It is hard for girls to reject him because he is the 'king' on campus," said one student. An anonymous actor backed Ha Neul’s claims and further revealed that Min Ki sexually harassed and physically abused his male students as well. 38 of his former students have released a joint statement to confirm his sexual predatory behaviour.
The actor was subsequently dropped by his agency Will Entertainment, fired from the university and dropped from a drama. After his initial denial, the actor then admitted to the allegations. In a statement, he wrote, “I will reflect on my actions for the rest of my life. I will pay back this debt through devotion and community service. I apologise once again.”