In a pivotal decision, the Seoul Southern District Court ruled against the release of the documentary First Defense, which portrayed the sexual harassment allegations against the late former Seoul Mayor Park Won Soon.
Park, who was at the helm of Seoul’s administration from 2011 until 2020, had allegedly subjected his assistant to repeated incidents of sexual harassment between 2016 and 2018. His life met a tragic end in 2020 when he took his life on July 10.
The scandal came to the forefront when, just days before his untimely death, his former secretary accused him of sexually harassing her and lodged a complaint with the Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency.
The court’s judgement took precedence in safeguarding the victim’s dignity over freedom of expression, drawing from verdicts by the National Human Rights Commission and Seoul Administrative Court that unequivocally labeled Park’s conduct as sexual harassment. The court expressed concerns about the film, pointing out that the narrative portrayed was seemingly biased and could inflict further harm to the victim’s reputation and dignity.
This film was an adaptation of the book Birth of Tragedy (2021) by Son Byung Kwan, a reporter for Oh My News. The book had already stirred controversy for its alleged defense of Park’s inappropriate actions. Director Kim Dae Hyun began the production of First Defense shortly after the book’s launch, intending to release the film in August.
Reacting to the court’s decision, the director together with the film’s crew, announced their intention to challenge the ruling.
In recent years, South Korea has witnessed a growing momentum in discussions surrounding sexual harassment and the broader spectrum of workplace ethics. The nation’s entertainment, corporate, and political sectors have all faced increased scrutiny following various allegations, testimonies, and the ensuing public outrage. With incidents such as the case surrounding the late Mayor Park Won Soon, the discourse about sexual harassment and the mechanisms to address it is continually evolving.
As the nation grapples with these challenges, the emphasis remains on creating an environment where victims feel safe to come forward and where every individual is treated with dignity and respect.