The latest episode of Curious Stories Y covered the unbelievably sad story of the late 22-year-old Seo Ji Hyun. Miss Seo Ji Hyun began working at the Korean “O” brand snack factory right out of high school.
Having been raised by adoptive parents, after her biological parents broken-heartedly gave her up due to financial difficulties, Ji Hyun chose not to pursue college education. She wanted to start working as soon as possible, to make money — all so she could help out her adoptive and biological families.
Ji Hyun worked hard. Even when her coworkers quit one after another, she said she’ll stick it out and see if she can survive a little longer. Everyone talked sh*t on her, but she tried not to listen. She was diligent. She had so much will to just get her job done.
— Former Coworker
Unfortunately, her life at the factory wasn’t easy. Allegedly, Ji Hyun was constantly bullied by her teammates. Her closest coworkers from the factory believe that her status as a full-time employee may have had an impact as well.
A lot of the other ladies who worked with Ji Hyun are outsourced temporary workers. And these temporary workers deal with a lot more tedious work than full-time employees. So there must have been a lot of envy for how Ji Hyun secured a stable position at a young age.
— Former Coworker
According to these coworkers, Ji Hyun’s teammates would endlessly harass her with unnecessary comments about everything, from her appearance…
These people at the factory talked a lot. They kept telling Ji Hyun to ‘go back to school’ because she’s ‘too young and too pretty to be wasting her life at a factory’. They kept nudging ideas like that in her head every single day.
— Former Coworker
… to her personal life. When Ji Hyun began dating one of the coworkers at the factory, the alleged “bullies” began spreading rumors about how she is “a nasty b*tch who is only nice to guys“.
Ji Hyun was a really bright girl, so she kept a smile on her face no matter what. But the ladies would consider her a ‘slut’ who is only interested in ‘seducing the men’ at the factory with her pretty face. They would also snoop around her social media and when they found pictures of her and me on a trip, they bashed her about her sex life too. When she heard about the things people said about her, Ji Hyun got really stressed.
— Ji Hyun’s Boyfriend
Then, things got really bad when one day, Ji Hyun’s team manager received an official complaint about the snack that the team produces. While it had obviously been the entire team’s responsibility for the mistake in the production process, Ji Hyun was the only one investigated — and the only one forced to write up reports and apologies about the complaint.
From then on, the team manager scolded her every day about it. Monday through Friday, after work, Ji Hyun would be called in to the manager’s office. He would blame her for the whole mess, when he was the team manager and held the most responsibility. Ji Hyun was forced to write a report on the incident, stating that she should have done better…
— Former Coworker
The bullying pushed Ji Hyun beyond her limits until eventually, after enduring years and years, she chose to take her own life. At her apartment close to the factory, where she lived alone, she left behind two pages of her will, completely filled with hatred and resent toward her teammates.
I really hate working at ‘O’. I don’t want to do this anymore… This is the end, I can’t go any more. Oppa, I’m sorry. I feel so small… F*cking ‘O’. I should have not been born. I’m sorry, mom and dad… I’m going to die and go to hell for this… but I can’t take it anymore.
— Seo Ji Hyun
In fact, when both her adoptive and biological parents were notified of Ji Hyun’s tragic death, they came to her apartment — and found additional drafts of her will, ripped and thrown away in the trash. When these pieces were taped back together, the pages also showed how much Ji Hyun struggled because of her team: Especially the manager and a coworker “A”.
A, you need to stop. You need to know when to stop. Please back off. I’ll be watching you… Don’t ever work at ‘O’. The manager and A will make you want to quit. These two people… What do they know about me? But they keep talking about me. Can they please, please leave me alone? I’m such an idiot for not being able to talk back to them…
— Seo Ji Hyun
When the “O” brand headquarter was notified of Ji Hyun’s death, the company took an extremely defensive stance and claimed that “the loss of Ji Hyun’s life has nothing to do with the factory.”
At the funeral, the company came and took pictures of Ji Hyun’s wills. Then some representatives sat us down to talk about her severance pay. Who does that? There was no apology. Just business.
— Ji Hyun’s Biological Mother
In addition, even though Ji Hyun’s final words pinpointed the manager and coworker A for being the main alleged bullies that made workplace a living hell for her, the company was quick to wrap up the internal investigation — claiming, “Neither the manager nor coworker A had any reason to harass Ji Hyun.”
Look. Our internal investigation confirmed that Ji Hyun was on good terms with the manager and A. There is no proof that Ji Hyun was bullied by these people. The police already investigated everyone and everything. They also said there isn’t a special connection between her death and her teammates.
— “O” Brand Representatives
In fact, when Ji Hyun’s families got to sit face-to-face with the manager and coworker A at the headquarter, the two insisted they “don’t know why Ji Hyun specifically mentioned [their] names”.
Ji Hyun’s Family: Look at Ji Hyun. Tell her what you have to say.
Manager & A: …
Ji Hyun’s Family: Are you even sorry?
Manager & A: We hope she rests in peace.
Ji Hyun’s Family: How would she? You pushed her to take her own life!
Manager & A: …
After the episode aired, viewers ached for Ji Hyun’s parents.
They voluntarily began promising to boycott the brand “O” — for “shamelessly trying to brush off the case of Seo Ji Hyun’s death”. Some even spoke up about their personal experiences with workplace bullying and claimed that the Korean law should be amended to better protect the victims. Since then, a petition has been filed with the Blue House National Petitions page, urging the police to take a deeper look as well.
- “I wish Ji Hyun would have just quit… T-T She should have walked out. I can’t even imagine the level of harassment she endured — to the point that she couldn’t think of any other way to escape it all. She was such a beautiful young lady… This is really sad.”
- “I bet she was so extremely bullied and gaslighted that she didn’t realize she had the choice of walking out of that hell. What a bunch of monsters to have driven a young woman to take her own life… I hope the manager and A burn in hell. They need to pay for their wrongdoings.”
- “But she was so young, so beautiful, with so much future… T-T I can relate though. I used to work at SK H— and the woman who was assigned to train me drove me insane too. She would yell at me and call me things. I got so stressed that I quit. But I know I was really at the end of my patience too. Why are people like this?”
- “Oh I remember being the target of my former workplace’s queen bee and her group of bullies. I walked out, but they gave me so much stress I almost had to get professional help. I know how Ji Hyun must have felt… Yet these assh*les won’t admit to what they did… I can’t believe the headquarter is trying to cover this up too. Poor Ji Hyun.”
- “This is insane… and I’m speechless at how the company responded to the incident. I guess they want to be like the ‘N’ brand that had their reputation shredded with the nationwide boycott. And it’s not like ‘O’ brand is the only one that makes snacks… It will be easy to replace ‘O’. These idiots.”