B1A4, INFINITE, and Block B — and potentially others — were sexually assaulted by the staff of “SNL Korea.” That is a fact. There is video evidence. Under the ruse of an ice-breaking welcome, female staff members touched and grabbed these boy group members with no consideration of boundaries. It’s also a fact that sexual assault is a criminal act, but why isn’t this being handled accordingly?
Because the victims are men. And it’s baffling how, as a result, the aftermath is just unrecognizable to any other sexual crime scandal involving a Korean celebrity.
A video of B1A4 behind the scenes with the SNL cast — and also of INFINITE and Block B — was posted online by SNL, and while we are glad that this has been exposed, did the “SNL Korea” staff really think that it was okay? In some ways, this is the most appalling thing of all. The staff either didn’t even consider the possibility of sexual assault because it’s women touching men, or they didn’t care.
After the K-pop sphere of the internet blew up, SNL deleted the video and apologized for the “inappropriate behavior” of their staff members. A major understatement. Grabbing someone’s crotch, laughing and cheering about it, and then proceeding to do so to the next person in line is not simply “inappropriate” behavior. Inappropriate behavior is eating spaghetti with your fingers — and even that depends on who you ask. Inappropriate behavior is accepting a phone call in the middle of class. The internet blew up, and SNL still didn’t understand how wrong it was. Apologies to appease the public was all B1A4 — and only B1A4 — received.
A report was then released saying that Lee Se Young, captured on video partaking in the SNL revelry backstage, would be leaving the show. It was a false report, maybe because some overzealous reporter thought that of course she would leave the show; was there any question as to if she should stay on board with SNL or not? She is a perpetrator of sexual assault, whether she was aware of her actions or not; ignorance is no excuse for committing a crime. But in the end, Lee Se Young will stay, because she is a woman who grabbed a man’s crotch, not the other way around. Confounding, considering others have been removed from shows for less: Lee Tae Im for an argument with Yewon, and Tiffany for expressing love for Japan after a performance in Japan when it was Korean National Liberation Day, although both of these incidents had stirred up the public quite a bit for their own reasons.
Lee Se Young then resorted to a handwritten apology, which many celebrities seem to think is a magic eraser post-controversy because they used a pen and not a keyboard. She describes what she did in neat penmanship that what she did was wrong and that she’s apologized to B1A4 personally.
The other employees that were involved look like all they’ll be getting is a slap on the wrist, if even that. It will be swept under the rug, considering SNL isn’t taking any action about Lee Se Young either.
B1A4 spoke out after everything, saying that they were just surprised, and concerned about how their fans would feel when they saw the video. That they’ve received enough apologies from the “SNL Korea” staff and Lee Se Young. As if they weren’t the victims here of a crime that, if perpetrated by men, would’ve been a much bigger issue than it is now. Not even bigger, it would likely have been career-fatal. But then again, if it were a man that touched female girl groups in exactly the same way, we would have never seen those videos.
Maybe the B1A4 members don’t think it is a big deal. Maybe they feel like they should suck it up because they’re guys. Maybe they actually feel really violated. Whatever the answer is, whether B1A4 — and the other groups, as well — don’t think this issue is that serious, or whether they can’t speak up because of shame or embarrassment, or fear of offending industry seniors, this case is problematic in every way.
This goes way beyond simple fear or shame to prejudices and perceptions built upon years and years of societal input in terms of how men should act, how women should act. More problematic than this is the shaming judgment from society that follows when one deviates from the norm, which results in this type of inaction from SNL and male victims’ inability to accept themselves as such due to perceptions of weakness. And all this on top of Korean hierarchical society — where elders and seniors who have been in an industry for years or months longer are automatically figures to be respected for time lived and invested, not to speak of the automatic deference expected for bosses or executives regardless of circumstance — doesn’t allow B1A4 to speak openly regardless of what they feel.
It’s a shame how we live in a society where social issues and social justice are at the forefront of so many discussions, yet this clear case of sexual assault can’t get the treatment it deserves. Regardless of who the victim is, male or female, K-pop idol or not, no one should feel that they have no voice, or fear the consequences of speaking up. “SNL Korea” has an opportunity and moral responsibility to acknowledge the severity of what happened and set an appropriate example, but they are shamelessly letting it slip through their fingers. In the event that something like this happens again, SNL has set a terrible precedent, and that’s on their conscience, if they have one.