Male Trainees Suing For Sexual Harassment Speak Out In Interview + Company Responds

Previously, it was reported that six male trainees, some of whom participated in “Produce 101 Season 2,” filed a complaint against the female head of their agency (hereafter referred to as “A”) and the wife of her younger brother, who is also an investor in her company (hereafter “B”), for sexual harassment.

Four other trainees were witness to the scene, two of whom are minors. The six trainees pursuing legal action as well as the four witnesses recently requested an interview with media outlet YTN Star. One trainee’s father, who acted as the guardian and representative of the parents, was also present.

The father said, “We’re ashamed and it’s something we want to hide, but the reason why we’re revealing what happened is because we don’t want this to happen again to those who are pursuing the same dream.”

When asked about the situation, the trainee’s father explained, “The 10 boys performed in [Japan] for about a month, and at around the time they were finished, they had a dinner at a restaurant in Tokyo on September 28, 2018. ‘A’ and ‘B’ molested six trainees.”

The trainees took turns explaining how they’re doing in the aftermath:

Trainee 1 shared, “At the dinner party, ‘A’ and ‘B’ sexually harassed six people, including me. It was very hard, but I was worried that if I brought it up, it would bring me down and that I would not be able to make my debut, so I let it fester. I’ve been receiving treatment for panic disorder since I was 17. I was getting better, but my hospital visits became more frequent after this. I’ve had thoughts of wanting to give up my dream of becoming a singer altogether.”

Trainee 2 added that he’s struggling with overcoming what happened: “I have too much mental stress. I used to always be positive and hard-working, but now I see a psychologist, and I’m also on medication.” He added, “Sometimes I feel anxious, my hands tremble, and shame creeps up on me. I’m sensitive to everything, and I’m living in pain.”

Trainee 3 is also seeing a psychiatrist and taking sleeping pills for severe insomnia. “All I can think is that I just want to get out of this company.”

Trainee 4 added, in tears, “I’ve been dreaming of becoming an idol for 10 years. After being sexually harassed, I thought I should quit. This is what I’ve seen and experienced in the entertainment industry, and it makes me skeptical.”

Trainee 5, one of the witnesses and a minor, said he saw everything happen and that he’s also having difficulty coming to terms with what happened. “This was my dream since I was a middle school student, and I thought this must be the reality of the entertainment industry. I’m having such a painful time.”

According to Trainee 1, A’s daughter, who was present at the dinner, tried to tell her mom to stop. Trainee 4 commented, “It felt like we had become male escorts.”

On their experience with the company before the incident, many of the trainees cited abuse of authority, including one-sided demands from their label, broken agreements, and inhumane treatment:

Trainee 6 said, “For me, when I was in Japan, I had a hard time because of my schedule. All electronic devices, including cell phones, were prohibited, but when I was in Japan, there was an earthquake and a typhoon. I couldn’t get in touch with my worried family and friends,” adding that despite attempts at communication with the agency, he was ignored. “They also demanded a one-sided revision of the contract, saying the contract was in the interest of the trainees. They said if I didn’t comply, I wouldn’t be able to debut.”

Trainee 5 said, “They said we were going to Japan to perform for training, but I think the main purpose was for profit. When there was no performance, we would be locked up in our dorms, and all our cell phones were confiscated. It was hard, but I trusted their promise to us that we would be given a break after the concert in Japan. They didn’t keep that promise and suddenly asked for the contract to be revised. We’ve run out of trust in the company.”

Trainee 7 revealed that they were often given work without prior notification, and that there was a severe lack of communication. “I felt like I was part of a group that only works inside the concert hall for profit without making an official debut.”

Trainee 8 commented, “I signed an exclusive contract on the condition that I would not go to the Japanese concert, but it was not fulfilled at all. Even though I was sick, I was pushed to perform, and I wasn’t treated like a human.”

Then Trainee 9 confessed, “I’m a foreign trainee, and once I had a rash on my body. But because I didn’t have insurance and treatment would be expensive, they were were reluctant to send me to the hospital. I was not in a good condition in Japan, but in the end, I wasn’t able to go to the hospital.”

Trainee 10, who has a congenital problem with his kidneys and requires annual check-ups, said, “During my physical examination, I was declared unfit to be active. They insisted I get a check-up after the concert in Japan, but they didn’t keep their promise.”

Trainee 2 said, “When I came back to Korea, I asked the president on October 7, 2018 to keep the promise that I would not go to Japan. But it wasn’t accepted, and then I was ordered to leave the dorm. They even changed the password of our practice room where our personal belongings were.”

The father gave an account of the events after the sexual harassment incident, and the company responded to the allegations:

The trainee’s father explained, “On October 14, 2018, the trainees and their parents met with the management and demanded an apology for the sexual harassment, as well as correction of contract violations. But there has been no response or action for two weeks. Finally, on November 2, I sent documents expressing my intention to terminate our contract.”

The trainee’s father said the company responded three weeks later, saying they did nothing wrong. “And on January 28 of this year, the trainees were suddenly notified of cancellation of their exclusive contract in the name of the CEO. They said, ‘You have been terminated due to your absence from the company and your refusal to fulfill the contract terms.’ That means they’re going to charge a penalty.”

He continued, “First, we are waiting for the results of the injunction lawsuit. If the blame is on the management, we are not obligated to pay the penalty. We plan to pursue criminal charges for sexual harassment to the end.”

In response, the company declared that the allegations aren’t true. On January 29, a source from the label said, “This is not true at all. What the trainees claim is absolutely not true, and the truth will be uncovered in the courtroom.”

The same source continued, “We understand that the members want to terminate their contract with the company, saying they were sexually assaulted. But we also don’t intend to continue their contracts. But what’s important is that what they claim did not happen. In addition to contract terminations, the company will proceed with a lawsuit for damages. We will make sure to reveal the truth.”

Sources (1) (2)

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