SBS variety show “Master in the House” has become embroiled in a legal dispute with residents of Tustin and Irvine, California.

On August 3, 11 local residents filed a complaint with the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office against SBS and the “Master in the House” production team. The residents claimed that they suffered damage from SBS because they had committed fraud, trespassed, damaged property, violated road traffic laws, and obstructed general traffic.

In August 2018, the cast and crew of the variety show filmed in Tustin and Irvine, and the residents claim that the crew filmed illegally at the time.

According to the region’s regulations, facilities in the community cannot be used for commercial purposes or other nonresidential purposes. Violation of the regulations could result in punishment or litigation as in this case.

Based on this, the residents took issue with the commercial shooting of “Master in the House” in Tustin’s parks, roads, and other facilities. While filming can be authorized, the Tustin governing body stated that they never gave the team permission to film in the area.

In addition to claims that the recording took place without permission in an area where commercial shooting was banned, some local residents claim that the production team broke into private territory that only residents can access. The location in question is the community swimming pool. At the entrance, there is a sign indicating that it is a private swimming pool that only members of the community can enter. However, the cast swam and played games in the pool, and these scenes were shown in the broadcast.

This means the production team entered the private property without permission from the police or local board of directors. Residents criticized the team for trespassing on other people’s homes and filming and broadcasting without their consent.

Attorney Lee Ji Young, who is in charge of defending the U.S. residents, commented, The most important thing for Americans is their privacy. It’s unfathomable that someone would illegally enter their space.”

Furthermore, the residents claim they are even more outraged by this incident because the crew knew that it was illegal to film in the area. One resident said, “We never gave SBS permission to film. [Even the police came] and warned them to stop their suspicious activity.” Some reported that the crew disguised themselves as tourists and lied to the police and residents by saying they were having a party.

There is a statement from the agency that helped with the local filming at the time. A local agency official said in an e-mail to a resident lawyer during the Irvine pool filming, “We told the security guard that we were also invited to a birthday party, and depending on the situation, we either told the residents who were in the pool that we were filming for personal reasons or having a birthday party.”

The official continued, “We told the staff several times to not film illegally, but SBS said they would take responsibility for everything.”

There are residents who are also claiming they suffered property damage. In one report, a man living in Tustin revealed that his car was damaged from the filming. The driver who was in charge of driving the cast and crew confessed, “I know that the car scratch was caused by the SBS filming team. I think they scratched the vehicle while carrying the metal bags for filming.” In addition, residents complained of illegal night shooting, unauthorized drone flights, and violations of parking zones.

In response to the claims, SBS said they were untrue and shared they had filmed without any problems. A lawyer representing SBS said that they had obtained permission to shoot the footage in advance through a local agency at the time and that they had complied with the relevant procedures, including paying all the costs.

Contrary to the residents’ claims, SBS stated that it filmed in its own rented clubhouse, not in a community facility, and the swimming pool in question is also a facility in the clubhouse. SBS also said that there was no damage to the vehicle. Rather, they countered that there was not enough evidence from the local law firm, and that they ignored the request to reveal the owner of the vehicle.

Furthermore, SBS claimed they were the victims and not the residents of Tustin and Irvine. The plaintiffs initially demanded a large amount of damages worth 5 million dollars. SBS also said the residents have been demanding unfair conditions for nearly two years and they are considering taking legal action against them.

Following SBS’s claims, Lee Ji Young shared that the residents had not received an apology from SBS for two years and the network had pressured the residents while claiming they were spreading false information. California residents have filed a petition with the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) with more than 120 signatures.

The residents have made two requests. The first is to create a law that prohibits Korean broadcasters from illegally filming in foreign countries, thereby preventing legal disputes and damage to the nation’s image. The second is a request for SBS to apologize and reflect on their illegal actions.

Some predict that the amount of compensation could be more than 10 billion won (approximately $8.4 million) if the U.S. residents win the lawsuit, which is because of America’s punitive damages system. Punitive damages are subject to much more “punitive” compensation than actual damages for illegal acts committed intentionally or in malice.

The legal battle between the U.S. residents and SBS is expected to determine the future status of foreign filming and broadcasting.

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