[Opinion] What is to Become of Park Shi Hoo?

On May 14 it was announced that actor Park Shi Hoo and trainee “A” had quietly come to a compromise and mutually dropped their charges against each other. The real life drama, that started in February when “A” pressed charges against Park Shi Hoo for rape, had ended. What does this compromise mean for Park Shi Hoo’s career? It is a rather disappointing ending to a case that had fascinated the public.

If there had been no compromise and the two had determined everything to the court, the future would have been more predictable. If the court had found the actor innocent of his rape charges, he would have had a celebratory press conference, a time of rest, and then a successful comeback as victorious victim of conspiracy and slander. If the court declared Park Shi Hoo was indeed guilty of rape, the actor would go to jail and mostly like end his career. Since there was no official declaration, all there is left is doubt.

That doubt will hang over Park Shi Hoo’s career for the rest of his life. The compromise may have saved Park Shi Hoo from the verdict of “rapist,” regardless of what happened that night, but it does nothing to take away his current title as “Possible Rapist.” Is it possible for a “possible rapist” to make a comeback after the months of court drama that plagued the Korean media? 

Koreans love nothing more than a comeback and they are generally forgiving, though never forgetting. Minor or victimless crimes (such as drug possession) are usually forgiven with a humble and an adequate hiatus. G-Dragon, Lee Seung Chul, PSY, and Shin Dong Yup are examples of successful celebrities who had once been charged with drug possession.  Celebrities that have been accused but acquitted or proven innocent, such as Daesung with his accident or Kang Ho Dong with his tax evasion, are able to make comebacks and continue their careers. Even celebrities with a DUI (2PM’s Nichkun, Super Junior’s Kangin, and Clazziqui’s Alex) can move on with the right amount of “reflection” time.

Being accused of rape is something a little different. Since he was not declared innocent, Park Shi Hoo would not be able to follow in Kang Ho Dong’s example and easily make a celebrated comeback. Since he was not declared guilty, he does not have to join the disgraced likes of Go Young Wook (engaging in sexual acts with minors) or the CEO of Open World Entertainment (sexually assaulting his trainees, among other crimes). Because there is no criminal record and no rape charge, nothing can stop Park Shi Hoo from acting. His return to the screen could be desirable to some companies. Whichever project he takes on next, whatever it may be, will be able to attach to the publicity that will come with his comeback. What is uncertain is what sort of roles he will have in the future.

Park Shi Hoo was once a charmer.  After the drama “Prosecutor Princess” he developed a growing fan base and became so popular in the drama “Queen of Reversals” that they extended the drama and rewrote it so that his character would end up with the heroine. He landed his first major role in a film, “Confession of Murder” in 2012. His last drama was “Cheondam-dong Alice” staring alongside Moon Geun Young. He was on top, he was desirable, and he became one of Korea’s leading male actors. This was all before he became the “possible rapist.”

The job of a Korean drama leading man is to be desirable and the ideal. Female viewers are supposed to fall in love with the leading man. Dramas are popular because they portray the romantic fantasies, and those fantasies need to be centered on the ideal man and woman. How can a Korean housewife or a young fan watch a drama that stars Park Shi Hoo and not be reminded of his 2013 real life drama? Who will be able to say that their ideal type is Park Shi Hoo? The fact that the actor Park Shi Hoo was once accused of rape and never declared innocent of it makes it difficult to believe in the romance that his character will play.

This isn’t the last we will see of Park Shi Hoo. He still has other lawsuits that have not been so easily put away and he could still try to use the media to mold (what he can) the public’s opinion of him. Whether Korea will accept him as the charmer he once was is up to the public.

The public is forgiving, but only time will tell how forgiving it will be of Park Shi Hoo.