Squid Game Actor Oh Young-soo To Stand Trial For Sexual Assault
The Squid Game franchise appears to be in deep water.
Earlier this week, the upcoming Netflix gameshow Squid Game: The Challenge saw some of its contestants carried out on stretchers after being exposed to below freezing temperatures. Meanwhile, these accusations are coming hot on the heels of a new slew of sexual assault accusations within the entertainment industry. Recently, Rick and Morty’s Justin Roiland and Panic! At The Disco’s Brendon Urie came under fire for alleged instances of sexual misconduct, and now it appears that one of the lead actors in the Squid Game series is in similar straights.
Who is Oh Young-soo?
While he’s been well known in the South Korean film industry for decades, Western audiences were first exposed to Oh Young-soo when he played Oh Il-nam, the seemingly nice (but not actually nice) old man contestant in the international smash hit Squid Game. He is currently regarded as one of the best stage actors in South Korea and has appeared in over 200 productions since 1968. He is the first South Korean actor to ever win a Golden Globe for best supporting actor, and he was also nominated for an Emmy for his work in Squid Game. The actor has also been known to play kindly old monks throughout his career. beginning in 2003 when he played an aging Buddhist monk in the 2003 romance film Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter … and Spring. His frequent portrayals of monks have earned him the moniker “monk actor,” but depending on the results of his trial, that moniker may so be replaced with “dirty old man”.
So what happened exactly?
Ever since the beginning of the #MeToo movement, South Korea has been grappling with an uptick of sexual assault accusations against many of its prominent figures. Despite the country’s deeply patriarchal history, law enforcement agencies have been cracking down hard on sex crimes throughout South Korea. South Korea’s entertainment industry has been hit especially hard, and many of its powerful male figures have resigned or apologized.
In extreme cases, some have been convicted of sexual assault and rape, and are currently serving prison sentences. Oh Young-soo was charged with indecent assault in November, after a woman filed a complaint against him for inappropriately touching her in 2017. Originally, prosecutors dropped the case but decided to press charges later. The complaint was originally received by a police station in Seongnam in December of 2021, where it was immediately investigated. The police passed the case on to prosecutors in February of 2022, and charges were pressed two months later. Should Mr. Oh be convicted, could face up to 10 years in prison or a fine of $12,000. He will also be registered as a sex offender and will be monitored by police even after serving time and/or paying financial penalties.
Few facts are known about the incident but Mr. Oh has denied any wrongdoing and refused to answer calls from journalists for additional comments. The South Korean film channel JTBC was able to reach Oh for comment and the actor told reporters that he only held the woman’s hands to “show her the way” as they walked around a lake. Oh told JTBC that he offered the woman an apology, not because he admits to any wrongdoing, but because she allegedly told him that she “wouldn’t raise an issue” if he did.
What happens now?
Mr. Oh’s trial date is set to take place this week, the results of which will likely end or salvage his jeopardized career. A conviction against Mr. Oh will be hard to win, as the legal threshold to earn a sexual assault conviction is high. Prosecutors will need to prove that force or the threat of force was present when the crime was committed.
However, many civil rights groups in Korea have called for a softening of the law, allowing prosecutors to win convictions if they prove that the victim did not provide consent. While securing evidence in indecent assault cases is often a challenge, courts generally rule against the defendant in such cases in South Korea. As the conviction rate for people accused of sex crimes in South Korea is over 80 percent, a conviction is certainly possible.
Despite not having yet stood trial, Mr. Oh’s career has taken a huge hit. He was fired from the cast of Love Letters, a South Korean epistolary drama in which he was set to appear. The play is about a couple who send love letters to one another throughout their lives despite being married to other people. Considering the nature of Mr. Oh’s accusations, it’s understandable why he was cut from that particular role. The country’s Culture Ministry has also pulled advertisements featuring the actor. According to a statement, the Culture Ministry explained that it had done so to avoid “unnecessary controversy”. While the statement didn’t acknowledge Mr. Oh’s accusations as the reason, it’s pretty clear that’s why the ad was pulled. It disappeared from social media channels, government websites, and subway stations only 11 days after it went up.
What will happen to Squid Game Season 2?
Likely nothing, considering that Mr. Oh’s character, Oh Il-nam, died during the season finale. However, the character was instrumental in explaining the dark, twisted capitalist backstory of the series. It’s possible that Mr. Oh would have appeared in flashback sequences during the events of Season 2 in order to provide more backstory to the history of the Squid Games, but considering the allegations against Mr. Oh’s, it’s likely that he has already been written out of the script if he was ever slated to appear in the first place.
Should Mr. Oh be found innocent, it’s possible that he may appear, but considering the high conviction rate in South Korean sex crimes cases and Mr. Oh’s tarnished reputation, it’s likely that the finale of Season 1 is the last we see of Oh Il-nam. And should these allegations turn out to be true, that’s a good thing.
(featured image: Netflix)
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