SNL Korea fails to heed its own advice on sexual harassment at work

The cast and crew of SNL Korea have been in hot water lately after videos emerged of some female cast members groping male guests (with the jeering support of their colleagues) as part of a bizarre pre-recording hazing ritual. And when I say “emerged” I mean it was posted on the show’s official Facebook page for the world to see because apparently uninvitedly grabbing idols’ crotches is acceptable, and hilarious, behaviour.

Unsuprisingly, and rightfully, the fans of the group in question, B1A4, were outraged and the producers eventually apologised followed by comedian Lee Se-young, the person who appears to have done most of the assaulting, also posted an apology on her Instagram.

But more videos have emerged (again, were posted publicly to the show’s Facebook) of other male celebrities including INFINITE and Block B and the production team admitted the “ritual” was “something we’ve been doing for every host since the first episode of the first season”. Aside from that there have been no further developments and a lot of fans feel that had it been a female celebrity, it would’ve been taken more seriously.

So far the only real show of remorse of any kind was Lee Se-young voluntarily turning down a Korean Culture and Entertainment award:

“(Lee) was confirmed for the award a long time ago,” Lee’s management agency FNC Entertainment told the media Wednesday. “However, after thoughtful consideration, she decided not to accept it given the current circumstances.”

Sexual violence of this kind is unfortunately all too normalised in Korean entertainment so perhaps there’s an argument that individual SNL alone shouldn’t be held responsible and we should focus on the wider cultural problem at play here.

And yes, it is true this is a bigger issue than Lee Se-young and friends and their motivational grope circle.

However, in the most ironic twist of this whole saga, two years ago the cast of SNL Korea took part in two short online educational videos with training company megaNEXT exploring exactly why this kind of behaviour is unacceptable.


The message at the start of this video explicitly states that anyone of any age or gender can be the victim or the perpetrator of sexual harassment in the workplace.

You couldn’t make it up.

The first scenario which shows two senior colleagues pressuring a junior to kiss his manager has the very same peer pressure undertones of the SNL videos.

Again, one of the scenarios features a more senior female colleague inappropriately touching her male junior.

The stated aim of these videos is to eradicate sexual harassment of all kinds from the workplace and yet, two years on, that message clearly has not got through to everyone working on SNL Korea.

There’s widespread agreement online that the parties involved have not done nearly enough to make right what are, frankly, crimes committed by their staff against their guests. So, while we wait, perhaps the first thing they could do is to adopt their own learning materials into a new staff training programme outlining why sexual assault or harassment in the workplace is never acceptable (even if you work on a comedy show).

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