SEOUL, Nov. 6 (Korea Bizwire) – Home shopping channels are pondering what course of action to take regarding Hanssem’s products as the furniture company has come under fire for allegations of sexual harassment and rape made by an entry-level female employee.
The story entered the national consciousness when the alleged victim, describing herself as an entry-level employee at Hanssem, posted an account online detailing numerous sexual crimes committed against her by employees at the company.
According to the post, the harassment began in the beginning stages of her employment, when her colleague filmed her without her knowledge while she was in the bathroom. Once she became aware of the fact, she reported the incident to a superior, who initially earned her trust by appearing to assist her. This proved to be but a chilling farce, however, as an after-work dinner between the two ultimately ended her being sexually assaulted. The disturbing sequence of events grows darker still, as she writes in her post that she was even sexually harassed by the HR staff member that she brought her case to.
Included in her writeup was a condemnation of Hanssem’s HR division, which she accused of interceding on behalf of the perpetrators when she informed the police.
The woman’s colleague has since been taken into custody by the police, while the HR employee has been fired. The case against the alleged rapist was ruled to have insufficient evidence to proceed, though the woman has declared her intentions to appeal.
The allegations have sparked outrage against Hanssem, in part stemming from a sense of betrayal by a company that was formerly considered to be a “women-friendly” workplace. As of June, 31 percent of the 2,905-strong workforce were women, strong representation compared to companies of a similar scale. Hanssem won high marks from women for its generous benefits like banning all-nighters and weekend work for pregnant employees, and guaranteeing them shorter work schedules and time during working hours for visits to a gynecologist.
Needless to say, businesses are wary of appearing averse to public opinion on a highly sensitive issue. News broke that Hyundai Home Shopping Network had suspended a November 5 Hanssem broadcast indefinitely, while fellow industry players GS Home Shopping and CJ O Shopping are believed to be deliberating on whether to completely pull all Hanssem products for the foreseeable future.
Their worries may be well placed, as voices calling for a boycott are reverberating throughout South Korea’s online ecosystem, catching on strongly on sites with a heavy female user base. However, the situation marks a quandary for home shopping channels, as they can ill afford to eliminate the offerings of a company that brings in tens of billions of won like clockwork.
One manager at a major home shopping channel told Money Today, “Hanssem is the most influential partner company in the home shopping business, because it is responsible for about 30 to 40 percent of total revenue in the broadcasting categories of furniture and home decor.” Other industry insiders revealed that Hanssem broadcasts generally take up 300 to 400 time slots on home shopping channels yearly, which makes the prospect of replacing those hours a logistical headache. The industry will hope that it can avoid such worst case scenarios.