SEOUL, Feb.19 (Korea Bizwire) – Recent news reports shed light on a case in which a girl group member known as ‘A’ (24), accused her boyfriend ‘C’ (25) of raping her, after her ‘sponsor’ ‘B’ (35) assaulted her boyfriend.
After ‘B’ attacked ‘C’, causing serious injuries that would take four weeks to heal, girl group member ‘A’ accused ‘C’ in fear that her sponsor ‘B’ would be punished.
Who are these ‘sponsors’ and why are they so important to female entertainers? Over the years, rumors have circulated about a ‘sponsor system’, but nobody seems to know the actual truth.
Soon after girl group member A’s incident, ‘We Want to Know’, an investigative program airing on Korean network SBS, looked into the relationship between ‘sponsors’ and female entertainers.
Program directors claimed to have a list of names of sponsors, and were intending to reveal them to the public, but after consideration, they decided not to. The decision was made to protect female entertainers who spoke up on the matter. Even though names weren’t mentioned, the matter itself was shocking enough.
In 2009, popular up-and-coming actress Jang Ja-yeon committed suicide, shocking the public. In her suicide note, she revealed that she was forced to drink and serve liquor to specific men in somewhat powerful positions. She listed the names of the men whom she was forced to sleep with. The public was furious, and there was pressure for an investigation to be conducted on the matter, but the listed men were acquitted.
The dark side of ‘sponsors’ has existed for decades. In the 70s, heirs of large corporations were caught in perverted sexual activities with dozens of female entertainers. In the 90s, news broke of ‘drug parties’ in which wealthy men and female entertainers had ‘fun’. Popular model ‘Noh’ was caught using drugs, and once the police looked into the case, various entertainers, politicians and businessmen were named.
Despite the shocking allegations, the true nature of ‘sponsors’ has not yet been proven. However, the practice is ‘rumored’ and is said to ‘actually exist’, showing the dark side of the entertainment industry.
Officials from management companies comment that unpopular entertainers are usually offered the chance to benefit from a ‘sponsor’. “Some look for a sponsor to get money to make a living. Also, ‘used to be famous’ entertainers who are not active have sponsors to maintain their looks.”
Officials mention that there are differences between sponsors. “Sponsors are different from cases in which young actresses are simply forced to drink or sleep with powerful people. Actress Jang Ja-yeon’s case was an example of the latter, which is a coerced and unfair arrangement between two parties that are not equal. Powerful people force up-and-coming entertainers or entertainer ‘wannabes’ to have sex with them, promising them success.”
However, ‘sponsors’ are said to differ slightly in their approach, as there is a written agreement that clearly states each party’s interests and obligations. The agreement period usually varies from six months to two years, and five million to 15 million won is paid by the sponsor. Also, the number of times they ‘get together’ is stipulated in the contract. Officials say that in some cases, more money is paid. “Some celebrities ‘charge’ millions for the chance to have just one meal with them.”
After ‘We Want to Know’ aired, some entertainers expressed their discomfort, saying that the matter only applied to a small sector of the industry. “We don’t want to be thought of as one of ‘them’ who have sponsors when most of us have nothing going on.”
The reactions show that the ‘sponsor system’ is completely based on the decision of the entertainer. However, the problem lies in cases where the ‘decision’ is coerced in exchange for ‘promises of a bright future’.
By Francine Jung (firstname.lastname@example.org)