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  • Jun 22, 2020

Artist Accused Of Sexual Harassment Quits Activities

Korean artist Yang Chul Mo, of husband-wife artist duo mixrice, has admitted to sexually harassing female coworkers while working with the Seoul Foundation for Arts and Culture (SFAC). He has also confirmed that he will leave mixrice and will cease his artistic practice.

On June 19, South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun revealed that two unidentified female artists accused Yang of sexual misconduct. The artists claimed that Yang made inappropriate remarks on November 11, 2019, during their meeting with him as director of the government-funded art project Collective Chungeongro, at SFAC, itself funded by the Seoul Metropolitan Government. These remarks include Yang saying "I want to have sex with you" and "[People] would have wanted to seduce you as you look like a rustic and pure North Korean woman." According to The Korean Times, one of the victims complained to the Foundation, requesting that Yang be punished for his behavior, and that the Foundation apologize for the incident as well as implement preventative measures for the future. In January, Yang stepped down from his position and the victim received an apology letter from SFAC head Lee Kyung Ja. However, Yang was not reprimanded further, and SFAC ceased its investigation of him.  

Following the revelations in Kyunghyang Shinmun, Yang responded in a Facebook post on the same day, apologizing for his “frivolous remarks” and to the people “who have been hurt” by them. He also acknowledged that people around him had been “warning” him about his actions, further adding that he will cease “creative activities” and “quit mixrice.” 

On June 20, Collective Chungeongro released a statement on Facebook explaining that it had previously been told that Yang left his role due to a contract issue. The group stated that its project would be suspended until SFAC take a clear stance on the incident, reinvestigate the allegations, and expand preventative measures against similar future cases. 

Mixrice was formed in 2002 with Cho Ji Eun, Jeon Yong-seok, Jang Hyojung, and IM Heung-soon to draw attention to the mistreatment of migrant workers in South Korea. Highlights of the collective’s work include mixrice Channel 01 (2003), a video interview that engages with the stories of migrants from Nepal and Myanmar, and graphic novel Lost In Korea (2002), which examines the exploitation of migrant workers through programs such as the “trainee system.” Yang Chul Mo joined the group and he and Cho Ji Eun carried on the collective projects after 2004. The duo won the Korea Artist Prize in 2016.

Eman Naseer is an editorial intern of ArtAsiaPacific.