The acclaimed South Korean director has won prizes at the Berlinale, Cannes and Venice festivals but is at the centre of a #MeToo storm at this year’s Berlinale — which organisers said they wanted to spotlight misconduct in the industry — over the actress’ physical and sex abuse accusations.
Kim, 57, has been fined 5 million won ($4,600) by South Korean prosecutors for physically assaulting her while shooting his 2013 film “Moebius”. They dropped sex abuse allegations against him for lack of evidence.
In Berlin on Saturday Kim said he did not remember exactly what happened and did not agree with the ruling, but would accept responsibility.
He admitted repeatedly slapping the actress on set for an “acting lesson” but said that his signature ultra-violent cinematic style did not reflect his own personality, describing himself as a “good human being”.
The actress — who refuses to be publicly identified — told AFP she was “so dumbfounded that I laughed”.
“He does not even remember beating me. He said he is not a violent person,” she added. “A person who is not violent slaps a woman’s face like that and does not even remember?”
– ‘It is about power’ –
Kim told his audience in Berlin that none of the film crew had objected to his actions while making “Moebius”.
The actress retorted that was the “king on his film set” where no one dared to voice opposition to his behaviour. “He instinctively knew that no one would say a word.”
The actress has accused Kim of forcing her into unwanted and unscripted nude and sex scenes, and has appealed against the decision by Seoul prosecutors to dismiss the sex abuse allegation for lack of evidence.
“The issue of sex violence is about power,” she told AFP. “It is not just about men versus women. It is about power.
“People listen to the voices of famous, powerful victims and support them.
“I’m a powerless person who risked everything in my life to speak out. I have nothing to protect me. I have no fame, no money, but that does not mean that my voice can be ignored.”
– Public shaming –
The Berlinale organisers have said the festival “condemns and opposes any form of violence or sexual misconduct.”
The actress accused them of taking violence against women “too lightly” by inviting Kim.
“If a festival that declared itself as a forum to discuss about and support #Metoo campaign made a decision like this… it is morally problematic,” she said.
Her allegations against the renowned director are a rarity in the male-dominated, tight-knit film industry in South Korea, which remains a patriarchal and conservative society despite its economic and technological advances.
Women in the movie industry, both on screen or behind cameras, shy away from making public accusations against senior staffers or directors for fear of permanently damaging their careers.
Kim replaced the actress with another performer on “Moebius” and she has not worked in the industry since, abandoning her 20-year screen career to freelance in another sector where “no one knows” that she is Kim’s victim.
She still refuses to be identified for fear of public shaming.
“Those who give me jobs may find it very uncomfortable if I come forward publicly,” she said. “It’s sad. Why should I stay in the shadow like this when I didn’t do anything wrong?
“I thought about coming forward publicly,” she added. “But I have to make a living to survive.”