+ A

Sex abuse, cover-up allegations roil Hanssem

Nov 06,2017
Korea’s largest furniture company, Hanssem, has been embroiled in an alleged rape scandal after a new recruit raised accusations last Friday she was coerced to have sexual intercourse with a senior colleague earlier this year - only to have the human resources manager force her to lie to save the company’s reputation.

The alleged rapist, who was reassigned to work in the suburbs outside Seoul after the victim reported the case to her company, denied any wrongdoing and claimed the sex was consensual.

The HR manager, whom the victim claimed tried to rape her as well, was already fired before the case became publicized.

Hanssem Chairman Choi Yang-ha apologized to his employees Saturday night in an email, saying he would get to the bottom of the case and make sure it doesn’t recur. Hanssem President Lee Young-sik apologized to the victim and her family in an open statement that was issued Friday, but adamantly denied that the company tried to cover the story up.

Last Friday, the 25-year-old victim wrote on an anonymous portal website that she was raped, sexually assaulted and secretly photographed in the restroom by three different male colleagues, all less than a year after she started working for Hanssem.

The hidden camera case goes back to Dec. 23, 2016, at a Japanese eatery near the company, when the victim was drinking with coworkers who were employed around the same time as her. One male colleague tried to take her picture while she was undressing in the toilet, but was caught, the victim wrote, adding he was fired from the company and now locked up in jail.

The rape case allegedly occurred on Jan. 13, three days after she officially started working for Hanssem, when she joined a company dinner. The victim wrote she was taken to a motel by a senior coworker, whose job was to train recruits, and was forced to have sex with him.

The victim took the case to the police the following day, but later dropped the rape accusation when the HR manager forced her to do so, saying the suspect had sincerely liked her and could sue her for false accusation because he was “wealthy and could hire a top-tier lawyer.”

“I kept getting calls from the suspect, who begged me to drop the charge against him,” the victim said in the online post, which was deleted soon afterwards. “I didn’t know who to trust.”

In a separate post uploaded on an online community website Saturday, the rape suspect pled innocence, saying he had “special feelings” for the victim and was sure she felt the same way for him because they had constantly shared Kakao Talk messages. The suspect continued they “naturally joked around” after the sex.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]