Exploitation in South Korea’s entertainment industry
She was a young actress with designs on mega-stardom. But to realize her dreams, Jang Ja-yeon was resigned to take her place in the seamy realm of the South Korean sexual casting couch.
In the seven-page note she wrote before her March 2009 suicide, the 27-year-old TV sitcom regular described how her manager forced her to have sex with industry VIPs such as directors, media executives and CEOs, many of whom she cited by name.
Since 1990, a half-dozen TV and film actresses have committed suicide over the stress that comes with success in South Korea.
The aftermath of Jang’s suicide triggered a federal government investigation into “slave contracts,” in which young talent, mostly women, become locked into exclusive contracts by their agents requiring them to work long hours for low pay, receive unwanted plastic surgery and, in Jang’s case, turn to prostitution.