South Korea closes poet's exhibition amid sexual harassment claims

The famed South Korean poet Ko Un, who is facing sexual misconduct allegations, could see his poems removed from school books following allegations of sexual misconduct against him.
Poet Ko Un first faced allegations when fellow South Korean poet Choi Young Mi released a poem in December titled "Monster", which describes harassment by an older male poet named "En".
Poet Ko Un first faced allegations when fellow South Korean poet Choi Young Mi released a poem in December titled "Monster", which describes harassment by an older male poet named "En".PHOTO: REUTERS

SEOUL (REUTERS) - South Korea's capital has closed an exhibition by poet Ko Un, long the country's hope for a Nobel Prize in literature, amid allegations of sexual misconduct and the government is considering removing his work from textbooks.

Ko Un, who denied any "habitual misconduct" in a statement made through his British publisher, first faced allegations when fellow South Korean poet Choi Young Mi released a poem in December titled "Monster", which describes harassment by an older male poet named "En".

South Koreans have widely interpreted it to refer to Ko, seizing on passages that match his biography, including references to the buzz surrounding the unnamed poet's Nobel Prize chances.

While not confirming the identity, Choi has not denied the public identification of Ko and last month she told a TV interviewer that she had been harassed by a famous poet who "repeatedly harassed female writers".

Neither Choi nor Ko's publisher, Bloodaxe Books, responded to requests for comment.

After Ko's denial was reported in The Guardian on Sunday, Choi took to Facebook to post simply: "What I wrote in my poem 'Monster' is true."

The anti-sexual harassment #MeToo movement has taken off belatedly in male-dominated South Korea where discussion of sexual misconduct has long been taboo, but it has ensnared a growing number of leading entertainment figures in recent months.

The growing number of high-profile accusations has led President Moon Jae In to urge law enforcement authorities to investigate reports of sexual abuse.

Choi's oblique allegations have been corroborated by other writers, including poet Lee Hye Mi, who said on Facebook that she witnessed "ridiculous behaviour" while co-hosting a TV show with Ko.

The controversy has led the Seoul city government to permanently shut an exhibition devoted to Ko's work.

An official at the textbook division of South Korea's Education Ministry told Reuters it was discussing plans to remove Ko's poems from school books.

"We are taking the issue very seriously and issued a statement shortly after poet Choi's claim became public, asking publishers how they would like to proceed with the issue and edit their textbooks with Ko's works," the official said.