S. Korean star in hot water after reality TV clam stunt

Actress Lee Yeol-eum faces up to five years in a Thai jail for catching endangered giant clams in a marine park in Thailand. The incident came to light after the reality TV stunt was broadcast last month.
Actress Lee Yeol-eum faces up to five years in a Thai jail for catching endangered giant clams in a marine park in Thailand. The incident came to light after the reality TV stunt was broadcast last month.PHOTO: SBS
Actress Lee Yeol-eum faces up to five years in a Thai jail for catching endangered giant clams in a marine park in Thailand. The incident came to light after the reality TV stunt was broadcast last month.
Actress Lee Yeol-eum faces up to five years in a Thai jail for catching endangered giant clams in a marine park in Thailand. The incident came to light after the reality TV stunt was broadcast last month.PHOTO: TV SCREENGRAB

BANGKOK • A South Korean actress faces up to five years in a Thai jail for catching endangered giant clams in a reality TV stunt, an official said yesterday, despite the show's extensive apology.

Lee Yeol-eum was filmed diving for giant clams in a Thai marine park for a June 30 episode of Law Of The Jungle - a popular South Korean reality show.

After prising two giant clams from the coral-laid seabed, she pumped them in the air, yelling: "I caught it!"

The creatures are listed as an endangered species and protected under Thai law.

A picture of the 23-year-old Lee picking up the molluscs started circulating online, and captured the attention of the authorities.

Mr Narong Kongaid, the head of Hat Chao Mai National Park - where the show was filmed in April - said he filed two charges last Wednesday against the actress for violating the National Parks law and the Wildlife Protection law.

"She is subjected to five years' imprisonment," Mr Narong added.

The production company had apologised, he said, "but this is a criminal case and we cannot withdraw the complaint".

The police will figure out a way to find Lee even if she was no longer in Thailand, Mr Narong added.

While the criminal complaint has been filed with the police, it is now up to the court's prosecutor to decide if the actress will be pursued or if the case will be dropped.

Lee faces either five years in jail under the National Parks law, or four years if charged with breaking the Wildlife Protection law.

Both laws also carry fines of 20,000 baht (S$880).

In a statement published on Friday, the South Korean television show offered its "deep apologies" for not being aware of Thailand's wildlife regulations.

"We will be more cautious of our actions when producing the show in the future," it said.

Lee, the star of Korean TV drama My First Love, made her TV debut six years ago.

She also starred in the 2016 drama series Monster and the 2017 box office crime drama hit The King.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on July 07, 2019, with the headline 'S. Korean star in hot water after reality TV clam stunt'. Print Edition | Subscribe