Up10tion’s Wooshin, one of the MCs of SBS MTV’s music program The Show, has recently been under fire for apparently sexually harassing co-host Somi of I.O.I.
On December 24, SBS MTV The Show posted a video on Twitter with the caption: “A Christmas message from MC SoShin has arrived.” In the video, Somi and Wooshin cheerfully wish viewers merry Christmas in time for the holidays. Almost immediately after it was posted, it garnered heavy controversy, as some claimed that Wooshin had inappropriately placed his hand on Somi’s chest twice, leading to allegations of sexual harassment. This is exacerbated by the fact that Somi is only 16 years old and is still a minor.
During the short clip, Wooshin gestures to Somi when asking her a question; as he motions to his co-host, his outspread hand moves near the region of Somi’s chest. This is the first instance when netizens have claimed that he had inappropriately touched her; some even declare that he hit her in the chest. Somi appears to take a small step back, and it is unclear whether she does this in response to Wooshin’s gesture, or simply because she is fidgeting since she does make small movements throughout the whole video. The second time viewers claim sexual harassment is when Wooshin brings his hand up to Somi for a handshake, his hand again is in close proximity to her chest.
There have been mixed responses from netizens. On one end of the spectrum, some believe that he intentionally touched her inappropriately since this happened twice; they back up their claim with Somi’s reaction of moving back away from Wooshin. On the other hand, there are others that believe that this was an accident and that he did not intend to touch her at all. Yet there are others that claim that this is all a misunderstanding and that Wooshin did not make contact with Somi’s body at all, it only appears to be so due to the angle of the camera. Indeed, this could very well be the case since Wooshin, who’s holding the camera, is angling it downwards; it is extremely unclear whether he did make direct, physical contact with his body.
Representatives from SBS MTV The Show have been quick to clarify on this issue in a statement posted on Twitter: “The show’s staff were there on location when the two MCs were filming this video to monitor the footage. The scene was filmed with the two MCs keeping a reasonable distance between each other. We hope that there are no more misunderstandings regarding this.” As well, both the hosts’ respective agencies have also made statements. YMC Entertainment representing Somi have said: “Jeon Somi is taken aback by all of the speculative comments. There is no truth to this controversy.” Up10tion’s agency, TOP Media, declared that Somi and Wooshin had both watched and consented for the video to be posted, adding that “the physical contact that is being alleged did not happen” and that “Wooshin has promised to be more careful in the future to avoid causing such misunderstandings as a public figure again.” These three representative groups should be commended for responding promptly to the situation; it is a good strategy for doing damage control against the rapidly escalating scandal.
In the end, it does seem likely that there is no truth to the allegations of sexual harassment, seeing as all three representative agencies have agreed that Wooshin did not inappropriately touch Somi in any way and that physical contact between the two was not even made. Furthermore, Somi did not seem to react negatively to his gestures, which may support the view that this was simply a misunderstanding. If this is the case, then the situation has been blown way out of proportion. On a recent V Live broadcast with Up10tion, there were reportedly many hateful comments being made against Wooshin, claiming that he was a sexual harasser and that he should be ashamed of what he did to Somi. During the broadcast, Wooshin, who is usually talkative, remained quiet and shied away from the camera. It would be disappointing and disheartening if the future of Wooshin or Up10tion were to be permanently marred by this misunderstanding.
A similar incident occurred back in 2014 with Miss A’s Suzy and an event moderator at the opening ceremony for the “Sinchon Water Gun Festival”. As Suzy was greeting fans, it appeared that the male event moderator standing next to her had touched her backside inappropriately, and the situation was worsened by the fact that Suzy’s expression had appeared to harden in response to his gesture. Fans were outraged by this alleged misconduct and demanded an apology from the event moderator. However, it was later clarified by both her agency JYP Entertainment as well as by an official at the scene that it was simply a misunderstanding. A fancam shot at a different angle proved that the event moderator had not made any physical contact with Suzy.
Both the situation with Suzy and this recent one with Wooshin and Somi show how quickly things can get out of hand — serious allegations can be interpreted from a simple video. There are also a few things to be learnt from this scandal, with the first being for agencies to immediately respond and clarify on such matters to avoid further backlash, and the second for idols and celebrities to simply be more aware of their surroundings and how their actions might be perceived by viewers.