Back in October of last year, an assistant producer for the tvN drama ‘Drinking Solo‘ was found dead in a hotel and police investigated it as a suicide. Aside from the death itself, it started to make news because of the reported behavior of CJ E&M, with acquaintances saying he was being treated unfairly by the company and then his family launching an investigation into his death.
Several acquaintances of PD Lee, a Seoul University graduate, commented, “PD Lee was miserable from receiving unfair treatment at CJ E&M due to his background.”
According to reports, PD Lee’s family has met with people from CJ E&M and tvN to demand the restoration of PD Lee’s reputation. The family has put together an investigation team composed of 2 members of the National Assembly, a lawyer, among others, and is asking CJ E&M to cooperate with the investigations.
The restoration of his reputation thing is due to CJ E&M’s reported handling of the situation, which can only be described as disgusting.
While his body was found on October 26, Lee PD was actually reported missing on the 21st when he didn’t show up for work. However, it wasn’t until October 25 that his parents were notified, albeit for different reasons. Lee PD’s parents were summoned to CJ E&M’s offices to criticize their son for his work, calling him unqualified to work for them. (As a side note: In the 55 days before his disappearance, he only took 2 days off, with no weekends.) His parents found his body the next day.
On behalf of the bereaved family, the aforementioned civilian committee was set up back in November to investigate the circumstances surrounding Lee PD’s death. In the months since, they attempted to work with CJ E&M, but what they got was (1) a stubborn refusal to allow Lee PD’s family to participate in the investigation, (2) deliberate attempts to stall by requesting document after document from the family and committee, (3) refusal to provide objective documentation regarding Lee PD’s workload and shifts, and (4) testimonies from staff members that were made to paint the rookie PD as negligent and lazy. They also suggested that his suicide was solely due to his own mental weakness.
Fast forward to a couple days ago, and the said investigation team held a press conference to demand an apology from CJ E&M. Their conclusion was that the suicide was a result of working conditions in the form of lack of vacation, lack of sleep, and abuse.
Upon investigation, the team concluded that the suicide was a result of extreme labor during the production of the drama — PD Lee only having two days off out of 55 days of work and only being able to sleep for an average of 4 hours and 30 minutes a day for 10 days — as well as verbal abuse from the drama production staff.
The team demanded an apology or would follow up with legal action.
The team said, “Though ‘Drinking Solo’ was a drama that was supposed to comfort viewers, the production environment was a cruel jungle, with long, difficult labor, and it was an authoritarian and abusive place. PD Lee had difficulty handling the painful environment. That’s why he died by suicide. He worked so hard, and then was bullied by those around him. Even as he was being verbally abused, he stuck with it.” Continuing, the investigation team said that “However, [CJ E&M] is defaming [PD Lee], saying that he died because he was weak. They are not apologizing, nor are they working to prevent this from happening in the future.” The investigation team said to Star News, “We are planning to negotiate with CJ E&M regarding an apology and the prevention measures. If they don’t accept our proposal, we will be taking legal action.”
CJ E&M responded with a statement that said essentially nothing.
On April 18, a source from CJ E&M stated, “We express great sadness regarding the unfortunate death of Lee Han Bin. We would also like to offer our deepest condolences to his family, who is grieving.” They also added, “Although we have been discussing the causes [of suicide] with the police and the family after the investigation of the PD’s death, we feel very sorry for what happened today. If the police and the public authorities take the lead in investigating, our executives as well as the staff will actively participate. We will accommodate with the investigation, prepare for improvements, and take responsibility.”
That’s basically a public relations “no comment”.
Anyway, it’s not exactly difficult to see why CJ E&M is getting lit up over this, as they reportedly were not only part of the reason for the PD’s death, but then blamed him for it, and harangued the family afterward. That’s about as despicable as one can get, so it should be interesting to see how this unfolds given the public outcry.
While one hates to be cynical about something like this, CJ E&M is massive, so one gets the feeling this will be made to go away for them one way or another. However, assuming the facts are in order, the hope has to be that his death won’t go for nothing and will result in compensation for his family, an acceptance of responsibility by CJ E&M, and changes in regulations.