While I have covered Jang Ja Yeon’s case on the site before, I found it honestly impossible to update on both the ongoings of that case and also cover the Burning Sun scandal while maintaining my sanity. But following the re-opening of the case last year, the Ministry Of Justice‘s Committee Of Past Affairs recently decided whether to continue reinvestigating the case.
While you should read up elsewhere about the recent events in this case, a brief overview of what this is all about is probably best to start with.
Jang Ja Yeon was an actress who passed away in March 2009, and her death was ruled to be a suicide. She is said to have left behind a final document revealing that she had been forced to sexually entertain powerful figures in the business and media industries. During the investigation after her death, the police cleared about 10 names charged for sexual abuse that were mentioned in the actress’s list, and the case ended with only her agency CEO and manager being charged for assault and defamation. In April 2018, almost 10 years after her death, the Investigative Team of Past Affairs began a 13-month reinvestigation into her case.
So this is about revealing the results of the reinvestigation, which they did recently in a 250-page report, and … well, it had decidedly mixed results.
The committee held their final meeting at the Gwacheon Government Complex at 2 p.m. KST that day before revealing the results. Their decision whether to recommend the case for further investigation was based on reviewing the 250-page report submitted by the Investigative Team of Past Affairs on May 13.
The investigative team organized their report around 12 issues, including whether or not the “Jang Ja Yeon List” existed, whether the police investigation at the time had been incomplete, and whether Chosun Ilbo had influenced the investigation. Chosun Ilbo is a major newspaper, one of whose former reporters has been indicted for sexually assaulting Jang Ja Yeon. Questioning has also been conducted on the former CEO of a related company, TV Chosun, and his uncle. The investigative team confirmed after questioning over 80 people that Jang Ja Yeon had had an unfair contract with her agency that had forced her to serve alcoholic drinks to various people. The team also found that the contents of Jang Ja Yeon’s phone calls had been left out of the investigation records at the time, and that there had been insufficient investigation of people who were suspected of being the figures to whom Jang Ja Yeon was forced to serve drinks. The investigative team also concluded that it was difficult to find any particular details about the assailants since the victim had passed away 10 years ago and that the lack of evidence and the statute of limitations were serious obstacles in the case.
They concluded that Jang Ja Yeon was forced to serve drinks due to an unfair contract with her agency and that the initial investigation into all this was insufficient. However, they weren’t able to find anything about the perpetrators, mainly because it’s been so long since it all went down.
Additionally, the committee could not seem to agree on the issues of Jang Ja Yeon being sexually assaulted and whether she indeed had a list of names of the perpetrators.
The investigative team was also internally divided on two issues in their report: whether Jang Ja Yeon had been sexually assaulted through the use of drugs and whether there was a handwritten list of men’s names known as the “Jang Ja Yeon List.” The team submitted their report to the committee while unable to come to an unanimous conclusion on these issues. In their May 20 decision, the Ministry of Justice’s Committee of Past Affairs recommended that prosecutors reinvestigate the former CEO of Jang Ja Yeon’s agency, Kim Jong Seung, on suspicions of false testimony. The committee also ruled that Chosun Ilbo had put pressure on the first investigation that took place after Jang Ja Yeon’s death. They confirmed that in 2009, Bang Yong Hoon, who was the president of the Koreana hotel at the time, and Bang Jung Oh, who was the CEO of TV Chosun at the time, and other Chosun Ilbo leaders had been lightly investigated by the police after Chosun Ilbo put pressure on the top management of the police department. However, the Committee of Past Affairs did not recommend reinvestigation into the charges of sexual abuse and stated, “While the document that Jang Ja Yeon left behind has some credibility to it, not all of its contents meet the requirements to be constituted as a crime.” The committee also stated that they could not confirm the existence of the so-called “Jang Ja Yeon List,” which reportedly contained the names of people that Jang Ja Yeon had been forced to sexually entertain. The committee stated, “Despite Yoon Ji Oh’s testimony to the contrary, all of the other witnesses who had seen the document Jang Ja Yeon left behind said that there wasn’t a list of names. It is difficult to ascertain the truth in this matter.”
They agree that Kim Jong Seung, ex-CEO of Jang Ja Yeon’s company, should be reinvestigated for false testimony. They also agree that Chosun Ilbo put pressure on police during the investigation that followed Jang Ja Yeon’s death, which led to Koreana hotel ex-President Bang Yong Hoon, ex-CEO of TV Chosun Bang Jung Oh, and other leaders of the Chosun Ilbo to be lightly investigated. However, despite that, they are not going to recommend reinvestigating the sexual assault allegations and could not confirm any list made by Jang Ja Yeon that named the perpetrators despite testimony from actress Yoon Ji Oh.
This all sure smells like one of those things where authorities admit wrongdoing took place and will slap minor charges on a few involved, but when it comes to the serious charges they’ll just throw their hands up and make excuses for why nothing can be done anymore.
In response to the conclusions, the Chosun Ilbo released an official statement, saying that it was all bullshit.
On May 20, the Ministry of Justice’s Committee of Past Affairs concluded that Chosun Ilbo put pressure on the 2009 investigation into Jang Ja Yeon’s case. However, this conclusion, as well as the one-sided claims made by certain people in the investigation, is completely untrue.
1) There is absolutely no truth to the claim made by the former commissioner of the Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency, Cho Hyun Oh. Cho Hyun Oh has claimed that Lee Dong Han, the chief reporter at Chosun Ilbo at the time, had gone to Cho’s office during the 2009 investigation in order to put pressure on him. This is completely false and Lee Dong Han had not even met Cho Hyun Oh until after the investigation. Chosun Ilbo, as well as Chosun News Press CEO Lee Dong Han, has filed a defamation lawsuit against Cho Hyun Oh. We are currently in the middle of a civil suit about this as well.
2) There is absolutely no truth to the claim made by the former commissioner of the National Police Agency, Kang Hee Rak. Kang Hee Rak has claimed that he was pressured by Lee Dong Han, as the chief reporter of Chosun Ilbo, during the 2009 investigation. It is true that Lee Dong Han met with former commissioner Kang Hee Rak during the investigation, but all that was said was a request to reveal the results of the investigation as quickly as possible. This was because Bang Sang Hoon, the president of Chosun Ilbo who had no connection to the Jang Ja Yeon case, had been swept up in online rumors and become the subject of defamation at the time. At the time, former commissioner Kang Hee Rak refused the request to reveal the results of the investigation quickly. The police and the public prosecutor’s office took four months to complete the investigation and concluded at the end that Bang Sang Hoon had nothing to do with the Jang Ja Yeon case. We strongly regret that due to these one-sided claims, Chosun Ilbo has been portrayed as unfairly influencing police investigations. We at Chosun Ilbo aim to correct the facts and recover our reputation through legal means if necessary.
Seems difficult to believe them on this given the conclusions from a committee that took years to even get underway, which conveniently made it difficult/impossible for them to investigate/charge sexual abuse of her. Remember, one of the Chosun Ilbo’s former reporters was indicted for sexually assaulting her and a former CEO of the related TV Chosun was reportedly deeply connected to her case.
As shitty as it is to say, I’m not confident that anything else will come of this, because authorities seem to be following the template of admitting stuff was definitely fucked up but that anything substantial is (by design) impossible to prove by now, so basically oh well.