Asiana’s Chairman Accused of Sexual Harassment For.. Forced Handshakes?

The Chairman of Star Alliance airline Asiana’s parent Kumho Asiana Group is being accused of sexual harassment as the ‘#metoo movement’ spreads to South Korea.

Park Sam-koo reportedly goes to the airline’s Seoul headquarters “on the first Thursday of every month to cheer on flight attendants.” He says he ‘receives energy’ by doing this. Some find “lining up pretty flight attendants” to be offensive.

Standing in a circle in the lobby, Asiana flight attendants clap their hands with Park as part of the monthly corporate ritual, during which Park exchanges greetings with his workers, offers advice, and encourages female workers back on the job after maternity leave.

Some flight attendants feel “pressured to shake hands with him.” One reports feeling forced to hug him.

Management of Asiana has faced criticism for work retreats where female employees “dance in racy outfits.” So the Chairman “began receiving bows from male workers” as well.

It’s the cultural context here that’s perhaps the most interesting — the changing way that Korean society sees top management of their conglomerates, the way those men have historically seen female employees, and the kinds of behaviors that are seen as inappropriate — and those women in South Korea are comfortable voicing (and not voicing). I take ‘forced hand shakes’ to mean something different in this context than they would here in the States.

(HT: @ITSmartTourts)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. It used to be that sexual harassment was when when a male boss demanded sexual favors in exchange for employment/raise/promotion/etc. Of course that is despicable, but now it’s just basically if a guy you don’t find attractive hits on you, even if there is no working relationship whatsoever. It’s quite disheartening that this nonsense is spreading to Asia.

  2. @WR agreed. My biggest nightmare is waking up one day and find China/Taiwan becoming just like the western countries especially the US.

  3. “a plethora of inappropriate encounters with Park shared among Asiana employees, including blatantly favoring attractive flight attendants and pressuring them to give him a hug” as well as forcing female employees to dance in racy outfits.

    But sure, go ahead and minimize it by implying it’s just handshakes. Which can be pervy too, btw.

  4. @WR +1

    I agree completely. Sexual harassment in its original definition is despicable and should always be called out and prosecuted.

    However now everything is sexual harassment as long as a woman (though generally not men) feel uncomfortable in any way. Even if they felt comfortable at the time, of their feelings about the encounter change after the fact, many are still claiming sexual harassment.

    When everything is sexual harassment then nothing is.

  5. Forced handshakes? This is a thing now? Next month it will be I didn’t get the raise I wanted, so it must be sexual harassment!

  6. Unless handshake means something else in Korean than English, this is ridiculous. Your boss wants to fistbump, you fistbump. If you dont like it go get a job a a Karaoke Hostess instead of a air hostess.

  7. ok, just to clear things up for the commenters, this is not a situation where employees are complaining about — literally — just having to shake hands with the boss. That would be a non-issue. What this story is talking about is a (strange) corporate ritual where pretty flight attendants are made to stand in a circle around the CEO and clap his hand to “give him energy.” There were forced hugs, and situations where the attractive flight attendants were made to dress up and perform a ritual bow in front of him.

    I agree with Gary — women have been treated like sh!t in Korean workplaces for centuries. What is fascinating is to see a cultural shift wherein they feel comfortable challenging their superiors about inappropriate behavior.

    PS if you think all a Korean CEO ever got was a “handshake” you are intensely naive.

  8. No matter how unreasonable the CEO was, this is still a false accusation, definitely not sexual harassment.

  9. The fertility rate (2017 estimate) in South Korea according the the CIA Factbook is 1.26 children per women, well below the replacement rate of 2. Therefore the average age of is 41.8 and increasing. I don’t want to draw any conclusions: (1) I do not understand the Korean culture (and I do not) or (2) would get the Feminazi’s after me. But it is food for thought.

    By comparison, the fertility rate in Japan is 1.41, USA is 1.87, and European Union 1.61.

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