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  • Oct 28, 2016

Ilmin Museum Chief Curator to Step Down After Sexual Harassment Complaint

YOUNGJUNE HAHM, chief curator of Ilmin Museum of Art in Seoul, has been accused of sexual abuse in late October 2016, and will step down from his senior role. 

The chief curator of Seoul’s privately run Ilmin Museum of Art, Youngjune Hahm, said he would resign his position after accusations of sexual harassment emerged last week. Korean media outlets have reported a wave of revelations by young women who have come forward and alleged various kinds of sexual abuse by more senior male figures, including novelist Park Bum-shin and poet Park Jin-seong. The accounts have primarily been circulated on social media networks.

Chief curator at Ilmin Museum of Art since 2015, Hahm was accused on Twitter of molesting a woman. One of the first to come forward was identified as Soma Kim, a fashion photographer and artist, who wrote about her encounters with Hahm on the Evernote platform on October 21. She describes how Hahm aggressively pursued her and on occasion touched her inappropriately. Similar stories from other victims then followed.

In a statement posted on the Evernote on October 22, Hahm apologized to Kim and acknowledged wrongdoing, as well as admitting to the obvious hypocrisy of his advocating of feminism in his professional career as a curator. The following day, Hahm posted a second statement again apologizing to his victims, but objecting to one of the subsequent allegations made by a woman who alleged he had touched her inappropriately. In that instance, he claimed that he and his girlfriend of the time were undressing the woman at their apartment because she had become very drunk and was covered in vomit.

Facing more outrage and allegations, Hahm made a third statement on Facebook on October 24, again acknowledging wrong doing and admitting that he had abused his position as a curator and professor. He apologized repeatedly, said he would discontinue his current projects and pursue longterm counseling. The same day, the Korea Herald reported, a group of a dozen art students had protested in front of the Ilmin Museum of Art’s building in Gwanghwamun, in central Seoul.

The Ilmin Museum of Art has not released an official statement about Hahm’s resignation and has not yet responded to ArtAsiaPacific’s email inquiry. Hahm was appointed chief curator of Ilmin in May 2015, after joining the museum in early 2015. Previously he had co-founded the nonprofit space Common Center in an abandoned building in Yeongdeungpo, in 2013, along with graphic designers Na Kim and Hyungjae Kim and artist Eunu Lee.  

HG Masters is editor at large of ArtAsiaPacific. 

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