SEOUL: A chat app where South Koreans can anonymously dish the dirt on their misbehaving bosses and colleagues is belatedly stirring the country's #MeToo movement, shedding new light on sexual harassment in the heavily male-dominated corporate culture.
Prompted by a recent wave of complaints about workplace misconduct – including a groping allegation made by a South Korean public prosecutor last month – the app Blind has a new feature: a message board dedicated to a rising number of #MeToo stories.
“Kim Sungkyum, co-founder at Blind's creator TeamBlind said.
” We thought the prosecutor was going to be in the middle of the day, Koreans are wary of being whistleblowers about dominance in the family-run conglomerates or chaebol that dominate
Some 61% of South Korean respondents working at private companies said they would bypass in-house whistleblower hotlines, saying they did not trust their organization %.
Instead, the South Koreans are turning to Blind, which now has over a million users in the world's most wired country.
“Employees are reluctant to use an internal bu lletins for fear of reprisals which is part of our country's corporate culture, “said a banker at a South Korean state. “I think Blind can make people talk more freely, which can not be controlled by their companies.”
In less than 24 hours after the launch of the #MeToo board on Blind more than 500 posts were uploaded, making the app intermittently unavailable due to heavy traffic, the app's operator says.
By Thursday, the board had swelled with more than 1,600 posts, prompting conversations about workplace sexual misconduct.
Blind says it encodes personal data and information to protect users' privacy, and users must use their company e-mail for verification.
When the app first came out four years ago, several companies requested Blind take down posts that might be damaging to their reputation. TeamBlind says it has not been taken down any posts at all.
TeamBlind has said that it has a review of the terms and conditions of use, including publishing statements that might be defamatory or breach individuals' privacy.
Globally, the #MeToo movement has been exposed to men in the fields of entertainment, politics and business. Dozens of prominent men have quit or been fired from high-profile posts, and police have opened investigations into some accusations of sex assault.
But it was slower to catch on in South Korea, which ranked 118 out of 144 on gender equality last year, according to the World Economic Forum.
In the case of the public prosecutor – who said her boss was groomed at a funeral in 2010 – the Supreme Prosecutors' Office launched an inquiry into her allegations.
The investigation is ongoing, but the Prosecutor General has had to take action to combat sexual harassment in the workplace. In another incident late last year, South Korean furniture maker Hanssem publicly apologized after a post detailing a female employee's experiences of workplace.
Earlier this month, posts made on Blind said that Asiana Airlines had made inappropriate physical contact with female flight attendants.
Last week, Park Sam-koo, the chairman of the airliner's parent Kumho Asiana Group, issued an allegation over the allegations, saying “it was all my carelessness and responsibility”.
Park did not respond for requests for comment, and the company said it had taken no action against him.
Despite the increased awareness, many South Korean Blind users say they are yet to see significant changes in their workplaces.
“Through Blind, I have come to realise there are so many things that need to be corrected in my company.” But I have not seen any sweeping change yet, “said another user who said he was working for a major conglomerate . “We still have a long way to go.” – Reuters