Poet’s exhibition shut amid sexual harassment claims

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SEOUL — South Korea’s capital has closed an exhibition by poet Ko Un, long the country’s hope for a Nobel Prize in literature, amid allegations of sexual misconduct and the government is considering removing his work from textbooks.

Mr. Ko, who denied any “habitual misconduct” in a statement made through his British publisher, first faced allegations when fellow South Korean poet Choi Young-mi released a poem in December titled “Monster,” which describes harassment by an older male poet named “En,”

South Koreans have widely interpreted it to refer to Mr. Ko, seizing on passages that match his biography, including references to the buzz surrounding the unnamed poet’s Nobel Prize chances.

While not confirming the identity, Ms. Choi has not denied the public identification of Mr. Ko and last month she told a TV interviewer that she had been harassed by a famous poet who “repeatedly harassed female writers,”

Neither Ms. Choi nor Mr. Ko’s publisher, Bloodaxe Books, responded to requests for comment.

After Mr. Ko’s denial was reported in The Guardian on Sunday, Ms. Choi took to Facebook to post simply: “What I wrote in my poem ‘Monster’ is true.”

The anti-sexual harassment #MeToo movement has taken off belatedly in male-dominated South Korea where discussion of sexual misconduct has long been taboo, but it has ensnared a growing number of leading entertainment figures in recent months.

The growing number of high-profile accusations has led President Moon Jae-in to urge law enforcement authorities to investigate reports of sexual abuse.

Ms. Choi’s oblique allegations have been corroborated by other writers, including poet Lee Hye-mi, who said on Facebook that she witnessed “ridiculous behavior” while co-hosting a TV show with Mr. Ko.

The controversy has led the Seoul city government to permanently shut an exhibition devoted to Mr. Ko’s work.

An official at the textbook division of South Korea’s Education Ministry told Reuters it was discussing plans to remove Mr. Ko’s poems from school books.

“We are taking the issue very seriously and issued a statement shortly after poet Choi’s claim became public, asking publishers how they would like to proceed with the issue and edit their textbooks with Ko’s works,” the official said. — Reuters