|The Chanel boutique at Lotte Department Store in Myung Dong, Seoul / Korea Times file|
By Kim Jae-heun
In light of recently revealed claims of a decade-long sexual harassment scandal within Chanel Korea, the Ministry of Employment and Labor said that it is within its power to take measures against the company but, outside of what has been revealed through media sources, no victims have lodged official complaints of a labor law violation.
"The law also restricts a private firm from revealing the case to any outside parties in order to prevent secondary damage to the victims. In this case, the victims would have to report the offenses directly to us," a labor ministry official said.
KBS reported on Monday that a 40-year-old senior executive of Chanel Korea has been sexually harassing female employees at the company's boutiques and tainting the reputation of the French luxury fashion brand that sells some of the most popular handbags in the world.
The alleged serial offender sexually harassed at least 12 employees of the company over the course of 10 years.
According to the victims, upon reporting the violations to the company's Seoul-based management, Chanel Korea forced them to sign a non-disclosure agreement. Victims said the offender was only removed his from position but was not dismissed from the company altogether.
"How can such outmoded measures be taken by Chanel in 2020? I cannot believe this luxury firm has such a corporate culture," said radio news host Kim Hyun-jung, who invited one of the victims to share her story, Wednesday.
The victim, speaking under the condition of anonymity, said Chanel is a different company from what the Korean public perceives.
"You just have to deal with it and keep a low profile. Once you speak out about it, you instantly become a troublemaker there," the victim said.
The offender has allegedly often hugged female workers tightly and sometime would touch their breasts while pretending to fix their name tags. The whistleblower said other victims knew the senior executive had been committing sexual harassment but they were afraid he would retaliate if they were to reveal the truth.
"We saw some of our colleagues sent to faraway boutiques from where they originally worked after they challenged the manager. He would also demote them and bully them," the victim said.
The victim said she is afraid to report the case to the police.
The Ministry of Gender Equality and Family said it cannot help victims unless they choose to seek help.
"We can help them to file a lawsuit and seek psychiatric help with our internal programs, but all of these are available only following the victims' reports to us," the gender ministry official said.
Meanwhile, Chanel Korea released an official statement saying it has hired an external investigator to look into the case and it will report all findings to the company's union. However, to protect both the victims and the offender, the investigation will be conducted in secrecy.
"We will take appropriate and reasonable action after a fair and accurate investigation," Chanel Korea said in a statement.