Rating:
Average user rating 4.5
142

CJ E&M under fire for suicide of Drinking Solo rookie PD

I’m sorry to say that tvN’s Drinking Solo is making headlines half a year after its run, and for all the wrong reasons. CJ E&M, the conglomerate behind cable channels tvN and OCN, is currently weathering a firestorm of criticism for both the circumstances leading up to the death of a rookie PD who worked on tvN’s Drinking Solo and how they handled the situation in the aftermath.

Last October, junior PD Lee Han-bit was found dead from an apparent suicide two days after the last episode of Drinking Solo aired. People were aware of this when it happened back in October — the production team cancelled their reward vacation, citing the downcast mood following his death — but the issue is resurfacing now because a civilian investigative committee made up of lawyers, labor union officials, and activists held a press conference today (April 18) in Seoul condemning CJ E&M’s actions following Lee PD’s suicide. The committee is demanding a formal apology, as well as measures to prevent something like this from happening again.

According to reports, what drove Lee PD to take his own life was the physical and mental toil of working on the Drinking Solo set. Most of us are aware of the physically demanding environments that are drama productions, which include many sleepless nights and manual labor for the cast and crew. However, Drinking Solo was also plagued by production missteps early on: The show was originally planned to be half pre-produced, but after filming only a fourth of the episodes, the external vendors and staff in charge of lighting and camera equipment were replaced. As a consequence, filming had to stop for a while and a large chunk of footage also needed to be re-shot. After that, it seems the atmosphere behind-the-scenes on Drinking Solo became very tense, and at times even hostile.

Because of the acutely shortened timetable, the crew was overworked, even by dramaland’s standards. Lee PD’s responsibilities included, but were not limited to: costumes, props, cast and crew meals, data delivery, set prep and clean-up, handling receipts, and editing. On top of this, for reasons that aren’t clear yet, Lee PD was subject to substantial verbal abuse from fellow staff members. His younger brother revealed that the newbie PD had recordings of calls and instant messages on his phone that were full of abusive and aggressive language from his colleagues.

Tragic as this situation is, Korea is no stranger to its youth taking their own lives from being overworked and/or bullied; every once in awhile, you’ll hear of conscripted soldiers either killing themselves from being tormented, or even dying from their wounds after being physically abused. I think what has got most people (even more) riled up, is CJ E&M’s actions around the time of Lee PD’s death, and in the months following it.

While his body was found on October 26, Lee PD was actually reported missing on the 21st when he didn’t show up for work. However, it wasn’t until October 25 that his parents were notified, albeit for different reasons. Lee PD’s parents were summoned to CJ E&M’s offices to criticize their son for his work, calling him unqualified to work for them. (As a side note: In the 55 days before his disappearance, he only took 2 days off, with no weekends.) His parents found his body the next day.

Angry yet? Because, don’t worry, it gets worse. On behalf of the bereaved family, the aforementioned civilian committee was set up back in November to investigate the circumstances surrounding Lee PD’s death. In the months since, they attempted to work with CJ E&M, but what they got was (1) a stubborn refusal to allow Lee PD’s family to participate in the investigation, (2) deliberate attempts to stall by requesting document after document from the family and committee, (3) refusal to provide objective documentation regarding Lee PD’s workload and shifts, and (4) testimonies from staff members that were made to paint the rookie PD as negligent and lazy. They also suggested that his suicide was solely due to his own mental weakness.

The heartbreaking irony in all of this is that Lee PD, a recent graduate of prestigious Seoul National University who had just joined CJ E&M 9 months prior to his death, had entered the company because of his interest in social issues centering around employment and labor rights. As a student, he was an active supporter of labor movements, and was interested in issues like the plight of temporary employees (think Jang Geu-rae in Misaeng). He had foregone other job opportunities to make dramas that could provide comfort to such people who were marginalized in the labor force.

Amid the furor that built throughout the day, CJ E&M released a statement that expressed deep regret regarding the situation surrounding Lee PD’s death, and also condolences to the bereaved family. (This was, notably, not an official apology.) The company said that they had cooperated to the fullest extent in both the initial police investigation and the following civilian investigation, so they thought it unfortunate that the committee had held such a press conference. They added that they will actively cooperate in any further investigations, and implement any recommended reforms internally.

It’s not clear if this will affect any plans for Drinking Solo Season 2. Even if CJ E&M were to issue an apology now, I’m not sure they would be able to contain the controversy that’s brewing. The country is, understandably, extremely sensitive at the moment towards large conglomerates seemingly abusing their position, or turning a blind eye toward injustices committed internally. Just look at the drama landscape. Hopefully, they’ll take a leaf out of their own shows to do the right thing, although I don’t know whether that makes me an optimist or just naive.


Lee Han-bit PD

Via TV Report, Kookje, Maeil, Sports Kyunghang, Ilgan Sports, Xports News, Joongboo News

RELATED POSTS

Tags: ,

142

Required fields are marked *

this news remind me of Radiant Office....junior or temp workers are often bullied .... some seniors are really bad towards them....the part that they try to cover up their misdeeds are even worse....and I think dramas that are not pre-produced can really cause them heavy stress so much....

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This drives it home to me that we international fans only get to see the glamour of Kdramas and Kpop industry but usually can't see the flip side of all this! The way he was treated (and I am sure how many rookies are treated) is inhumane. He was clearly over-worked seeing the number of duties he had to perform! And then to suffer abuse on top of it all! It's also doubly sad that he was a supporter of labor rights but could not change the system before he was swept under it.

I too hope that the industry learns something from this and gives all the crew their due and before that, their basic human rights.

3
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is shocking news. To be honest, I only know Dramaland Korea. And I am a rookie on this too. That said, working environment seems fierce and ruthless.
Im currently watching Radiant Office and sure I thought the situation was being exaggerated for drama purpose. But now Im beginning to understand it is actually true. The pressure, abuse etc.. young people have to go through to not even success, just get a job is unbelievable.
The competition is wild but the worst part is how much society and families makes them believe they are nothing if they fail. Like no alternatives, no mercy... seems tome they are trying to raise successful robots.
Being a decent, honest and a hardworking human being is a success in itself, if society forgets about this, outcomes like this are to be expected..

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I hope it does show the irony that as a kdrama fan I am mourning PD Lee and yet I look for paralels in dramas. I cannot get rid of the idea of The Awl. And the thought that if there was someone on his side, things might have ended up differently. But that is a big if, what do I know.
Also it is terrible that a drama that gave me so much hope and such a good feel for the underdog story had such a terrible bts conditions. RIP PDnim.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

How sad. Poor guy. And no apology actually would amend the horror of the situation. only some real steps to change the attitudes.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

That is why viewers should stop patronising liveshoot dramas. I am appalled to read comments saying that this kind of drama production culture is better than pre-produced ones.

"BIG NO to liveshoot productions" Actors, Staff and crews deserve good working conditions.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I hope justice will be given to his family. Hearing your son being degraded by the company then finding out that he took his own life because of work is so heartbreaking to any parent. :(

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

It's times like this when I am glad I am not Korean... I hear from Korean mothers how kids spend all day at school and after school at those tuition centers... And how the working hours are so stressful... If one can find a job! Korea is such a beautiful country, but the society just seems too stressful! Is there not a way to make a living while having a work life balance? Wasn't there an article about a working mother who died from fatigue soon after returning from maternity? That is crazy. The article also stated that most mothers don't even dare to take maternity leave as they fear losing their jobs? Something needs to be done in the sk society...

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Yes! That is why-Don't support liveshoot dramas. Staff, crews and actors deserve better work environment.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

The channel and the the producers of every drama should understand that the fans all over the world just dont support and fall in love with the actors and cast only. If we appriciate a drama or even a scene in a drama the credit goes to the entire crew starting from the actors till last man who helped create that amazing scene. So plz take notice we send our love to the entire set and NOT JUST THE ACTORS.
I may be from another country who has no rights to say about this, but yet abuse to any human is an international threat. Plz treat your co workers with dignity and respect, it has better effects than money - I can assure you on that as a HR and a member of an entrepreneur family. Lastly dont make us feel guilty everytime we watch an amazing drama- it will definitely take a toll on you on day.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is so wrong in so many way, I can't imagine what he must have gone through to put an end to his life. Heartbreaking. My thoughts and prayers are with his family.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I can't even finish the article, this is just so awful :( The only silver lining I can think of is that perhaps it'll be enough to change the industry even if just a little tiny bit, to make it less likely to happen again. The bullying is unlikely to be the first thing to change, as it's a problem in most countries and not something easily fixed by law, but at least make some laws regarding work hours!

2
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

And I hope that the PD's family will get their apology and somehow one day heal from this horrible experience :( CJ E&M need to get their act together, because all this is totally unacceptable! >(

3
reply

Required fields are marked *

R.I.P :(

These kind of news always made me sad.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Very disturbing story. So many things wrong. RIP Lee Han-bit.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you for covering this topic here at dramabeans.

I have a question to the author regarding the choice of the photos. When an article deals with the passing of a Korean celebrity, the framed picture used for the funeral often is displayed. Not here. Was it due to cultural reasons? Say that since the cause of death is suicide, there is no framed picture at all or else, like in some Catholic areas, no religious ceremonies will be hold for those taking their own lives, or an editorial decision?

1
2
reply

Required fields are marked *

Nope. It wasn't included simply because it wasn't available. And the PD wasn't a celebrity (like, say, PD Kim Jong-hak) when he passed away, he was a rookie.

0
1
reply

Required fields are marked *

Thank you. I appreciate the reply.

I was aware that he was not a celeb, but at the time of my comment, I could not remember whether common/not-celeb-yet people in Korea too would get a framed picture for their funeral. In the meantime images of the Sewol tragedy hit me again, so I figured that as you confirmed, this peculiar picture was not available. I must say that the 2 pics of him side by side are heartbreaking. Such a promising young man too burdened to survive his ordeals. May his parents find peace at last.

0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Honestly if all of us drama fans could band together to form a lobby group, would our voices be heard?
I'm sure among us there are legal advocates, social workers, community workers, maybe even politicians!
It could be an international and korean group, pooling money, resource and talent together. Working in internet forums, do picketing, create videos, open up a whistle-blowing and investigative system so that stars also feel comfortable to come to us secretly if they want their situations investigated.
Maybe it sounds far-fetched by it's like using the power and dedication of saesang fans for a good use. I'll be the first sign-up! Or maybe even the only one.
We can be the Watchers, literally and figuratively.

2
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

The family should take legal action. until you made the abuser pay in money and negative publicity, it will never change. I hope the issue will end up in court for moral responsibility.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Despicable behavior. I hope his family receives justice, and may the poor man's soul rest in peace.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is honestly so terrible to read! So many conglomerates seem to place next to no value on human lives. Everybody seems expendable. If one person goes, another one comes in to fill their place.

As if it wasn't bad enough that this fellow committed suicide, I'm even more sickened by the fact that they behaved so obstructively to his family and slandered his character. I wish there some way for the conglomerate to own up that they royally fucked up and make reparations. :(

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Those commenters who bashed good pre-produced dramas that do not earn expected rating domestically are equally responsible with CJE&M. By doing so you are encouraging production companies to continue the liveshoot culture without regard of thd welfare of the Staff, crew and actors.

If you all want to help patronising only full produced. I have done ever since they started the pre-producing dramas.

Don't get too engage with the rating because it does not mean quality. Many dramas which rated well in Korea are not good.

Don't just pretend to feel bad for the heck. Do your part as well.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Many years ago, Han Ye Seul walked off her drama set because she could not handle the unrealistic demands of live-shooting. Many people criticized her, although many of her industry peers also stood up for her. The unrealistic and inhumane expectations of live drama-shooting have been going on for far too long. As consumers of Kdramas, I believe we have a responsibility to help push for change. I am personally not a fan of Han Ye Seul but time has proven that she was right to walk off because the alternative is too heart-breaking.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is such terrible news. :( I pray for strength for his family and friends to get through this and hope some kind of action is taken against the company.

But like other commenters here, I think the major problem is the live shooting system. The pressure to finish each episode within the deadline would be huge. I can understand live shooting for daily or weekend dramas because the plot has to be built up, in which case the shooting should be started long before the air date to complete each episode comfortably. But for miniseries, it is totally unnecessary. Changing a drama midway for higher ratings will only confuse the viewers and 90 percent won't result in the expected ratings. this kind of overworking, abuse and suffering to workers in any field should be stopped. They should be given proper working hours and given weekends off. :(

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

My condolence to Lee PD's family.
I'm not going to say much, just to voice my resolution to boycott tvN's dramas from now onwards, at least until there is an official apology from CJ E&M for their hideous part they played in this matter.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

First of all, my most sincere condolences go out to the family of this young man. I can't even begin to imagine what they have been going through. There are no words.

Second, what I find astonishing is the view held by many in South Korea about psychological distress. Here we have a country, wonderful in so many ways, and so modern. It is so interconnected, so on the cutting edge technologically, with an educated population and with access to research/reference materials on virtually any subject matter. A country seemingly living in the 21st century. But then someone goes on to declare that "suicide is a result of mental weakness". Suddenly, you're in the 18th century. Dear Korea, I would've expected a more learned opinion by now. It's 2017. For your precious citizens, Korea, make that necessary change. They deserve this, not death.

5
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is so sad. May him rest in peace.
They need make drama from this story and reveal the truth.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is just sad. Systems should be reviewed. Handling such sensitive matters should be done with human beings (and rights!) in mind.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

As someone who works in a very similar environment/industry(OT w/o pay, demanding managers) I feel for him. Sadly the root cause is not just the lack of labor laws but the work norms people are used to, which is so hard to break.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I have heard stories of this company's hardline tactics on everyone. I guess it means they apply it to their employees. They are already known to be profited orientated and ruthless.

Now the rookie PD would already be used to the harsh study environment to graduate from SNU. Plus be involved in student politics. If he worked for 2 months without a break- the 2 days wasn't even probably 48hrs- and was accused of being irresponsible and not hard working enough then there is something massively wrong with the company mindset.

I can believe the phone recordings and accusations against them. What I don't believe is that they would be punished to the full extent of the law.

My condolences to the family of the bereaved. I feel even worse that justice won't be served to them. What a bitter pill to swallow. And to lose a precious son and brother.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is horrible beyond words. CJ E&M should be barred from making dramas for a year.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This is so sad. Been bullied at work is very stressful and depression. For the little bit of bullying I get was enough for my to run as fast as I can find. I was fortunate to know that I can't change it but to find another place to work. Even though it's the same company but with different people. I find my peace and I hope the family can find there peace.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

This news is very bad for CJ. As a result of the public outcry from this horrible story, CJ's other productions have slowed or have halted together. I have a friend involved in the Mnet's Show Me the Money and he tells me that everyone is treading very slowly and softly at CJ now. Bad for those who enjoy CJ's content, but good for the industry as a whole. No more of this rookie (막내) bullying and bashing!!

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

What a horrifying story and my sympathy goes out to that poor fellow's family. This always makes me think of King of Dramas and the craziness that happens behind the scenes of these dramas. Thank you for breaking this down and I will make sure not to support this network. What a nasty lot they all seem to be. Damn.

1
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

May his soul R.I.P ??

It sad and at the same time scary how this is a common occurrence.Most people want to pursue their passions but the path is never easy,the income is not enough,and some people don't get through it unscathed...

Some things can never be taken back...

We often forget what happens behind the scenes:
The cold nights doing live productions
-The long all-nighters (think of it like doing 14 hour OTs)
-The plastic surgery (Not everybody enjoys or wants to go under the knife)
-the rush for deadlines,illegal trades and conspirations. (People are forced to sell themselves for a position in the industry)

Ironically we watch k-dramas to escape life but the people behind the scenes are in living anything but a fairytale.
They may be behind the makings of lovable rom-coms but they're then overtaken by greed and pride.it definitely depends on the person to let fame get to them but some just...

It's scary how this generation is so obsessed with materialism and violence.

Take his generation for example:

Generation Z

Sadly people even argue over an apple just to fight.
Then when it actualmy happens we don't stop or want to help them anymore ...
Instead most watch,record, or even encourage.

Sometime on the news It was shown,
Someone calls for help it natural to help them and a man does stop by the side of the road but it turns out the guy is for better words mentally unstable and stabbed/killed him with a knife.Then for a period after that people were afraid to even help strangers !!!

What is our world coming to ?
If only we had a another dimension to travel to..
Wait..that why we went into k-dramensions
I just wanted to escape society sometimes...?
............................
Why do you mean this is reality...???
.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

For those who'd like to do something from overseas, consider leaving a comment for DramaFever here:
https://www.dramafever.com/news/dramafever-strikes-a-deal-to-bring-you-exclusive-korean-content-from-cj-em/

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

I'm surprised to see such a detailed post on the incident here, but I'm glad you did. It's quite scary how truly crazy worklife in Korea is, and as much as "know" from dramas, sometimes reality doesn't sink in until you hear reports like this.
To be honest, it's amazing that the efforts of the family and committee even got this far. I really hope that the current climate of frustration and suspicion towards shady corporations helps to turn things around for the better.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *

Wow, the PD is missing on the 21st but they only reported it a day before the PD is found dead? All sorts of wrong.

And calling the parents only to criticize their child? What is this? Grade school?

That's it, I'm boycotting.

0
0
reply

Required fields are marked *