Sexual harassment claims at beauty pageant probed
By Yun Suh-young
Police and organizers of the Miss Asia Pacific World Competition Korea 2011 said Friday they are looking into allegations by some participants that they were sexually harassed during the two-week competition, which ended last Saturday.
A police spokesman, however, denied a claim by a British contestant that an official from the organizing committee paid a police officer to cover up the allegations.
On Thursday Amy Willerton, 19, who participated in the competition held in Daegu, told British media that some South Korean committee officials sexually harassed participants and offered sex-for-prize deals.
She also alleged that she saw an official take out his wallet and hand money to a police officer who was called in to investigate the complaints of some pageant participants.
The organizing committee said it is now looking into the allegations of sexual harassment and bribery.
“We’re now investigating the case, but there could have been some misunderstanding among participants,” said an organizing committee official on condition of anonymity. “We’re planning to send documents to the British media explaining what happened during the competition.”
An officer from the Daegu Metropolitan Police Agency said Willerton’s bribery allegations are not true.
“Based on analysis of surveillance camera footage, we concluded that her claim is groundless,” the officer told The Korea Times.
“We analyzed the surveillance camera footage and it showed many people crowded at the scene at the time the police arrived,” the police official said. “It is just impossible for people to give or receive money in front of so many people. Why would anyone do that when everyone’s looking? We can only conclude that the pageant official was handing a business card over. Handing money over doesn’t make any sense.”
The Daegu police are also investigating Willerton’s claims, which were made after she returned home.
She said that she fled from South Korea right after she found out that bribery and sexual harassment were rampant at the pageant.
“I had two of the organizers sexually assault me - one tried to pull my top down. When we posed with sponsors they also tried to stick a hand somewhere inappropriate,” she said.
“Girls were pulled aside and told they knew what they had to do if they wanted to win - we all knew they meant sex. When we complained we were told that we would have no chance of winning if we carried on.”