The hashtag #EndHelloCounselor has circulated across social media after a South Korean talk show allegedly made light of a man who admitted to touching his child’s genitals.
Hello Counselor (sic) is a South Korean variety show where Korean celebrities join hosts in discussing serious issues with ‘special guests’. There are no qualiﬁed professionals onscreen and most issues are taken lightly; the guests are sometimes used as the butt of the joke. Previous episodes have addressed everything from people being too obsessed with K-Pop idols, to marriage issues, plastic surgery, and a woman whose diet consisted solely of instant ramen noodles. You often see the famous guests baﬄed at how to respond to the issues addressed, while others just laugh it oﬀ.
In this case however, people are banding together to speak up against the latest episode’s main guest. The central concept of the episode focuses on a family in which the father has a “habit” of touching his son’s genitals.
Other media and the general public have heavily criticised the show for giving the father a national platform to speak about what has been referred to as the molestation of his son. His wife and the child were present, as well as celebrities and a live studio audience.
He admitted to having the “habit of touching (the child’s genitals) when he was a baby” and still having “that habit” now that the child is ﬁve years of age. He claimed that it was okay because when he ‘plays’ with the child he always told him “(his) private part is very important.” He tells his son that he shouldn’t let his friends touch him in that way, but it’s okay for his father to do so, “because (he’s) his dad.”
The child immediately started hitting the father and one of the hosts revealed the child said in a “serious voice” during a phone interview that “he hates (the touching).”
The mother also said that the father will pull their son’s pants down at both her and his parents’ homes. She said that the son becomes “embarrassed” but the father says, “I must show what our son has got.” She does not agree with what the father was doing; this is the reason she came on the show.
The show has been criticised for making light of child molestation, as well as for broadcasting the episode rather than taking the issue to authorities. The general public is speaking up on social media with the hashtag #ENDHELLOCOUNSELOR.
Journalist Hae-Ha Kim has asked, “WTF is wrong with #HelloCounselor to glorify child abuse?” They brought up the issue of consent in their tweet:
Twitter user @billionairejoon also suggested considering the child’s perspective, tweeting that the boy doesn’t “even realise (he’s) being taken advantage (of)” and probably “thinks it’s his fault for not agreeing with his dad (and) making his parents argue.” While they are personally against the actions of the father, YouTubers “DKDKTV” used their platform to explain why there was “absolutely no buzz about this in Korea.” Allegedly, young boys’ genitals are seen as “playful objects” and “cute, little things” in traditional Korean culture.
They recalled grandparents pulling down boys’ pants to see how much they’d grown, and even a stranger touching their penises (which they described as traumatic). They also noted that when a similar occurrence happened in America, the perpetrator was arrested; despite the alleged cultural normalisation of this issue in South Korea, these acts are generally seen as molestation in Western cultures.
While they claim that touching may be seen as acceptable in Korean culture, they questioned the duration of time. The father admitted to “playing” with the child’s genitals for “ﬁve to ten minutes.”
DKDKTV say that the guests “who are there know it is a problem too,” but celebrities on the show that week have still also been criticised.
Some tried to speak up with comments like, “you know they hate it, right?” The father responded to this comment saying, “they like it at ﬁrst but after a long time, I guess they start to hate it.”
Multiple social media accounts, including @_SeeSaw_MYG on Twitter, have said the “show has always been trash for taking serious situations lightly, but this is way too far.”
Similar issues regarding non-consensual sexual acts have been addressed on Hello Counselor before. According to Twitter user @seohyundaily, a man said “his older wife physically gropes him all the time against his wishes and allows her friends” to do so as well.
If you wish to contact KBS regarding Hello Counselor and the child molestation issue, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org