No, Asiana Chairman isn't accused of sexual harassment because he "forced handshake"

Disclaimer: I am not an Asiana Airlines employee, and I am by no means related to the company. I do not have an access to the Asiana Airlines Blind, nor insider information; I just compiled what has been reported in Korean.

Koreans were infuriated after the Asiana Airlines cabin crews accused Park Sam-koo, the chairman of Kumho Asiana group (which includes Asiana Airlines) of sexual harassment. The news was not very known outside Korea, so I tagged popular bloggers such as Lucky at One Mile at a Time and Gary at View from the Wing with a link to the only English article at the time. I would like to thank Lucky and Gary for covering this, but apparently something was lost in translation, as some people genuinely do not understand why "forced handshake" constitutes sexual harassment. (Of course some people were indeed outright misogynists, but for others I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.)

So I decided to report their accusation with more direct translation to help English readers to understand what Chairman Park actually did--sometimes just too creepy, sometimes actual sexual harassment.

Asiana Airline cabin crews' accusation at Blind app

For some people who don't know what Blind is: Blind is an app where you can anonymously discuss about your employer. However, in order to create an account, you are required to certify your employment--in US Blind, it's done through company email address. And each thread or comment indicates the name of the company in which the user is employed.

So below are what Asiana cabin crews have said. Screenshot links:

Disclaimer: As these are very direct translations, sometimes the grammar is broken or the sentence might not make sense in English.

"Beginning of 2016, 4th floor, ** main office
[Mr. Park to female cabin crews]
You don't give me back hug?
Please give me back hug when I come back next time...

There were a head director and many managers but they couldn't say anything"

"Exactly same thing happened in the beginning of 2018, and [the crew] eventually gave him [the hug]"

" 'If someone hugs [me] first it's not sexual harassment, but if I give [hug] first it's sexual harassment, so I am waiting for somebody to hug me first' this is what the chairman said"

"Sam-koo is too much... when [he] comes back to Korea, employees are placed anywhere he goes, and they are forced to link arms [with him] and flatter with him. Funnier is that when his wife comes with him, we should only greet him instead"

"What was worse--the bosses ("trainers") bring tissues and force [us] to cry^^ is here North Korea???? They force us to wipe our eyes... and we have to prepare a sentence to the chairman with the bosses' [prior] confirmation^^, dance, shout, and scream"

"Title: Park Sam-koo, the Kumho Asiana chairman, comes to Asiana HQ every month

Every month, Chairman Park Sam-koo comes to the Asiana HQ. The reason is flight attendant greetings.
When he comes, so many pre-selected flight attendants line up, approach him and link arms with him, and flatter with him.
If you see this the first time, you'll be dumbfounded.
Seriously you can't even compare this to the North Pig General [Kim Jong-Un of course].
Of course these flight attendants are assigned and coerced.
He only goes around teams with mostly female, and those female employees have to attach to him and flatter wit him,
and if there's a female employee who's not willing to do so,
[he says] "You don't give me a hug?" and assault her.
There are so many other episodes, and there are more than 100 incidents reported in Asiana Airlines Blind board, with numbers only increasing.
Most of the flight attendants you see with a bright smile are victims, so for even brighter service" [Screenshot ends here]

"Training center is even worse. 30 minutes before 39(*) comes, trainers demand [us] to run to him with scream when he comes, to link arms with him, to say "I was missing you," and to pump up the mood--they brainwash us. Literally I don't know if here is South or North Korea.
More embarrassing is that they force these behaviors to the osc [Overseas Crews] flight attendants as well.
Wo Ai Ni [I love you in Chinese]~~ Aishiteru [in Japanese]~~ the crowds scream these.
I really want to report this to the press with security camera coverage!!!"

*39 is read "Sam-koo" in Korean.

Interview with press

After the Blind allegation goes viral, a former Asiana flight attendant had a phone interview with CBS (Korean one), saying:

"Each month, when Chairman Park Sam-koo visits Asiana HQ, female flight attendants stand in circle, greets him with claps"

"This event has continued more than about 10 years since I was employed, and when we "set" the personnel for the event, we exclude whom Chairman Park dislikes--if she is older, wearing pants [instead of skirts], or in a union."

"[we] hug him from the back dance while greeting him"

"[Asiana] flight attendants are coerced to do these since new recruit training"

Long story short, Chairman Park Sam-koo is exploiting Asiana Flight Attendants for his personal desire of being cheered by young attractive females, and sometimes demands unwanted physical touch from the flight attendants including a back hug. Outright creepy, and sometime indeed sexual harassment.

So, what is "forced handshake"?

This is a line from Korea Bizwire, the only English article available at the time:

"as well some feeling pressured to shake hands with him."

There are so much things lost in translation. The original Hankyoreh article states:

"Chairman Park asked flight attendants 'when did you come to Asiana' 'where are you flying today' 'did you get married' while hugging them or rubbing down hands"

"Often [he] hold hands with and hugs flight attendants"

Here "holding hands," in Korean "Sonkkakji," does mean "interdigitate" like the picture below, basically that of a romantic couple.

(Picture from Pinterest. Not related to actual incident.)

So this is what originally reported "forced handshakes." Not the Western kind of business handshakes. Even in US or Europe you don't interdigitate and rub hands for business. This is not cultural  difference, but more so of translation failure.

Also known was that Asiana flight attendants must have participated in an event called "Asiana Plaza" where female crews are forced to wear revealing clothes to do provocative dance, and male crews are forced to do drag show or take of their shirts--all for just Park Sam-koo's amusement. Of course flight attendants hate this event. The link to the video is below, although I don't know if it is ethical to report this.

These are what I have found so far. Unfortunately as stated above, I don't have a direct access to the Blind app or any insider information. If you want to ask me more questions, feel free to ask me via Email or Twitter, but I might not be able to help you due to these limitations. Thank you for reading this, and please share and spread this. That's what Asiana employees on Blind wanted.


  1. Thank you for giving us insights and inspirations. This article is really helpful and informative. We would like to see more updates from you in the future.


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