Lack of will for improvements despite awareness of the poor environment
A female model who has just finished a splendid walking returns backstage. She hardly has time to even breathe. In 2 minutes, she must be ready fully dressed in the clothes, shoes and accessories for her next walk. She is completely naked. Undressing and dressing again for the next stage repeats, and even in a scene that reminds of a battlefield, she can feel the wicked, uncomfortable eyes gazing at her body. She must act indifferently about it in order to seem “like a professional.” Seniors tell her that “in order to survive in this industry, there’s no other choice” and try to comfort her, but some men’s explicit eyes towards her makes her feel unpleasant.
Baek Song-ee(24·false name) who has been working as a model for 8 years, said “Although we feel sexually humiliated when we are exposed while changing, in order to avoid being stigmatized as a ‘troublemaker’, we have to keep silent. Many fashion back stages have lax security.” She then added “it is a misjudgment if you think that the models will not notice the eyes because they are too busy changing. Since all we have on is a thong, we become more sensitive. Sometimes we cannot concentrate on our work because of the ‘bad eyes’ towards us.”
Top models are not an exception. Jang Yoon-ju who has been in the model field for 17 years appeared in KBS ‘Happy Together’ and said, “There are people who steal a glance at models changing. They stand back stage and look down on models changing. This is why models become neurotic and always look up to check.”
These examples prove that the fashion show ground is a blind spot in model’s human rights. In some fashion show places, the fitting room and passageway are not separated. Man Song-ee (23·false name) who worked as a helper for a fashion show of a domestic brand last October said, “There is no cover installed between the fittings room and passageway where people walk around. I witnessed people staring at models changing as if it’s not a big deal. At that time I did not receive any instructions to cover the models’ naked bodies with anything.”
The host of the fashion show is also aware of the terrible condition models face but they lack the will to make improvements. Kim Dong-su, Professor at the Department of Modeling in Dongduk Women's University, showed her bitterness saying, “The host of the fashion show also knows the models’ distress and are putting an effort in their own way. Female models change behind the clothe hangers hidden from the eye, and when the conditions allow it, top models are given their own fitting rooms. It is true that there are models who feel humiliated during the undressing process, but due to the fashion show structure, it is hard to expect a huge improvement.”
Choi Ji-na, General Secretary of the Korea Sexual Violence Relief Center, emphasized, “Even though it is only a gaze, if the person feels unpleasant, it is evidently sexual harassment. Fashion industry people who overlook the issue under the name of ‘professional spirit’ must. Even if installing a cover may entail costs, they must be considered for the sake of human rights of the models. The working environment must be improved.”