The number of adjectives used to describe Rhie Won-bok’s bigotry is piling up fast. He isn’t just a flake, either, he’s popular in Korea. According to his entry on the website Korean Books Publishing Project, ”His key work ‘Far-away Nations and Neighboring Nations’ series is a mega steady seller that has sold more than 13 million copies since its first publication in 1987.” And, “It is also much loved as a popular comic book.” That is the series from which I took these photos and which contained a large and now retracted section containing conspiracy theories about Jewish control of America, a sampling of which this blogger has photos and translations of here.
Rhie Won-bok’s best-selling Monnara series isn’t much loved by me. And for numerous reasons. It’s so riddled with bigotry and alarmist exaggerations that I’m torn between derisive laughter and the earnest desire to write him and his publishers.
I’ve got more for you. He has a few panels about the 1995 Mitsubishi sexual harassment lawsuit. The EEOC (The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission – a US agency) sued Mitsubishi for widespread sexual harassment in a facility in the strangely named Normal, Illinois. I am not familiar with law nomenclature, so forgive me if I have or will misuse the vocabulary. It was a really big case, a very important step. Legal Zoom lists it in it’s five biggest sexual harassment cases. For those of you unfamiliar with it like me – hell – I was eleven when it was making headlines, here are some highlights taken from The Multinational Monitor (the emphasis is mine):
- The EEOC claims that Mitsubishi’s cultural ethos encouraged U.S. managers to “engage in a pattern and practice of sex-based discrimination which poisoned the atmosphere of employment” at its Normal, Illinois production plant.
- The EEOC’S case describes the creation of a “working environment conducive to sexual harassment” which began at Mitsubishi at the time of hire, when female employees were oriented towards Japanese culture by being told that the Japanese did not believe women should work in factories and that they should not make eye contact with Japanese managers.
- The EEOC’s filing asserts that Mitsubishi “creat[ed] and tolerat[ed] a sexually hostile and abusive work environment. The magnitude and scope of sexual and sex-based harassment at Mitsubishi, and the degree of managerial complicity therein, are unprecedented.”
- Illinois management personnel (including line supervisors) often received training in Japan. Those trips included visits to “audience participation” bars where members of the audience engaged in sexual acts with prostitutes on stage. The result of this kind of “orientation” was a “hyper-sexualized” work place back in Normal, Illinois, according to the EEOC. Women there were allegedly subjected to a barrage of unwelcome physical and verbal abuse, obscene graffiti in public and private areas of the plant (including on the cars as they came down the line), and physical incidents where men exposed themselves to women or grabbed the women workers’ breasts. Common forms of “horseplay” allegedly included taping notes on women’s backs which read “Blow up Doll,” “Sexually overactive” or “Sperm bank, deposit here,” with an arrow pointing towards the women’s buttocks.
- EEOC investigators claim that the environment at Mitsubishi “became frightening and dangerous,” especially for women who lodged complaints. Male associates used threatening words and actions against women, particularly those who complained of sexual harassment. One woman was accosted by two men in the plant who taped her hands and feet to a cart and pushed it up and down the aisles while people laughed. In another case, a male associate forcibly cut the hair of a female worker. Women were subjected to threatening phone calls, the threat of rape and stalking and assaults off work.
- According to the EEOC’s investigation, the company doctor was notorious for making anti-female remarks. One employee recalled him telling her, “You have the 3 F’s against you — you’re fat, female and forty.”
- Many of the sexual harassment victims did not complain because it was their supervisors who were doing the harassing, the EEOC alleges. Many supervisors considered new employees fair game, and made unwanted sexual advances with impunity. One supervisor allegedly told a new female hire that “she belonged to him” during her probationary period, and retaliated against her when she rebuked his sexual advances. Another supervisor’s sexual harassment of new female employees allegedly earned him the nickname: “Chester the molester.” These were the same supervisors to whom, under the company’s sexual harassment policy, women were supposed to complain.
- The next step in Mitsubishi’s policy was to complain to the company’s Employee Relations Department. But the EEOC alleges that Employee Relations managers typically responded with skepticism, indifference or outright hostility, and an inability or unwillingness to address the problem. In those instances where males were found by the company to have harassed females, the company’s standard “disciplinary” measure was allegedly to require the harasser to watch a 30-minute sexual harassment video and to place a memo in the person’s file which usually did not contain a finding of harassment. Watching the sexual harassment video allegedly became a company-wide joke, a badge of honor.
- Inaction and a lack of confidentiality allegedly deterred many women who feared retaliation and ostracism from complaining about harassment through prescribed channels. EEOC allegations lend credence to this claim. When one victim dared to complain to the EEOC, the agency alleges Mitsubishi permitted defamatory statements to be posted on bulletin boards and advised employees that the complaints were “vicious lies.”
A pattern of sexual harassment and a system wide failure to address the problem. And this is how Rhie Won-bok treats it in his beloved comic series:
If that wasn’t enough, here is the next panel, which I’ve already posted, but out of context.
Mr. Rhie portrays this lawsuit as the result of a cultural misunderstanding where women were themselves intolerant and cruel toward a ‘warm-hearted’ manager. The subtext of this is that Western women will use the law to wantonly punish men. Subtext is probably too gentle a word.
This is disgusting, Mr. Rhie. I don’t have the vocabulary to describe how appalled I am at you and your terrible book. I should sue you, I suppose. But really, you are either deliberately misrepresenting the facts, or you are incompetent and do not know what you’re talking about, and in you’re line of work, that isn’t a compliment buddy.