Veteran actor Lee Soon Jae has been considered a legend and idol in the Korean acting business as he’s had a prolific career on the small and big screen spanning over six decades.
However, he’s recently been caught up in a scandal after his former manager was fired after just 2 months of work. The former manager went to the press to reveal that he was severely mistreated and unreasonably fired.
Mr. Kim, the former manager, revealed that he applied for the actor’s manager position on a job searching site. When he was accepted, he was excited to be working alongside a top actor but soon realized that his work was more like the “life of a servant” than a manager.
Aside from the usual jobs of a manager, he claims he had to complete chores for the family. Lee Soon Jae’s wife would make him organize and take out their recyclable trash, come up to their apartment just to lift heavy items, take their clothes to the dry cleaners, and more.
“We’re jet lagged, so we can’t take out the recyclable trash on our way out. We’re sleepy and tired.”
“When are you coming? The water delivery came and you need to bring it in, so come up when you arrive.”
“You didn’t take in my slippers did you? If they ask for money, don’t give it to them. I already paid them.”
— The Wife
When the manager failed to complete the chores that the wife ordered him to do, she would yell at him saying, “What I say is the law.” She would blatantly call him “stupid” and “idiotic“.
He was even more angry that she didn’t tell their grandson, who was fully grown, to do their household chores instead.
They have a grandson. He has a big build but they never tell him to do it. I have to do even the smallest of chores.
They didn’t think of me as a manager. They thought of me as a servant.
— Mr. Kim
Out of the 2 months that he worked for Lee Soon Jae, Mr. Kim only had 5 days of rest. He worked an average of 55 hours a week, including the weekends. Despite the long hours of work, he wasn’t paid any overtime for working on weekends or holidays. He was only paid 1.8 million won (~$1,500 USD) a month.
He claimed, “It was so hard that I even stopped the car and cried at times. I wondered what I did so wrong.”
About 2 months into his work, Mr. Kim was fired. He claims it was because he complained to the wife that the company didn’t provide him health insurance.
He wanted to fight the company but was in a disadvantage as he had never signed a paper contract with them. So he mustered up the courage and approached Lee Soon Jae with his problem.
But when he got the chance to talk with Lee Soon Jae, the actor turned the manager’s complaints down by claiming that all of his former managers “felt like family” so they had no problem completing household chores without complaining about the basic needs like health insurance.
To be honest, the people before you all did everything too. Although it was outside of their job description, they helped us with the [household chores] too.
Everyone who worked with me before all worked without things like health insurance that you’re complaining about. And they all worked with me for more than a year.
As time goes on, we become like family, so we understood each other and it wasn’t a problem.
— (Alleged) Lee Soon Jae
The company claims that they had no fault except not writing up a paper contract for Mr. Kim. They say it’s difficult for them to hand out health insurances because they’re a small company run by about 5 employees.
[We didn’t give health insurance to Mr. Kim] because he didn’t have a routine schedule. It’s because he didn’t have a set resting day.
— Company CEO
But the law states otherwise. Anyone working over 15 hours a week needs to be provided with health insurance by the company. The Ministry of Employment and Labor is currently investigating Mr. Kim’s case.
Lee Soon Jae opened up in a statement that Mr. Kim’s claims were an “exaggerated one-sided story”. He explained that while some of the happenings were true, it was wildly exaggerated.
He plans to hold a press conference to address the misunderstandings and reveal his side of the story.
During the 2 months he was working, my wife made personal requests about 3 times. After finding that out, I told her to stop. I had also apologized to [Mr. Kim] about it.
He used the phrase, “life of a servant”, on the news, but it’s not right. I’m in my mid-80s and it’s been over 60 years since I debuted. Does that mean I’ve been treating my managers as servants during all this time?
Mr. Kim did talk with me about health insurance before, but all the hiring and treatment of managers are handled by the company so I told the company to listen to what Mr. Kim has to say.
If I did anything wrong, I will apologize but I will reveal all the exaggerated misunderstandings at a press conference on July 2.
— Lee Soon Jae