The Ministry of Employment and Labor said Monday it would investigate a private hospital on claims of forcing its nurses to wear revealing outfits and dance provocatively at a company talent competition.
Nurses at the Sacred Heart Hospital of Hallym University said they had to wear risqué low-cut tops and shorts and perform a sexy dance for around 900 co-workers and management, at an annual “Il-song Family Day” event last month.
The Il-song Foundation owns three Hallym universities and five Sacred Heart hospitals nationwide.
Criticized as a violation of human rights, the allegations made against the hospital underline the problematic aspects of Korean work culture where employees are often forced to participate in company drinking, sporting, and talent-showcasing events. Nurses are also traditionally subject to a “burn” culture where older nurses harass newcomers and younger nurses.
The ministry said it would begin its probe into the hospital Monday.
|Pictures show nurses dancing during the “Il-song Family Day” talent competition in 2013 (left) and 2015 (right).|
According to local reports, nurses were instructed by senior nurses to practice “(sexually) alluring facial expressions” on top of being forced to wear revealing attire and dance suggestively.
“We wore short-shorts and cut our tops near the chest area with scissors,” a nurse said. “There was no use in telling the managing staff that we did not want to participate.”
A hospital official who wished to remain anonymous claimed the talent show became more and more provocative after one team won several years ago with a sexually charged performance. The prize money, worth several thousand dollars, also added fuel to the fire, he said.
Others claimed they were forced to dance in an event called “Comfort Night for Patients,” where they had to reveal their midriffs and perform dance moves such as lying down on the floor or spreading their legs in front of patients and their guardians.
One nurse told a local media outlet that “some nurses cried from extreme humiliation, but seniors chastised her for making a fuss when everyone else is doing it.”
Another report showed a nurse, 30-weeks pregnant, was forced to participate by sitting on the asphalt floor for hours to “cheerlead” her co-workers.
Despite having to practice beyond work hours, the hospital gave no overtime compensation, according to multiple sources.
The Il-song Foundation said it had “no knowledge” of these events and announced it would investigate if people were forced to do so against their will. The foundation also noted that the institutions under its wing, not the foundation itself, decide on the details of the events such as talent shows. The foundation had no hand in forcing the type of event or the attire the women had to wear, it said.
Hallym University hospital responded by saying they will take measures to prevent a recurrence while denying any coercion at the institutional level.
“Medical staff did not force participation upon certain nurses,” the Hallym University hospital said in a statement. “It wasn’t just nurses that participated in the talent competition. Doctors participated, too. Moreover, the winner of this year’s talent competition wasn’t the team that wore revealing outfits; it was a team that wore normal workout clothes.”
Still, other nurses have come forward with forced participation in even political activities, saying they were “asked” to give financial donations to politician Kim Jin-tae for at least two consecutive years.
According to JTBC, nurses at Chuncheon Sacred Heart of Hallym University Medical Center were told to pay 100,000 won as a “political donation” to Rep. Kim Jin-tae, regardless of whether they supported the representative or not.
Hallym refuted any responsibility for the matter, saying the request was made individually by a senior nurse, not by the hospital, and issued a warning to the nurse in question.
Meanwhile, the Korean Nurses Association responded with a signed petition calling for punitive measures for those responsible while saying they will create a human rights center for nurses to address similar issues. Several citizens have also petitioned the presidential Blue House to punish those responsible for the Hallym case as of Monday.
<© Korea Biomedical Review, All rights reserved.>