January 16, 2015 11:58
Two women have been jailed for blackmailing star actor Lee Byung-hun with a video clip that shows him making lewd remarks to them.
The Seoul Central District Court on Thursday sentenced one woman, surnamed Lee (25), to one year and two months in prison and the other, surnamed Kim (21), to one year. Prosecutors had sought three-year prison terms.
During the trial Lee, a model, testified she blackmailed the actor because he wanted to break off their relationship.
But Judge Jeong Eun-young in her ruling said text messages exchanged between the defendants do not support the claim. The judge took into account that the actor's "improper behavior" for a married man provided the seeds for the crime.
"The plaintiff, who is a celebrity figure and a married man, made lewd jokes to a much younger woman and showed he was interested in Lee as a woman."
Lee Byung-hun had visited the young woman's home and kissed her and touched her intimately. It is rare for a court to chide the victim in a blackmail case.
The judge construed the women's threat to publish the video as a carefully planned attempt to extort money from him. The 45-year-old actor filed complaints against the two women after they demanded W5 billion (US$1=W1,082).
The court also refused to accept the young woman's claim that she was the actor's mistress, saying she had refused the actor's persistent requests to meet him in private, while her text messages she sent to him do not show any amorous interest.
The judge said the woman's claim was merely an attempt to win the sympathy of the court. The judge said she had no choice but to sentence the two women to serve time, considering the amount they tried to extort and the "significant" psychological and material losses the actor suffered as a result of the case.
Lee broke down in tears as her sentence was read, while Kim betrayed no emotion.
Legal insiders were surprised by the harsh sentence. Blackmail involving such an amount of money usually entails between 10 months to two years behind bars, but since the two women did not succeed and the actor was given part of the blame, experts had expected a suspended sentence.
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