A group of more than 100 South Korean civic groups Thursday condemned the Berlin film festival for "indulging" director Kim Ki-duk, who assaulted an actress, despite its support for the #MeToo campaign against abuse of women.
Kim, 57, is one of South Korea's top directors whose awards include the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival for "Pieta" in 2012.
But an actress last year accused him of sexual and physical abuse, saying he forced her into unwanted, unscripted sex and nude scenes and slapped her repeatedly while shooting his 2013 award-winning film "Moebius" -- before replacing her with another actress.
Prosecutors dropped the sex abuse charge citing lack of evidence but fined Kim five million won ($4,600) under a procedure to settle minor cases out of court.
The actress -- who said she had quit acting due to trauma -- has appealed against the decision to dismiss the sex abuse allegation.
Kim admitted slapping her as part of "acting lessons." His latest work "Human, Space, Time and Human" will have its world premiere in the Panorama Special section of this year's Berlinale that begins Thursday.
"We are living in this unfair reality in which a physical assault offender is working and being welcomed everywhere as if nothing happened, while the victim who spoke out against the abuse is being isolated and marginalised," the group of about 140 civic groups said in a joint statement sent to the AFP.
The groups -- including major South Korean women's rights and human rights groups, NGOs helping sex abuse victims and various filmmakers' associations -- earlier voiced support for the actress.
Berlinale chief Dieter Kosslick has said this year's festival would serve as a "forum" to discuss ways to combat abuse of women in the film industry.
He also said the organisers had disqualified some works by filmmakers accused of credible sex abuse allegations from this year's event.
"Then why is the Berlinale offering indulgence to Kim by rolling out a red carpet to him and his movie?" said the statement, accusing the organisers of "condoning and endorsing" Kim's action.
It noted that Kim's victim was assaulted on a film set, like many actresses "with little experience, little recognition in the industry, or little power" who "suffered various forms of violence at the hands of powerful figures."
Her allegation is a rarity in South Korea's male-dominated and tight-knit film industry where those who speak out against abuse by a director or a producer could be banned from the industry for good.
Berlinale organisers noted that the sex abuse allegation was dismissed but said the festival "opposes and condemns any form of violence or sexual misconduct".