South Korean actress Lee Yeol-eum is in hot water for a recent stunt on television involving illegal fishing, giant clams, and a Thai marine national park.
On 29 June, South Korean broadcast channel SBS aired an episode of popular variety show, Law of the Jungle, that reportedly showed the actress fishing for endangered giant clams in Thailand's Hat Chao Mai National Park. The show's participants then ate the clams in the following episode that aired on 30 June.
Under Thailand's laws, the giant clam is an endangered species and cannot be hunted in the wild.
Narong Kongaid, the head of Hat Chao Mai National Park, filed two charges last Wednesday against the actress for violating the National Parks law and the Wildlife Protection law. The 23-year-old actress faces up to 20,000 baht (US$650) in fines and five years in prison if sought.
"Sea resources in Hat Chao Mai cannot be caught, hunted or cooked, and the cast and crew were fully aware of that because the park firmly informed them of the park's restrictions before they began filming," said Narong.
"The one who must be responsible is the actress who caught the shellfish because she directly violated the law," he added. "Others who were involved with the incident could also be charged as well."
SBS — who initially claimed that the show was "filmed in compliance with the guidelines of the local public organisations (film board, national park) under their approval" — has since issued an apology in the wake of public backlash in both Thailand and South Korea.
"SBS once again deeply apologises for the recent Law of the Jungle issue. Subsequently, we will be conducting a thorough internal investigation and taking strict measures according to the results," the statement said. "In addition, we will do our best to take responsibility so that the cast member, Lee Yeol-eum, will not be negatively affected."
A Blue House petition has been started by netizens who feel that the responsibility should lie with the production company, and not with the actress.