Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No putting brakes on 'Internet human rights violations'

The 2005 English Spectrum Incident

Part 1: English Spectrum and 'Ask The Playboy'
Part 2: The Kimchiland where it’s easy to sleep with women and make money
Part 3: English Spectrum shuts down as Anti-English Spectrum is created
Part 4: How to hunt foreign women
Part 5: Did the foreigners who denigrated Korean women throw a secret party?
Part 6: The 'Ask The Playboy' sexy costume party
Part 7: Stir over ‘lewd party’ involving foreigners and Korean women
Part 8: The 2003 post that tarred foreign English teachers as child molesters
Part 9: Netizens shocked by foreign instructor site introducing how to harass Korean children
Part 10: Movement to expel foreign teachers who denigrated Korean women
Part 11: "Middle school girls will do anything"
Part 12: Netizens propose 'Yankee counter strike force'
Part 13: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 1

Part 14: Segye Ilbo interview with the women from the party, part 2
Part 15: Web messages draw Koreans’ wrath
Part 16: Thai female laborers and white English instructors
Part 17: 'Regret' over t
he scandal caused by confessions of foreign instructors
Part 18: "Korean men have no excuse"
Part 19: "Unfit foreign instructors should be a 'social issue'"
Part 20: 'Clamor' at foreigner English education site
Part 21: Foreign instructor: "I want to apologize"
Part 22: No putting brakes on 'Internet human rights violations'


On January 19, 2005, as noted in this article, the 'celebrity x-file' story broke. As the New York Times described it,
A leaked dossier on celebrities' private lives commissioned by the top South Korean advertising agency has revealed a gulf of distrust between stars and those who hire them for lucrative advertising contracts.

The 113-page confidential report commissioned by Cheil Communications, a Samsung Group affiliate and the country's leading agency in terms of revenue, was posted online anonymously last week. Dubbed the "X-File," it was drawn up by a research firm, which outsourced much of the work to tabloid journalists.

The confidential report was designed to warn clients about the risks of hiring certain celebrities and to assess their career potential. In South Korea, stars are critical components of marketing. [...]
The report covered 99 entertainers, and as this post noted,
The report first scores "present position", describing how entertainers became known and what they do as well as their "prospects". Other categories, "Attractions/talents", "self-management" and "rumors" are scored in a separate table.
As the NYT continued, the rumor section
included items that ranged from the innocuous - like who is dating whom and who has had plastic surgery - to the lurid, like accusations of illegitimate births, homosexuality, drug abuse, violence and group sex.
The next day, January 20, the Munhwa Ilbo published an article titled "No putting brakes on 'Internet human rights violations'", which has the subtitle "('Entertainer X File' blows up...)."

The article begins by stating "Without the internet, the 'Entertainer X File' scandal would never have blown up as much as it has," and notes that one advertising agency's material gathering rumors in one place had turned the entire country upside down. It asserts that the fundamental problem was that ethics had not caught up with P2P methods and changing technology. As well, it blames 'yellow journalism' in part for the spread of the private information, saying that the media bore responsibility. This was because it served as the 'second epicenter,' beyond the netizens and the person who initially spread the file, with the news reports stimulating the curiosity of netizens and so promoting the spread of the information. It also notes that not just celebrities, but also recently regular people were being targeted as well. It then has two paragraphs on the English Spectrum incident:
On the 14th, an internet newspaper, without confirming the facts with the concerned parties, carried a report with a crude title and photos describing the scene of a party between foreign instructors and Korean women as a 'lewd party.'

This article was listed at various internet portal sites as 'today's most viewed news,' leading to thousands of comments. Most of the comments criticized the women who appeared in the photos, and the women suffered psychological damage they won't be able to forget for the rest of their lives.
The article goes on to say that one internet reporter said that, seeing as the netizens' preference is for gossipy news, as time goes by internet media is competing to put out sensational reports, and that things had gone past the point of being able to have control over themselves. The article also says that some internet media stimulate curiosity and contribute to the spread of unfounded rumors which leads to comments which irresponsibly slander people.

The second-last sentence reads "In celebrity-related incidents such as the stir over the 'Ms. O video' or 'Ms B clip' and other scandals, a culture of irresponsible comments protected by anonymity plays a large role." It then declares that sensationalist news coverage, reporting behavior which goes beyond a dangerous level, and "witch hunt comment culture" are links in chain which had been reproduced again with the x-file scandal.

The reference above to the women in the party photos suffering from "psychological damage they won't be able to forget for the rest of their lives" likely comes from the lengthy Segye Ilbo interview:
Owner A: I've discovered that cyber terror is a deadly poison. When our society wants to erupt over something, it still looks for weak people to criticize. The sparks from [the furor over] foreigners burned women just the same. I hope it ends soon. Those involved will suffer from nightmares for the rest of their lives.
The term 'cyber terror' would be used to describe this social problem when it reached a tipping point four months later, after a young woman who refused to clean up her dog's shit on subway, swore at those who rebuked her for this, and got off, leaving elderly passengers to clean it up proved to be more sympathetic than the women seen in the photos with foreign men.

The Ms. O and Ms B. incidents mentioned in he Munhwa Ilbo article's last paragraph are described in this December 2000 Time article, and there are certainly similarities with the English Spectrum incident:
With a successful debut album, her own radio show and an advertising contract with a Korean shoe company, Baek [Ji Young] was on the fast track to stardom. But her personal star (lite) express may have been derailed after a raunchy videotape of Baek in a bedroom romp with her former manager turned up on an Internet pay-per-view porn site on Nov. 19. Radio stations scrambled to pull her songs off the air and television stations canceled appearances. The shoe company put its Baek ads on hold. If the singer follows Korea's unspoken rule for disgraced celebrities, especially women, she will quietly walk off stage with her head bowed.

But guess what: Baek isn't following the script. Instead of slinking away, she has hired a lawyer and defiantly vows to continue singing "if a single fan wants me to." At a press conference held Nov. 29, she cried uncontrollably and apologized for arousing public criticism. Then she got feisty, denouncing her former manager and denying she knew he had the camera rolling. Instead of playing the role of the fallen woman, the singer made it clear she sees herself as the victim in this drama. Said Baek: "I decided to come forward to tell the truth to prevent other women from becoming victims like me."

That spunky attitude has turned the young entertainer into an unlikely cause célèbre for South Korea's growing women's rights movement. Korea Women's Associations United calls the scandal a "clear case of invasion of privacy and a violation of human rights," including Baek's right to earn a living. The group has filed a lawsuit against a producer at SBS, the television station that helped publicize the existence of the video. [...]

A typical Net posting reads: "Is Baek Ji Young a prostitute who gave up being a decent human being?" [...] Media watchdog groups have condemned the sensationalistic coverage and sounded somber warnings about a slide in journalist ethics. [...]

Baek has certainly fared better than popular actress Oh Hyun Kyung. After a video of Oh having sex with her boyfriend started circulating in April 1999, the media denounced the starlet and women's groups left her twisting in the wind. At a press conference, she apologized for her "crime" and then fled to Los Angeles.
As the Korea Times described Oh's ordeal,
Although it turned out that the sex was filmed without her consent and the boyfriend released it with malicious intent, the media poured harsh criticism on her. The clip and related news stories are freely available on file-sharing websites and major portals.

“It was a nightmare that is still alive,” Oh said in her tearful comeback press conference in 2007, referring to her 10-year self-imposed exile from the pubic limelight. “I have a daughter who began to learn how to read. She loves to search for my photos on websites and used to kiss the screen. But I still find my heart beating out of control when I imagine the moment when she discovers an online article revealing my past.” She implored the media not to comment about the affair in articles on her comeback.
Baek Ji-young, according to the above KT article, made a comeback in 2003, but has been haunted by the incident and stuck with a promiscuous image, which may be the reason why, as noted at the Grand Narrative, she was made to pose in a soju ad three years ago braless and with her zipper open.

In getting a lawyer, proclaiming herself the victim, and denouncing those responsible for spreading the video, her actions were similar to those of the women who were harassed by Anti English Spectrum (and to be sure, what was written by AES members and other netizens were similar to comments like "Is Baek Ji Young a prostitute who gave up being a decent human being?"). Note also the description of the spread of the video of Baek as being a "clear case of invasion of privacy and a violation of human rights," and the lawsuit filed "against a producer at SBS, the television station that helped publicize the existence of the video."

And from 2000, to 2005, we can move to the present, what with all of the 'something something girl' subway videos that have been appearing lately, which in are linked in some ways to what is described above (as well as more recent incidents). Perhaps also worth mentioning is this posting (via the Grand Narrative) about a Korean TV show which
covered how the demand as well as learned expectations of the netizens feed to and flourish from the “incendiary” entertainment news articles that coerce the entertainers to meet the (impossible) demands for physical “perfection”. they also commented on how tasteless and crude things have gotten[.]
Add "moral perfection" to the things being demanded, and we're in the same territory, with the same complaints. As for the poster's hope that this might be the start of something, I rather doubt it. Other aspects of the English Spectrum incident (beyond the internet/cyber terror/spread of personal information issues involved in this installment) go back to the 1940s (see here and here), with the latter post describing a warning to women seen with American soldiers which states that "From now on any one of you who shows [...] scandalous actions beware that you will be insulted right in front of public." 65 years later, it seems the internet has made it that much easier for such sentiments to flourish, not that Korea is alone in this regard.

1 comment:

minsoo Jun said...

Nowadays, internet human rights violation is so serious problem, not only celebrities but also regular people are being targeted as well. So, institutional strategies like internet real name system is needed. Netizen are interested in and very sensitive to rumor or gossipy news regardless of fact. Because of the development of internet and SNS, false rumor can spread easily.
For example, the academic-fraud scandal of Korean-Canadian rapper Tablo, although it was turn out to be false, his image was tarnished and he suffered serious psychological damage.
In my opinion, making policies which can protect human rights on the online is a pressing question. And also netizen should got a discriminate acceptance about information.