Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Is the Facebook video a fake?

The 2013 'Facebook video'

Part 1: Video surfaces on Facebook showing foreign men mistreating Korean woman
Part 2: Is the Facebook video fake?
Part 3: More on the Facebook video
Part 4: Today's Facebook video update
Part 5: Korea Herald follows up on the Facebook video
Part 6: A conversation with 'Last Known Survivor'
Part 7: Reports on the staged video

Part 2: Is the Facebook video fake?

The Korea Herald is reporting on this now.

[Original Post]

Last week I posted about a video of expats mistreating a Korean woman which had been posted on Facebook. As the Marmot noted, the Seoul Sinmun reported on it last week, as had JTBC, Wikitree [a 'social network news service'], and the Kukmin Ilbo. "Well, that could have been worse," one might think, but then today commenter Ben pointed out that the World Views blog at the Washington Post has a post about the incident by Max Fisher, whose tweet about it first brought it to my attention. Here's a tiny snippet:
The video first surfaced, subtitled in Korean, on June 8, when it was posted to YouTube and embedded on the Korean Web portal, Jagei.com. It made several rounds on the Korean-language Web but was quickly removed from YouTube, which cited a policy “prohibiting content designed to harass, bully or threaten.” Though it had attracted over 24,000 views in its short life on YouTube, once the video was gone, discussion around it largely ended. One month later, on July 8, it was posted again, this time to Facebook. It is still up, having generated more than 800 comments, mostly in Korean, and it’s been shared 251 times. Outrage against the two Western men (it’s not quite clear where they’re from) has grown so fierce on the Korean Web that it’s been covered in several Korean outlets.
Commenter King Baeksu takes Fisher to task for providing next to no new information (only the bit about it being posted on Youtube June 8 and at Jagei.com was new to me), though my criticism would be more that this report has caused a story which initially was covered only by four media outlets here to now be reported by Yonhap, Asia Gyeongje, Munhwa Ilbo, Money Today, NoCut News, Herald Gyeongje, Aju Gyeongje, Ilgan Sports, Seoul Sinmun (again), Kyunghyang Sinmun, Segye Ilbo, E Today, Sports Seoul and the Maeil Gyeongje. Nicely done.

The one good thing to come of it - perhaps - are these comments, the first of which King Baeksu pointed out:
11:14 AM GMT+0900
This is a video made in Bedlam bar in Itaewon in January 2011. All the people were paid actors / actresses. The director is Korean and wanted to get famous for doing some edgy viral videos. This is one of them. He tried to release this over 2 years ago and nothing happened all the websites took it down for its graphic content. I know all this because I am one of the men in this video. I do not condone the actions that I did. But this was a paid acting job no one was hurt. The actress was wearing fake gums to make her teeth look bad and everyone left the shoot smiling and shaking hands.
I have passed on this webpage to the director asking him to come forward. It is up to him if he wants to reveal himself. 2 and a half years ago he wanted this kind of fame I do not know if it will do his current career any good.
This is followed by another comment:
I have sent John Power the information and the proof that I have in confidence that he will be able to interview the Director and get his side of things. I have also sent an email to Max Fisher offering him the directors name. The fact is the director released this initially but nothing happened. He did release it without any details but that was 2 years ago. I have no idea who this new source is and if they know about the making of this video.
All of you are right to question the validity of my claims but I do not want to post the directors name on a public website for fear that he could be mistreated. I will leave it up to the press and the director to put out the truth.
If this is true, it certainly puts a different slant on things (and the desire to give a huge thumbs up to the guys who participated in it!). It's also plausible. Back in early 2010, a friend and former coworker, who was fonder of Itaewon than I, visited Korea for a month and we headed there a few times.

On the first visit we stumbled upon Bedlam (which had recently opened, I believe), and had a good time chatting with the staff and owner (the bar was mostly empty). On other visits we met Korean customers, including artsy types, one of whom was an assistant director who had worked on a Kang Woo-suk movie, if memory serves. So, like I said, it seems plausible to me. Two unanswered questions were always 1) Who posted the original video (in English), and 2) Who translated it, made subtitles, and reposted it?

I'm just curious whether, if the comments above are true, the media will report that the whole thing was a hoax, or give that a pass. If all of the outlets that reported on the WaPo story today were to report such a thing, it could make for a nice 'don't believe everything you read on the internet' moment, depending on how its spun. I'd tend to think it would be reported as a hoax, but I have been disappointed before.


King Baeksu said...

The Yonhap article is completely based on the Post story, and treats a largely unverified blog post as largely verified news. There are already nearly 3,000 comments:


Here's a sample:

"양키 고홈 십 생기들 외국인 척살"

I'll go ahead and translate that for Mr. Fisher, so that he doesn't have to bother Mr. Park for further help. Roughly:

"Yankee go home, fucking bastard foreigners, die a bloody death"

Gee, thanks for all the support, Mr. Fisher. You know, some of us actually have to live here!

Johan said...

Now Korea Herald writes about it as being staged (although they use quotation marks for staged for some reason). Anyway, let's hope that is true then:

King Baeksu said...

The director needs to man up and set the record straight. Isn't this kind of what he wanted, anyway?

There's still a lot more to this story, in fact. Someone kept trying to upload it to YouTube, for instance. Who was that? And who is "Moodclip," the individual who uploaded the video to Facebook?

I see that The Marmot's latest post on this with a link to my comments here is getting far fewer comments than his original post.

I'll bet that a year or two from now, this story will remain "emotionally true" for many people, despite evidence that the video was a hoax.

The next time some Westerner gets in the news for hassling a Korean woman for whatever reason, I can imagine many will say, "Damn, this again! Remember when those two American GIs assaulted that poor Korean girl in that video in a bar? Yankee, go home!"

Rinse, and repeat, as the saying goes.

Ben said...

The last paragraph of this post really contains the $64,000 question: if it's fake will it ever be acknowledged as such?

Fisher tweets the following:

"Yes, I have talked to the guy who claims the South Korean video was staged. I asked him for evidence. None yet."

mad statistician said...


Anonymous said...

My adult student(male) told me he hopes the story is true as first reported. He was disappointed to hear that it might not be true or that a Korean director could've directed the actors/actresses to behave in such a way. So yeah, it is already "emotional."

King Baeksu said...

Max Fisher seems curiously committed to defending the authenticity of this video. After two days, he still hasn't added an amendment or follow-up to his original story from July 15th, and his Twitter feed is full of comments like "Still no proof it was staged, though." See here:


Let's see, screenshots of a Facebook conversation between the actors and the director were shown to John Powers of the Korea Herald, who decided they were convincing enough to go with the story. However, Max Fisher, who apparently wouldn't know how to find a reliable source if it bit him in the ass, doesn't think that's good enough. Meanwhile, the story continues to get picked up by other Western media outlets like The Daily Mail, which are clearly relying on the Fisher story.

Why is Fisher so committed to defending the authenticity of this video? Put another way, why he is suddenly so rigorous in his vetting standards when he didn't even bother to authenticate the video in his original piece? I'll tell you why: Because he knows his "journalistic" reputation is on the line and he's decided to double down for now.

If Max Fisher were a real journalist, he would stop waiting for people to "email him evidence" and get off his ass and get to the bottom of this story. If he really cared about his journalistic reputation, he'd be on the next plane to Seoul so that he could be on the ground interviewing real sources.

But of course, he's not a journalist, he's just a blogger, so he'll never do that. Unfortunately, many ordinary readers will see The Washington Post "brand" and assume that his story is real-deal reportage.

As I've said before, thanks for the support, Mr. Fisher. We all appreciate it over here!

King Baeksu said...

Correction" "John Powers" is a typo. Should be "John Power."

Ben said...


See my tweet to Fisher:

@Max_Fisher I see. You tweeted "I asked him for evidence." Did you ask for name of director? (Just curious btw, I'm skeptical of claim).

And his response:

@benjawag Did not ask for name of director. At that point, hadn't seen reports he had claimed to have shared it.

Also, re your comments on the "emotional truth" of the incident despite evidence of hoax. You're on the money. See Jezebel article:

South Korea Assault Video Authenticity Debated, But It Doesn't Matter

"Let's say the video does turn out to be fake. Does that mean Westerners abroad don't ever treat women this way? Let's say the video does turn out to be fake. Does that mean Westerners abroad don't ever treat women this way? Does it mean that numerous people who believed it to be true didn't conclude that the 'kimchi girl' deserved that sort of treatment? If I fake my own mugging, that doesn't mean it's okay to mug someone, and it doesn't mean that victims of robberies are asking for it — especially if muggings are a problem that social taboos and sexist/ethnic assumptions prevent people from discussing."

King Baeksu said...

Lol at the latest Jezebel article. It's called CYA (Cover Your Ass). Both Fisher and Katie J.M. Baker seem more invested in their reputations than the actual truth. They clearly don't want it to look like they've been had.

What they don't seem to realize is that if one does not care about the truth, one simply won't have a reputation in the end -- or at least not a good one.

Anonymous said...

An unseen facebook screenshot from a random commenter is enough evidence to prove this is a hoax?

Ben said...

I am still skeptical of the claim that the video is a fake. The possibility of it being straight forward propaganda is just a bit too much for me to accept -- so far at least.

I do agree that Fisher needs to be much more aggressive in doing his research - especially now that one of the alleged actors has accurately ID'ed the bar and John Power's KH story has run.

Fisher, having broken such an explosive story and with all the potential for fallout that such stories have in Korea, has a responsibility to bring the powers of the WaPo to bear in investigating the claims that the vid is a hoax.

A lot of credit should go to John Power for doing all this work on his own. He's waiting for a call back from the alleged director of the vid to confirm or deny. Fisher should be on this as well as he'd be more likely to get a response with all the resources and the weight of the WaPo behind him. Instead it seems like he's being rather passive about it.

King Baeksu said...

Um, "phxaz1," John Power saw the screenshot so it was not "unseen." Moreover, I have offered an independent analysis as to why the scenario in the video seems suspicious. To recap:

1. Bedlam is fairly upscale and probably out of the price-range of lowlifes such as those in the video. When I was there with friends last year, the tab was well over W100,000, and they would have had to spend at least that much to get her to the state she was supposedly in.

2. Korean women don't generally go out drinking alone, especially not in "scary" It'aewon. Where were her friends? Did they simply abandon her to these deranged wolves? Korean women are notorious for "cock-blocking" -- especially when it comes to non-Koreans -- and looking out for their friends, so again, this seems highly unlikely.

3. The guys in the video don't seem able to speak Korean and she can barely string two English words together. How did they get close enough to point that she has her arm draped around his leg? Body language? Don't think so.

4. The bar is curiously empty. If no one else was around and these two guys were mauling the girl, don't you think the bar staff would have come over and intervened a lot more quickly?

I have read elsewhere that people involved with the shoot are in the process of uploading additional footage from the alleged video. We shall see soon enough what is the what, I'd say.

In any case, enough doubts have been raised that it's simply not good enough, especially for journalists, to claim, "I'm just going to sit back and continue believing the video is authentic unless someone literally emails me evidence proving otherwise."

King Baeksu said...

"The possibility of it being straight forward propaganda is just a bit too much for me to accept -- so far at least."

According to "thelastknownsurvivor" the footage was from a horror movie that was somehow leaked online. Not an intentional hoax originally, in other words, and propaganda only in the sense that they were trying to address body-image issues in Korea, again according to "thelastknownsurvivor."

mad statistician said...

King Baeksu:

I have posted what I think is pretty conclusive evidence the video is indeed filmed in Bedlam Bar (http://imgur.com/a/5Z6OF). If you turn the brightness up on the video, you can see they are sitting on a maroon velvet couch in front of some zebra stripe drapes.. with a blue light coming from below. Pretty distinctive combination of decor, which matches the interior of the Bedlam perfectly (I got the photos from their foursquare and facebook pages).

You're right, it appears to be a fairly cozy, low-key joint and this kind of scene would be totally out of place there.

It's pretty clearly not a question anymore where the event took place, it took place exactly where the guy who claims it is a hoax says. I've mailed the images to John Power but he didn't find them worthy of any more than a cryptic tweet, and nobody else really seems interested.. oh well.

Ben said...

@KB 1~4, all good points.

As for it being a planned film of some sort, any reader of this blog knows there's certainly precedent for paying foreign actors to abuse Korean women (and children) on film as entertainment for domestic audiences -- e.g. Queen Bee, Sexy Mong, Damage, SBS -- so I'm not completely incredulous.

If it does turn out to be a staged event then I'd say it was sold to the actors as a "horror film" in the same way as the "Innocence of Muslims" youtube sensation was sold to its actors as historical Arabian Desert action/adventure film.

@ mad statistician

Your page was tweeted by Fisher as ID'ing the location of the video. I don't think anyone doubts that's where it happened thanks to your efforts.

Frankly, when I saw the blue neon for the first time I assumed it was a red light district like this. But couldn't imagine a group of foreign men being allowed to wander there alone.

mad statistician said...

Ben: thanks, I didn't see that.

King Baeksu said...

Great image work, "mad statistician." In fact, I was lucky enough to sit above that same glowing blue floor myself once with a pair of lovely young lasses.

I'd like to address perhaps the most puzzling and inexplicable aspect of this video:

Two Western men decide to hit It'aewon for a night of fun and adventure. They are, as the saying goes, young, dumb and full of cum. In other words, like most red-blooded males on the near side of thirty, hooking up for the night would definitely be included on the itinerary of hoped-for events. Lo and behold, they find themselves in the company of an attractive, sexily attired young lady at one of their stops for the evening. Even better, she is beyond drunk, which is to say very pliable, and showing clear signs of attraction to one of the men both by her gestures and facial expressions. An ideal situation, right?

So what do the two men proceed to do next? The obvious: They begin to abuse and humiliate her, knowing full well that this will endear her to them even further (sarcasm). Why on earth would they suddenly shift towards such hostile behavior? Only two halfway plausible reasons, in my opinion:

1. They are gay and just aren't into women. But we can immediately reject this option because they would be up on Homo Hill if they preferred the company of men, and not wasting their time hanging out with a young woman in a known hetero bar. More to the point, most gay men I have known in my life are quite charming in the company of women and would never behave in such a philistine manner in the first place.

2. They are white supremacists who lured her into their devious "honey trap" in order to humiliate her in front of millions of YouTube and Facebook viewers. But I think we can reject this option as well, because the language they use is clearly sexist and not racist. They call her a "hooker" and repeatedly comment on her looks. They do not call her "gook" or other such racist epithets, and even take the time to identify her as "Korean" when most racists would be more likely to refer to her as "Asian" or other more general terms, since referring to her as "Korean" in effect helps to subjectivize her by referring to her specific ethnic identity -- the very opposite of a racist's intentions, on other words.

(Con't below)

King Baeksu said...

(Con't from above)

So if we can reject these two options, I'd like to know how else we can explain this sudden shift in the men's behavior. Drugs? Certainly not E, since that is not a drug that promotes aggro behavior and indeed is a known aphrodisiac. In any case, if these two men were indeed on some other drug or drugs that caused them to behave this way, the burden of proof lies on the side of defenders of the authenticity of this video, given how many doubts about the video have now been raised, and given that "thelastknownsurvivor" went quite a way towards establishing his credibility by correctly identifying the bar in question. So then: Show us what ya got!

All I can say for now is that given how comfortable the woman seems at the start of the video, the likelihood of the men being on PCP or some other psychotropic drug that promotes aggressive behavior is practically nil. She would have headed for the exit a lot earlier, in such a case.

As I have noted above, the language used by the men was sexist and sexualized in nature. According to "thelastknownsurvivor," the original movie was conceived in part as a way of addressing body-image issues in Korean society. So the last thing I would like people to consider is the young woman's teeth, which I also find to be suspicious and dubious to say the least. She has perfect skin and obviously takes care of herself. And anyone who has been in Korea for more than a few days knows very well how seriously Koreans take their dental care. Would a young, sophisticated woman from Seoul really have such serious gum problems, given how obviously thorough she is otherwise in her personal grooming? Personally, I would have to say no, and again this jibes with "thelastknownsurvivor's" explanation that her gums were artificially discolored for the production.

What say ye, Max Fisher? We'd all like to know!

Tim said...

'So the last thing I would like people to consider is the young woman's teeth....'
That's exactly what I thought the first time I saw the video two weeks ago. I didn't add up than and made me think there was something going on.

King Baeksu said...

Of course, by now Max Fisher could have easily flown to Seoul and headed right to Bedlam to interview the owner of the bar and see if any films were shot there in the past few years, thereby concluding this story once and for all. But no, he's too busy watching The Colbert Report, it would seem:


Mr. Fisher, I'm happy to do your job for you since you obviously have more important matters to attend to than the reputation of tens of thousands of Western men in Korea, but it's going to cost you. How much is the Post willing to pay me to go to Bedlam and interview the owner on your paper's behalf? And can I get a free running tab thrown in , too?

I promise to behave myself and not make any nasty videos!

Ben said...

@KB Agreed that the behavior of men is pretty improbable. Stereotypical "bad Anglos" don't look a 'gift lay' in the mouth, as it were. But perhaps we've got a group of sadistic self-hating latent homosexuals who just prefer the company he-man woman-hater autophobic gay boys like themselves? and . . . umm . . . filming their escapades and uploading them to the web? Improbable sure, but who knows?

But what strikes me as even more improbable is the claim by the alleged participants that the purpose of this particular video was to "to show the 'horror' of how society treats people with physical deformities". First, these Anglo boys wouldn’t be perceived as "society," they’re foreigners. Second, before they mock the woman's teeth and gums (were they even that bad, btw?) the boys are playing the "booger" games by picking her nose and making her eat it. So the "horror" of bad treatment occurs before any "physical deformities" are spotted. Next, while there are claims that the film was edited, consider the context of a film on "physical deformities": An extremely drunk, scantily clad, attractive Korean woman alone in a foreigners’ bar in Itaewon with non-visible tooth and gum problem. How did that get storyboarded as a short about "physical deformity"? Is this the sympathetic victim of societal abuse because of a physical deformity? Is it at all conceivable that a Korean filmmaker wouldn’t know exactly how the woman would be perceived by Korean audiences? Namely, as a yanggongju type “foreigners’ whore” despised by and wholly unsympathetic to viewers?

So that’s why I say if (and it’s a big if) the video was staged then it’s purpose was straight up anti-foreigner propaganda. But as I also said, I find that very difficult to accept. The claim is that the director wanted a viral hit and “this kind of fame,” a film on how Koreans with “physical deformities” suffer societal injustice was never going to achieve those goals, but there’s definitely reason to think that a film showing foreign men abusing a Korean woman would. It’s happened before even when audiences were told the film was staged.

Finally, if the film was staged in order to create a viral sensation why wouldn't the director come forward and claim success? Saying something like 'he never realized that this would cause such outrage and now he's ashamed' doesn't make any sense. Anyone would know how the film would be perceived. A test viewing to smaller audiences would confirm that. And Korean artists have produced (with pride) even more controversial works that created outrage. So, I'm faced with the choice that there was no director and the film was made by a group of foreigners or that the director doesn't want to come forward because it was propaganda piece. I find the former more likely -- for now at least.

King Baeksu said...

Ben, if the video was indeed conceived with the intent of going viral online due to its highly provocative content, the line about "addressing the issue of societal views of physical deformities" could be a post-facto rationalization to obscure more crass, cynical motives -- i.e., base fame lust.

There could be any number of reasons why more footage has not been released, or the director has not identified himself, or the movie itself never saw the light of day. Perhaps they did a lot of improvising during filming and were unable to get the proper tone right in the end and decided to abandon the project. Or perhaps the director wants to wait a few more days before revealing himself, given that his original intent was supposedly to make a name for himself online. After all, once he reveals himself publicly, the media coverage will quickly dissipate; dragging this thing out for a few more days guarantees more write-ups in both the domestic and international press, as we continue to see.

As things stand now, three individuals who claim to have been participants with the project have been interviewed and vetted by The Korean Herald, who found them credible enough to publish stories repeating their claims that the video was staged. How many participants in the incident have come forward claiming that it is in fact real? So far, not a single one. Where's the alleged victim? What about the bar staff or other customers? Or the bar owner? Total silence, as far as I can tell.

In a court of law, which side would win in your professional opinion?

Ben said...

The alleged "director" said "he was very concerned about the reaction of Internet users to the film and felt sorry for the foreign actors involved, stressing that the current video was very different from the intention of the original." That's pretty cryptic, but if it was staged then there is support for the position that the 78 second clip that we saw was part of a very different whole. Still, that bit on its own is so incendiary it's hard to imagine anyone setting it up without realizing what it would come to mean, if not downright intending that meaning from the start.

I'd like to see the woman come forward and say it was staged. I've seen people arguing that she would have come forward to clear her name by now if it were staged. I've seen other arguments saying she'd never come forward regardless of whether it was staged or not. If it were staged I don't think she'll be celebrated as Korea's version of lonelygirl15. IHBB likens her to Tawana Brawley, which is more in line with the propaganda hypothesis I mentioned. So far I just find that too diabolical. But I admit that J.F. Power's reports have seriously cast doubt on the authenticity of the video. I'll wait to hear more. (Can't you go Jimmy Olsen it over at the Bedlam?)

As for what a court would decide, depends on what standard of proof was being applied and who had the burden of proving it. At this point whoever would have to prove it was real or staged beyond a reasonable doubt would loose.

Ben said...


loose >> lose, but should add that -- of course -- you'd need victim to file charges before that would play out.

King Baeksu said...

The court metaphor is somewhat inappropriate and misleading. After all, the video can't be both real and fake, or simultaneously not real and not fake. It has to be one or the other. It's as simple as that.

So, given that one side has three alleged witnesses willing to testify in its support, and the other none, and you could only choose one, which would it be?

Ben said...

Indeed, the court metaphor is totally out of place since there are no charges, no apparent victim.

Also, there's a fourth witness now apparently. Obviously it doesn't look good. The odds appear very slim that it's real, but I'd like to see some more evidence. What I've heard puts the authenticity of the video in serious doubt, but I've yet to hear a compelling explanation of how the fiasco came about.

For example, look at Simon's explanation concerning the filming of Queen Bee in the comment section at the end of this post. I'd like to see something like this.

If it has been staged then, whatever the intent of the director and the original form of the film, the way it was released with the title (which was something like "this is how westerners treat Korean women" as I recall) makes it racist propaganda.

Art. 4 of the ICERD, to which Korea is a party, says "States Parties condemn all propaganda . . . which attempt[s] to justify or promote racial hatred and discrimination in any form". Further, the government "[s]hall declare an offence punishable by law" if it is an "incitement to racial discrimination . . . against any race or group of persons of another colour or ethnic origin".

Ben said...

It would be great if the alleged participants "lastknownsurvivor" and whoever else would provide comment here.