Thursday, November 20, 2008

Yonhap has more on the "red scare" revealed by Moon Geun-young's big donations.

A lengthy article from Yonhap, here in full via Yahoo, talks a little more about the controversy surrounding the netizen attacks on Moon Geun-young, the 21-year-old actress who has donated some 850 million won ($600,000 +) over the past five years to a charity known as The Community Chest. A controversy has erupted surrounding what motivated those donations, though, because giving huge amounts of money to charity is all some assholes need to put young stars on suicide watch.
Some of her liberal fans linked Moon's exemplary deeds to her grandfather, a teacher-turned-political prisoner. Ryu Nak-jin, who died of old age in 2005, was a pro-North Korea guerrilla fighter operating around Gwangju, a traditional progressive stronghold, before he was jailed at the end of the Korean War. He was released but imprisoned again on charges of spying for North Korea in 1971 when then authoritarian government of Park Chung-hee apprehended more than 150 such suspected spies. He was released on a special amnesty in 1999.

Moon rarely speaks of her grandfather, but once asked by reporters of her donations, she said: "My parents are troubled that I am making a lot of money at a young age. And they say we shouldn't use it haplessly. I am following my father's and mother's will."

Some critics suspect a masked ideological campaign behind the donations. Ji Man-won, an ultra conservative military critic, wrote in his blog ( that Moon serves as partisan propaganda material for leftists.

"Not only do they beautify the deeds with videos and messages on the Internet, but they are also playing at a kind of conspiracy. There is a hidden message to sublimate a non-converted Communist prisoner into a unification activist," Jin wrote.

Jin's blog fanned vicious comments on the Web, such as, "It is only an image-making stunt to raise her pay," or, "She pretends to donate anonymously as the only good girl."

Robert has added some more information on Ji and some context for his comments in a comment to my earlier post. Gusts of Popular Feeling put up a post of its own on the topic this morning, as did Ask a Korean!, so give them both a look.

Anyway, this all brings up a really good point raised in earlier articles; what kind of organization is The Community Chest that it would divulge the identity of an anonymous donor, especially when that donor is that charity's largest? And even when it knew the kinds of problems the revelation would cause?
The Community Chest said Moon's mother had personally called and asked her daughter's name be withheld, anticipating that good deeds can draw verbal attacks when publicized. As phones kept ringing and other stars were wrongfully targeted online, however, the organization decided to identify Moon, said Yu Soo-kyung, its spokesperson.

"She did it out of good will, but some people don't see it as it is but twist it," Yu said. "We are embarrassed."

Classless. Time to cross that organization off my list, then.

I'm curious if anyone knows any examples of celebrities hitting back against out-of-control netizens. We know the destructive power of these cyberbullies, sure, about how they can put people out of business and ruin careers, and how they all-too-frequently lead people to suicide. But you'd have to think enough people hate these internet whack-jobs to provoke somebody to play the hero and put the spotlight on these hateful, malicious cowards. I think my publicist would be frustrated with my lack of restraint if stuff like this started happening. And Christ, don't even get me started on the paparazzi. Thing is, somebody who went after netizens would probably come under some fire for threatening the hallowed institution of "citizen journalism" so cherished around here.


Todd T said...

What do you mean "citizen journalism"? Please explain the context. Angry netizens spreading rumors and gripes... on an unedited blog... how is that journalism?

Brian said...

No, I was referring to stuff like OhMyNews, a popular news site where anybody can submit stuff. I think if the government got serious about cutting down on cyberbullies---more serious than it is now---you'd have people viewing it as a conspiracy to shut down writing that could be considered anti-government. That it protects celebrities and private citizens would be secondary. That's just what popped into my head when I wrote this post.

Todd T said...

I thought so... (since you bring up OhmyNews, I guess I should say I work for them.)

In any case, my opinion is if a person's article/post is not edited/vetted by professionals, in some way or other, then it ain't journalism.

Ohmy vets every story that is published. Things slip through, as in any paper, but it's not the free for all that you make it out to be.

Good citizen journalism (not just my company, by the way) gets a bad rap when it's conflated with straight blogging.

Brian said...

Again, I wasn't taking a big shot at OhMyNews, just that it holds a special place in the hearts of many Koreans for what it represents. It got a lot of attention after the beef protests because it was considered "true," as opposed to the so-called slanted stuff coming from other big media outlets. I think that any reactions against netizens will be perceived by many as an infringement on the right to a quote-unquote free press.

I don't really know what should be done with netizens like this. Clearly there's a problem, both in the way people go crazy against celebrities and private citizens, and in the way people react to this criticism. Online attacks and rumors can quickly snowball into witchhunts, which can result in job loss, academic failure, and ultimately suicide. Since many people seem to realize this problem, I'm not sure why more people aren't hitting back. In the case of Moon and the actor who killed himself a few months ago---name slips my mind---there is enough political support against them to justify the attacks in some peoples' minds. So coming out against these hits, for example, would look like you're taking a position against a political side, and that would open all over cans of worms.

Todd T said...


Those nutty Korean netizens certainly scare the pants off of me.

I've been working in this field for over four years (mainly with international citizen reporters -- 114 countries, 6,000 citizen reporters) and I've had next to no trouble with them, even after editing and publishing thousands of their stories.

What is it about the Korean netizen that makes them so hostile (apart from the usual explanation of social pressures, ultra-competition, poor psychiatric care, etc.,)?

I don't know...

the Korean said...

Hey Brian, thanks for the shoutout. Just one quick thing -- my blog is titled "Ask a Korean!", with a festive exclamation mark at the end. Just like Yahoo!