Monday, October 12, 2009

Weapons Disguised as Words

A few weeks ago in Korea, a heartbreaking incident put many Korean teenage girls into dismay. Jae-Beom Park, the leader of a popular Korean boy band 2PM, quit the band and ended his singing career.

Jae-Beom is a third-generation Korean-American. Although his parents are both Koreans, he was born in Seattle, and spent most of his life in the States until he came to Korea to become a singer. While he was busy preparing for his debut, he expressed his grudge against the country on Myspace, saying “Korea is gay… I hate Koreans…  I wanna come back…” When Korean people found this post on the Internet, they criticized Jae-Beom for being so immature and unpatriotic, some of them even telling him to “quit your group” and “get out of this land.” Unable to bear all these ‘ak-peuls’ – the Korean term for online verbal abuse -, Jae-Beom quit his group in the end and returned to his family in the States.

This is not the first time that Korean people’s abusive words resulted in tragedy. Last year, a famous Korean actress named Jin-sil Choi committed suicide; she could not bear with the absurd rumors about her that people had come with. A few years ago, a Korean female singer named Yoo ni hanged herself, unable to withstand all the mockery and ridicule written on her website.

It is true that the way Jae-Beom downplayed his country deserves criticism. However, let’s take one step further and think about the situation he was in at that time. Practicing every day to make a successful debut, he would have felt tired and lonely without any friends or family members to take care of him. Instead of embracing and welcoming him, Koreans considered him as an American instead, which would have led him undergo a severe identity crisis. Jae-Beom’s behavior is certainly blameworthy, but at the same time, it is understandable. Ending his career as a singer was definitely not the cost that he should have paid for his past mistake.

There are two sides to everything. The right to freedom of speech always has its limitations; it loses its validity when used to hurt other people’s feelings on purpose. We should always have in mind that our irresponsible words can yield unexpected (and often, tragic) consequences. In any case, anonymity cannot become the excuse for irresponsibility.


- Submitted by Minh Joo Yi (CAS '13)

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