Feminism, Sexual Violence, Political Corruption. “Thanks” to these social outbursts, South Koreans today are the most liberal than they had ever been throughout history or even compared to 10 years ago. Ever since the 2016 Candlelight Revolution, the Koreans have finally realized the importance of having their voices heard.
Most countries require that their citizens put a public face on that is different from a private one. This was especially more extreme in South Korea, ultimately putting a ‘socially conservative’ frame on the country itself. The citizens eventually ended up confining their honest opinions to their closest friends and families, or only to themselves. However, many millennials in the country are starting to realize that it’s okay to be vocal about their opinions, as long as there exists a mutual respect between one another.
As a result, we have brought some good into the country, removing many corrupted politicians and celebrities though a variety of movement alike #MeToo. Moreover, the relationship between North and South Korea is looking better than ever before, taking one step closer to making peace in the world and hopefully, a unification of the divided country.
During times like this, not only the public, but also many celebrities are trying to have their voices heard. Many of these celebrities use their power of influence to first, inform the public of ongoing social issues, and second, influence them to make the right decisions (or at least the decision that they think is right in their opinions).
We often call these people the “opinion leaders,” people who are well-known enough to have the ability to influence the public opinion on the subject that matters to everyone. While some have done an exemplary job of an opinion leader, I would like to discuss why I personally believe that it’s dangerous for celebrities to become opinion leaders.
Their careers are entirely based on their image.
Celebrities tend to act based on the certain image they had established at the beginning of their careers. In some way, they are the only ones still living with two faces – a public one and a private one. This is not necessarily a bad thing, for this particular image tends to make it easier for them to get offered a role in dramas and films.
However, it also plays an important role when they want to publicly speak their minds. It’s hard for the public to ignore the already established image of these celebrities that most of the time, people tend to connect their present statement to that of their past. Often, they find something that they have said in the past simply to build a particular image that might backfire against their present belief.
The next thing you know, the heavy criticism of enraged K-Netizens falls mercilessly. At the end, most celebrities end up apologizing for their comments, not wanting to lose the image they had worked so hard to establish.
One of the examples is rapper San E, who recently released track “Feminism” to attack on the modern day feminists and/or feminists under the false pretenses.
After the recent “Isu Subway Station” controversy, involving two women and three men in an argument over feminism that later developed into a physical quarrel, San E poured fuel into the fire by releasing a video that contained the women’s rather hateful comments towards men. This video suggested that San E was accusing the women for starting the fight, which had enraged many active feminists.
The following day, San E released a track “Feminist,” in which he claimed while he is a feminist, he does not understand the logic of modern day feminists. He specifically said, “I would understand if my grandmother said that back in the day, but what’s so unfair about your life (that got you this mad)?”
After the track was released, people started calling San E a hypocrite, arguing that he was never a feminist. They dragged out previous tracks that were produced by the rapper, of many containing lyrics that clearly suggested women in subordinate position.
3 days later on November 18, the rapper released an official statement explaining his true intention behind the lyrics and apologized to fans for “offending” them. In his so-called explanation, he said that the narrator in the song is not him and he wasn’t targeting women, but the MEN who claim to be feminists, yet do not think or act accordingly.
The rapper came on strong (although we will never truly know what he intended to do with this track), but unable to fight against the fans and public turning their backs on him and scheduled events being canceled because of the song. At the end, San E backs down by flip-flopping his stance on the social issue.
The lack of professional knowledge and in-depth research into the subject.
Most of these social issues require many hours of studying and researching. They are never simple enough to learn in one sitting, looking through a few news articles and reading the posts on social network services. Real opinion leaders should put time and effort into studying the subject and be able to look at it from different aspects. At the end, they will establish an unwavering opinion that will stay firm despite the possible counter-attacks.
However, the celebrities simply don’t have enough time to properly educate themselves. The only time they are able to encounter the problems in real life are when they are moving from one event to another, which is not a lot considering the lack of sleep that needs to be fulfilled during the transportation time.
I am well-aware that these celebrities only have good intentions; they know what their power of influence can do and they want to donate that to make the world a better place. But, this needs to be supported by a thorough research, otherwise disaster struck where the celebrities hastily root for the wrong person, when not every detail has been revealed.
Suzy, for example, had to face a lot of hate and even legal battles when she showed support for the alleged sex crime victim, YouTuber Yang Ye-Won in May, 2018.
At the time, YouTuber Yang Ye-Won argued that she had been sexually harassed by a photographer during her time as a model and the nude pictures she had taken in the past have been illegally disseminated by the studio owner.
Following the revelation, the national petition popped up in support for Yang Ye-Won, of which Suzy uploaded a screenshot on her Instagram, asking her fans to sign the petition in the name of justice.
Soon afterwards, a shocking news came forward that Suzy and the petition had accused an innocent studio, ultimately leading to the singer’s apology. A few months into the case, it was also revealed that Yang Ye-Won was aware of the situation she was in while working with the photographer, as messages exchanged between the two parties came to light.
It was a good try on Suzy’s part for wanting to help the seemingly unfortunate and powerless victims, but she acted too quickly and hastily that it only cost her reputation and probably a big amount of money in the lawsuit.
The Dark Side of Media Play
The last point is not necessarily the fault of celebrities (as they weren’t either for the above two points). Rather, it is the problem of media play in South Korea and how they tend to take advantage of these celebrities’ remarks for personal profit.
It is only natural that the audience is intrigued by the comments of celebrities, more than those of professional educators/researchers. The netizens are always searching for ways to tie themselves into celebrities – the urge to relate to them as same human beings.
The media knows this a little too well. At the end, it doesn’t matter what the truth is behind the situation, most of these media outlets just need an excuse to write an article that is offensive enough to draw attention from the public, with their only goal to increase the visibility of their papers and websites.
At last, what was started off as a celebrity’s wish to use his/her power to bring light into the world, it ends up being one of the tool for media players to play around with for their personal gains. The only victims are the celebrities and their fans, who might now never reveal their true sides to the public.
I fully support the celebrities, who want to use their power of influence to make the world a better place.
However, with a power so strong, they need to also realize that there comes a great price. They need to realize that many of their fans consists of young students, who may lack knowledge in the politics and other relevant fields regarding these social issues. Out of these young fans, many of them will follow their celebrities without much doubt, doing and saying as they were heard and saw.
Although there exist some mistakes, one thing is for sure. Slowly but surely, South Korea is growing as a country, taking a small step at a time to make a better society.
by. Dasol Kim
Disclaimer: The opinions or views contained in this article may not represent the opinions or views of Kpoplove, The Korea Daily, its employees, agents or affiliates.