Alrighty. Now, I mentioned in my intro post how my music tastes are waaaay varied and it depends on what phase I’m in. Well, my Korean pop music phase got into serious overdrive sometime freshman year of high school and I’m still in that phase now (although it’s more of a secondary phase now).
One of my latest obsessions is the Korean boyband 2PM. They’re talented, hilarious, and of course, very VERY attractive. (I could go on and on about my favorite boy bands…but we’ll save that for another time, yes?)
Apparently, a scandal has erupted in Korea around 2PM’s leader, Jaebum (or Jay Park). Click here to read an article about it. (I linked to Popseoul, because I thought their commentary was fairer than Allkpop’s.) Basically, some years ago, Jay had posted some comments on MySpace where he said “korea is gay” and “i hate koreans”, etc.
So, let’s talk about this.
First of all, I am very very much against using the word “gay” as a derogatory term. “Gay” does not mean stupid or lame or any of those other things. It’s the same thing with the word “retarded.” These words are offensive when people use them in that way. It puts down those who are homosexual or mentally handicapped. I understand that Jay and other teenagers use those words as slang and they don’t mean it that way, but that still doesn’t make it right. When you use the words “gay” and “retarded” to substitute for a negative thing, you are perpetuating an insulting idea that being “gay” or “retarded” is negative, is a bad thing. There should be neither a positive nor a negative connotation with a label of a certain group. It would be the same as saying a certain grade level is negative – You can’t say that 6th graders are bad or that 8th graders are good – What grade level you’re in has nothing to do with whether you’re good or bad. It’s the same with race categories. You can’t say that being a certain race is good or bad; the goodness or badness of a person does not depend on the race of a person.
In that same vein, saying that you hate a group of people is too much a generalization. Especially when the word “hate” is used. Hate is such a strong word; I will admit that I have used that word rashly in my life. And I understand that that word has become used in that manner in common, colloquial speech. However, in terms of public communication, this word should be used very carefully. Jay used this word years ago in what I’m sure was supposed to be a private conversation between him and a friend. Unfortunately, the internet is a scary place and he left it where anybody could find it. And as a public figure, Jay needed to have been more careful. Being in the public eye adds that responsibility. Of course, this does not excuse the misuse of the word by everyday people, but celebrities need to be more careful.
However, I do understand that Jay was young at the time and in a stressful situation. He was in a new country where it kinda feels like he ought to belong, considering he has Korean blood in him, but at the same time, he doesn’t belong because he hadn’t grown up there. He was without family, without his old friends, and without the comforts of being well-acquainted with his environment. And he wrote some of those comments when he was 17. As a teenager, he exaggerated a bit and expressed his discomfort and loneliness in a different way than he really meant. I’m sure he never really meant that he hated Koreans…I mean, he’s Korean himself and his family is Korean…
So some of the netizens went into a frenzy about these MySpace comments and Jay issued an apology. Some netizens then added fuel to the scandal. Apparently, Jay couldn’t sing the Korean National Anthem correctly in some program and some of the netizens jumped on that. From what I gather, there have been some extreme comments against Jay, saying that he should be taken off the show, his career should be over, etc.
Although I do feel that Jay’s MySpace comments were worthy of an apology, I feel that that’s as far as it should go. I’m sure Jay has learned his lesson by now as to how careful he needs to be with his public persona. And how that public persona also needs to include what is on the internet.
But taking it further than that is wrong. The context needs to be remembered. Jay has lived most of his life in America. And while some families maintain the influence of the Korean culture in their lives, some do not. He had less opportunity and less reason to learn the Korean National Anthem. It makes sense.
Going so far as to saying that Jay’s career should be over and that he should be kicked off a show is too extreme, in my opinion. He has apologized and ought to feel remorseful for what he has done. Whether he does actually feel remorse or not, we’ll never know, but regardless, he has certainly learned his lesson that the internet is a dangerous place and that he needs to be careful with his words. He’s a public persona now, and needs to watch what he is doing.
You also can’t attribute the characteristics and actions of one person or a small section of a group to the whole group. With that said, yes, I agree that some Korean netizens take things to the extreme. However, you also can’t make a generalization that all Korean people are like that or that Korea, the country, is like that. I’ve been reading through a lot of the comments on the blogs and there have been several that say things like Korea needs to chill out or that Koreans are always arrogant and things like that. Just as the attacking netizens need to try to think from Jay’s point of view, these commenters on Jay’s side also need to try to think from the netizens’ points of view. The culture is different, certainly. Again, this doesn’t excuse any behavior but rather adds understanding. In Korea, nationalism is very important. Korea is a tiny country that has basically been squashed on for many many years (generalizing, yes). Further generalization: Koreans have needed to band together and be strong to fight against bigger enemies coming to attack. This has translated into fierce national pride, furthered by the very much homogeneous nature of the country’s population. National pride can be a great thing – it’s just that there needs to be more care in that it is put to good use. In this case, I feel that using nationalism as the reason for feeling insult is right up to the apology. Going so far as to call Jay out of the entertainment industry is too extreme. Apparently, when other members of 2PM gave encouraging words to Jay, those netizens attacked the other members as well. The one I read about was that Wooyoung had written that it’s not that Jay is just one person, but that they are a team or something to that effect. From what I gather, Wooyoung never wrote that what Jay did wasn’t wrong. Wooyoung just lent his support to Jay during this hard time. I do not think it was right of those netizens to extend the blame and the negative view onto another whose only intention was to be there for a friend. Of course, this is only applying to those specific netizens who are calling for such extreme actions.
This brings me back to another facet of the issue that bothers me – making generalizations about people based on the actions of a few. I have been asked whether I’m North Korean or South Korean. This always makes me a bit upset and angry. North Korea and South Korea have only been separate countries for a bit over 50 years, yes? I am Korean(-American). North Korea and South Korea are made up of the same people, really. And even if I did have ancestors that came from where North Korea is now, what does it matter? Would that change your opinion of me? I, too, condemn what the government of North Korea has done in the past and is doing now. But I will NOT say that North Korea is made up of evil people or anything like that. Some people in North Korea have done some terrible things. There are people in every country in this world who have done terrible things. This does not mean that a nation as a whole or a whole ethnic group is bad.
Even so, I will say that sometimes stereotypes may hold a grain of truth. As humans, we have a lot of information we need to take care of, and yes, it is easier to manage when we can group things and make broad generalizations about them. Holding stereotypes is, quite frankly, a natural thing to do. However, the important thing is not to let those stereotypes keep you from individually getting to know someone or something. You can’t let it cloud your opinion of something or someone before you even got to know it. For example, say that I generally find that autobiographies are long and boring. That doesn’t mean that all of them are and that doesn’t mean that the autobiography I see on the shelf would be boring to me. Kind of a simplified example, but you get the gist of it.
Basically, my view is that both sides have done wrong. Jay was wrong to have made such comments and to have been careless to leave them up if that’s not what his views are now. The netizens who are bashing Jay and clamoring for Jay to leave the entertainment industry or other such extreme comments were wrong to have looked for any excuse to harm Jay’s image and to ask for such extreme action.
Hopefully this will all be peacefully figured out…