Celebrities driven over the edge by online rumors
When actress Choi Jin-sil was found dead yesterday morning in an apparent suicide, the whole nation was shocked, but at least one person didn’t seem to sympathize.
The personal blog of Choi Jin-young, the dead star’s younger brother who is also a well-known actor, was invaded by a user identified as “Kwon Baeksu.”
Kwon not only wrote, “It’s good that she died,” but also mocked Choi Jin-young. Other netizens came to the star’s defense, retorting, “Would you be laughing like that if a member of your family died?”
Choi died yesterday morning, but her reputation is suffering a further death on the Internet by the fingertips of users who are rushing to disseminate rumors about her.
Such rumors are now thought to have played a significant role in driving the actress to commit suicide, according to the police investigation to look into the exact cause of her death.
Just a few days before she died, there was a rumor going around on the Web that Choi had loaned a significant amount of money to the late actor Ahn Jae-hwan, who killed himself early last month due to snowballing debts. According to her friends, she suffered greatly from the rumor.
In recent years, celebrities have been increasingly driven to suicide by groundless rumors and malicious remarks directed against them on the Internet.
Singer Yuni hanged herself early last year, unable anymore to deal with devastating remarks circulating on the Internet about her physical appearance and rumors that she had gone under the knife.
The news shocked Koreans, particularly because she took her own life on the day before she was scheduled to make a comeback with a third album after a hiatus of nearly two years.
One month later, actress Jeong Da-bin also took her own life, reportedly due to depression. One of the reasons for her mental state was later revealed to be personal attacks on the Internet about her appearance.
Early this year, Na Hoon-a, a successful singer with a career spanning over 40 years, was falsely rumored to be deathly ill. The story had it that Na had been castrated by yakuza, Japanese gangsters, because he was having an affair with the mistress of a gang boss. The mistress was wildly guessed at, with the names of actresses Kim Hye-soo and Kim Sun-ah thrown around. Na ended up holding a press conference in which he almost stripped in order to prove the rumor was untrue.
Byun Jung-soo, a model-turned-actress, suffered immense stress in 2003 when an unfounded report that she was killed in a car accident circulated online. A police investigation found out in a day that a female college student had set the rumor afloat “just for fun.”
“Groundless rumors and scandals involving celebrities that people utter thoughtlessly, and sometimes just for fun, have the potential to get blown out of proportion, and can be a death blow to the people concerned,” said Park Chang-ho, a professor of information and social studies at Soongsil University.
By Lee Hyun-taek JoongAng Ilbo / Park Sun-young Staff Reporter [firstname.lastname@example.org]