[FOUNTAIN]Public made uneasy by constant scrutiny

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[FOUNTAIN]Public made uneasy by constant scrutiny

Last month, 22-year-old Thao Nguyen had an embarrassing incident while returning home by subway in New York. A man unzipped his pants and made obscene gestures toward her. The surprised Vietnamese woman used her cellular phone to take a picture of the flasher and posted it on a Web site. In one night 45,000 web users uploaded the picture to other Web sites. People wrote comments such as “The mother of the guy has to see this” or “Go to hell” under the picture. The subway flasher was arrested after a week. This was the New York version of the dog poop woman in the Korean subway that became a major issue when that woman got off the subway without cleaning up her dog’s mess.
Some people view such actions as “citizen journalism” but others worry that accusing others and stealthily spreading news of their faults as the paparazzi does is now becoming part of our daily lives. Paparazzi means a “buzzing insect” in Italian. The name of the street photographer in Federico Fellini’s 1960 film. “La Dolce Vita,” was Paparazzo and paparazzi is the plural term of paparazzo. Some say Fellini invented the word by combining papatacci, a gnat that sucks on people’s blood, and razzo, lightening which occurs anytime. It was in the late 1960s when the paparazzi first made regular appearances. As Princess Caroline of Monaco, who was born in 1957, was growing up, the royal family auctioned off the rights to take pictures of her. Soon, the price of photographs of the princess skyrocketed, with some sold at 8 million francs, approximately 1.4 billion won. People tried to take pictures of the princess secretly in the hopes of earning a fortune. These people were later called paparazzi. The National Tax Service of Korea has recently decided to reward people who report tax defaulters’ hidden assets with 100 million won ($97,000). The government came up with the idea because it was having a tough time collecting taxes. The current government has frequently announced such rewards with over 50 such systems implemented and 10 more to be added soon. Issues that use the reward system involve taxes, cellular phones, real estate and newspapers: It is enough to rename the country as the “Republic of Paparazzi.” Steven Levitt wrote in his book “Freakonomics : A Rogue Economist Explores the Hidden Side of Everything” that human beings act when they are given incentives. A reward system is a strong incentive to eliminate crime, irregularity and immorality but normal citizens feel uneasy that they are constantly being watched. When will there be a world where all the selfish, irrational and criminal people disappear so there is no longer a place for the paparazzi?

by Yi Jung-jae

The writer is a deputy business news editor at the JoongAng Ilbo.
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