[Viewpoint]Entertainers need more protectionThere are about 20 enthusiastic music fans who always go to the recordings of the “Open Music Concert,” a popular music program broadcast every month by KBS television.
Mostly middle-aged and older, they love music, have leisure time and make it their hobby to attend music concerts. A few people among them have even attended concerts held in provinces. There is a woman in her 50s, whom the concert organizers call the “yellow cap auntie.” She turns up at the concert hall with colorful headgear and an equally colorful outfit, and usually sits in the front row.
Moon Seok-min, a KBS producer who is the deputy director of the concert, said, “There are various types of people in the regular audience: There are people who always come in couples and ‘cheering squad aunties’ who stand up and applaud enthusiastically when the mood of the concert reaches its climax.”
There is no reason for singers or television broadcasters to refuse to meet these fans.
However, whenever the “Open Music Concert” is held in the provinces, a few dozen security guards are dispatched from a private company.
The guards can stop drunken audiences from creating a commotion or jumping onto the stage and also prevent the possibility of a large-scale mishap, such as the one that took place at the “MBC Song Concert” held in Sangju two years ago. Eleven people died and other several dozen were injured when a huge crowd stampeded to try to get a good seat.
Perhaps due to the fact that the “Open Music Concert” is rather old-fashioned, there have been no threats from local hooligans, Mr. Moon said.
But not all performances are as free from trouble as the open music concert. At the end of last year, a popular singer was invited to Busan for a recital.
Upon arriving at the concert hall, the singer found that the lighting and sound standards were not up to what the contract specified.
So the singer and his party declared they could not perform under such circumstances and decided to return to Seoul. When their vehicle was on the Seoul-Busan Expressway, someone from Busan called the manager. The caller belonged to an organized group of gangsters in Busan. The singer’s manager became extremely frightened and asked the driver to return to Busan. The singer had to stand on the stage and the performance was held as planned.
There have been other not-so-small precedents in which singers had to perform against their will. One singer grudgingly confessed that “quite often I was half-forced to go to nightclubs after recitals in the provinces and sing there.”
Of course, that happened because of pressure from local gangsters. It is also said that entertainers have often been forced to take photos with gangsters or threatened if they don’t autograph a couple of hundred papers or photographs at a time. The gangsters did not do so because they were enthusiastic fans of the entertainers. Nowadays, photographs and signs of well-known entertainers can make money. Therefore, it is the same as robbing someone at knifepoint.
Chae Gyu-chil, head of the security company “Strong Friends,” said, “When a client entertainer has to perform at a theater in a small city, we always check the emergency exit of the theater first.”
That is because if something happens, the best policy is to escape.
He said that old-style direct violence has almost disappeared since the entertainment companies have grown bigger and introduced a better system of management. When I heard recently that popular actor Kwon Sang-woo had been threatened by a gangster with horrific words such as, “You mean, you don’t mind if your house turns into a sea of blood tomorrow?,” I realized entertainers still have a long way to go before they are free from violent threats.
It is said that the person under suspicion denied making the remarks, so we’ll have to wait for the court to reveal the truth. Whatever his exact remarks were, the mere fact that the ring leader of organized gangsters made a telephone call is frightening enough to an ordinary citizen.
Mr. Chae, who knows the industry more than anyone else, said, “Kwon Sang-woo has the courage to speak out. I would like to applaud him for doing so.”
“Although they have not been revealed in our society, there have been many similar cases,” he said.
Then I remembered the film “Spirit of Jeet Keun Do,” in which Mr. Kwon is the protagonist. Jong-hun, a leader of the student parliament, wielded violence against his classmates partly with his fists and partly with the support of the school authority.
Protagonist Hyeon-su, played by Kwon Sang-woo, finally decided to train himself in the martial arts and learn how to use nunchucks. Finally, he fought Jong-hun’s gangs and won a sweeping victory. Then he left the school shouting, “Korea’s schools, damn you!”
For people in the entertainment world who are now in the same situation as Kwon Sang-woo, the courage he has shown is really laudable. It is a pity that the law enforcement authorities did nothing until the horrible threats were made in broad daylight.
So, the swear words Kwon Sang-woo shouted out in the film might be rephrased in this case as follows: “Korean police and prosecutors, damn you!”
*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Noh Jae-hyun