[Viewpoint] Suicide and its aftermath
Celebrities’ suicides have been taking place one after another. Ahn Jae-hwan, Choi Jin-sil and other familiar stars killed themselves, shocking society. This time, the shock is even greater in the case of Jang Ja-yeon, because some people are more interested in making public the alleged list of the men whom she was forced to have sex with rather than actually paying attention to the substance of her death.
By manipulating natural curiosity, such people seek some kind of self-interest, but that is nothing more than a shallow tactic to humiliate those supposedly on the list in order to secure a higher position in show business.
It is unclear why the young actress killed herself, but evidence and circumstances suggest that she had suffered extreme stress and depression from the alleged brutality and forced sex that she endured for the sake of her career.
The top priority is investigating the allegation. Punishing those who forced the weak actress to her death is probably the wish of the late Jang. Therefore, scandalizing the incident and using her death for other purposes are not what she would have wanted. They are disgraceful actions that effectively kill her for a second time.
Society is an accomplice in Jang’s death. We should feel embarrassed for creating such a brutal world, but some of us are actually using her death to fulfill selfish purposes. That’s simply wrong.
The first step should be reforming how we produce TV dramas. Gatekeeping does not exist, and TV shows are produced only in the way producers and production companies want. We ended up with inferior quality dramas with bizarre content. What are the broadcasting executives doing while such dramas are created?
While working at a broadcaster, I sometimes saw an executive who drank all night and came to the office before he was completely sober. After spending morning hours under the influence of alcohol, he drank more during lunch to relieve a hangover and then took a nap at a nearby sauna. A young aspiring actress was probably part of his day.
I guess now such an executive still works for a broadcaster now, but a broadcaster must never stop cleansing itself. How many more young actresses should be victimized before fundamental changes take place? We should also encourage whistleblowers to this end.
The system of the major TV broadcasting networks is problematic. The current system of the three over-air broadcasters was established when the nation’s economy was a tenth of its current size.
Therefore, a TV appearance has become a synonym for success, and people are eager to perform at all costs. Actors and actresses who do not make frequent appearances are treated as losers. To avoid this, they often have to go too far.
Sometimes a star singer or actor starts a businesses because there are not enough performance venues. Sadly, they often fail because the businesses are outside their show business expertise.
In Japan, the traditional popular ballad of enka is still loved by the people. But in Korea, traditional music is on the brink of extinction. If we compare it to the world of animals, an entire species is about to disappear. While we do everything to prevent animal extinction, we are unaware of the extinction of an artistic genre.
Because the pathway to broadcasters is blocked from the beginning, so many artistic genres simply vanish. In broadcasting, musical talent has long disappeared, and so has theatrical prowess. These days, only personal ties matter. Gifted artists are disappearing, and only the art of making connections is thriving.
If any one of the people allegedly on Jang’s list had helped the young actress, she probably became a celebrity as a result, taking into account the practices of Korea’s show business. This probably means that those on the alleged list and her death are not very closely related.
While being obsessed with minor details, we may miss a fatal illness. Though we must always be alert to prevent corruption and irregularities, it is time to resolve the fundamental problems of Korea’s show business. Failing that, we may have to face the suicides of more talented stars.
The writer is the head of the alliance of national love and culture and a former producer for the Korea Broadcasting System.