Girl behaving badly pursued by netizen nemeses

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Girl behaving badly pursued by netizen nemeses

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When a student at Kyung Hee University had a verbal altercation with a cleaning lady, the last thing she expected was to become a national villainess overnight - thanks to the Internet’s power to make private matters universal.

Last Saturday, the cleaning lady’s daughter made a posting on the local Web portal Nate, the country’s third largest, saying that her mother was verbally abused by the student May 13 for failing to toss out a milk carton on a shelf in a campus toilet.

“Since the day I was born, I’ve never felt more miserable and useless than today,” read the post. “My mother was insulted in all sorts of ways by a female college student who’s just around her daughter’s age.”

The daughter alleged the student swore at her mother and demanded she throw away a paper milk carton in a public toilet. The cleaning lady explained she didn’t move it because there was milk left in the carton, so she thought it belonged to someone using the facility. According to the daughter, the college student cursed at her again and left the toilet.

The cleaning lady followed the student into a room where female college students are allowed to rest, sleep and study, and demanded an apology, the daughter wrote. The student cursed at her again and told her to do her job. She threatened to beat the cleaning lady if she didn’t leave the room.

The daughter’s posting has received 584,000 views as of today and topped the portals’ search list.

The authenticity of the story was hotly debated Sunday until a three minute, 30 second audio file of the altercation was uploaded onto the Web on Monday.

Within hours, the student became the target of an Internet-based witch hunt. Photos of a female student and her address on a local social networking site spread on the Web, but the university said the hunters identified the wrong female.

Information sociology experts said widespread use of the Internet and handy gadgets such as cell phones make life convenient but they can infringe on an individual’s privacy.

Kyung Hee University and its student council on Monday issued a public apology for the incident. Kyung Hee officials are examining CCTV records to find the student, who will be subjected to punishment by the university’s disciplinary committee, the university said.

No one knows who recorded the altercation and uploaded it.

“The cleaner said she didn’t, and we’re presuming that one of the female college students in the room recorded it with her cell phone,” an official from the university said.

The daughter who started the Internet storm now has regrets.

“I didn’t know things would become this big,” the daughter said in a message posted Monday. She pleaded with netizens to stop the witch hunt. “My mom doesn’t want her to be punished by the school. She simply wants her apology.”


By Kim Mi-ju, Kim Hyo-eun [mijukim@joongang.co.kr]
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여대생 폭언 파문 인터넷 확산의 사회학



대학의 지하 휴게실에서 벌어진 사건이 인터넷을 통해 대중에게 퍼지는 데는 불과 3일밖에 걸리지 않았다. 이른바 ‘경희대 패륜녀’ 사건이다. 지난 15일 한 네티즌이 “경희대에서 환경미화 일을 하는 어머니가 여학생에게 폭언을 들었다”는 글을 게재하자 바로 네티즌 사이에서 여학생의 신상을 공개해야 한다는 비난의 목소리가 쏟아졌다. 한 네티즌은 “휴게실에서 여자를 봤고 이름은 김모”라는 댓글을 달았다. 급기야 환경미화원 아줌마에게 막말을 한 당사자로 지목된 김모씨의 사진이 인터넷에 올랐다. 네티즌의 비난 댓글이 이어졌다. 그러나 사태가 커지자 이 글을 쓴 네티즌은 “장난이었다”고 사죄했다. 거짓말을 한 것이다. 학교 측에서 진상을 파악하고 공식사과문을 발표했지만 파문은 가라앉지 않았다.

‘경희대 패륜녀’라는 이름으로 각종 블로그와 미니홈피, 포털 사이트에 내용이 퍼졌다. 포털 사이트 검색어 1위로 올랐다. “그 상황을 목격했다”며 여학생의 인상착의를 묘사하는 글이 올라오기도 했다. 일부 네티즌은 사건과 전혀 무관한 사람의 사진을 올려 “누가 진짜 패륜녀냐”며 ‘마녀사냥’을 하기도 했다. 미화원의 딸은 18일 다시 글을 올려 “이렇게 사건이 커질 줄 몰랐다”고 말했다. 그는 “진심 어린 사과만 바랄 뿐이지 징계나 신상 공개는 원하지 않는다”며 사태가 진정되길 원했다.

그가 인터넷에 올린 글은 현재 50만 건 이상의 조회수를 기록했다. 처음 인터넷에 이 글이 올라왔을 때만 해도 큰 폭발력은 없었다. 사실 확인도 되지 않았다. 그러나 4분40초짜리 녹취록이 공개되면서 상황은 반전됐다. 문제의 여대생이 엄마뻘 되는 환경미화원에게 욕설과 막말을 하는 상황이 적나라하게 공개된 것이다. 학교 측은 “여학생 휴게실에 있던 학생 중 한 명이 휴대전화로 몰래 녹음했을 가능성이 크다”고 전했다. 전용 녹음기 없이도 최신 휴대전화만 있으면 손쉽게 녹음이 가능하기 때문이다. 특히 인터넷과 연결이 쉬운 스마트폰의 경우 버튼만 누르면 블로그 등에 바로 올릴 수 있다.


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