Podcast hosts in hot water for reaction to bikini photo

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Podcast hosts in hot water for reaction to bikini photo

When a fan of a political podcast posted a risque picture of herself in solidarity with an imprisoned activist, she probably didn’t expect her actions to serve as a launching point for feminist backlash.

However, supporters for popular podcast Naneun Ggomsuda (I’m a Petty-Minded Creep) are divided over remarks from the show’s hosts about a female protestor who sent in a picture of herself in a bikini.

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Three of the nation’s liberal online communities - Ssanghwa Tea Cocoa, Souldresser, and Hwajangbal - issued a joint statement on Monday evening that they were disappointed by the reckless remarks of the liberal hosts regarding women.

These three communities together have approximately 600,000 members in total and have cooperated with the show’s political activities such as speaking out against the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement and the four-rivers restoration project.

“We feel really sorry for the liberals who neglected women’s human rights,” the statement read. “If the hosts just said ‘we didn’t mean it. It’s our fault,’ the problem wouldn’t have grown like this.

“We thought our relationship with the show’s hosts is not just one between celebrities and fans, but as one among comrades dedicated to the world,” it continued. “Now we refuse the half-liberals and withdraw our infinite love, belief, and feeling of connection toward them.”

On Jan. 20, a female supporter of the show uploaded a photo of herself in a bikini onto a Web site dedicated to Chung Bong-ju, a host of the show who was imprisoned after mocking the president on the podcast and spreading “false rumors” that Lee had been involved in a stock manipulation scheme while running for president.

Written across her chest was the message: “My heart out, get out [of jail], Chung Bong-ju.”

The next day, the other hosts of the show cheered her on and encouraged more women to show some skin for their imprisoned friend, saying “Send photos [of yourselves] wearing swimming suits without any hesitation,” or “The photo of boobs to cheer up Chung is awesome. Be careful of nosebleeds!”

Feminists and even some liberal male activists said it was sexual harassment to praise the protest using women’s bodies and encouraged listeners to follow the move and demanded an official apology.

According to an opinion poll by Realmeter, 42 percent of 700 adult respondents said the show needs to apologize and 34 percentile said they don’t. However, at a performance held on Saturday, Kim Ou-joon, a host of the show, said that the remarks weren’t sexual harassment.

“We didn’t have any intention of sexual harassment and she [the female protestor in bikini] didn’t feel in that way,” Kim said. “She has the right to express political issues and her rights should be respected. No one can limit that right because he or she feels uncomfortable.

“It’s true that I was impressed by the biological perfection [of the woman] at first, but at the same time, I was also impressed as a political comrade by this new kind of protest,” Kim said.

But his description of “biological perfection” once again came under fire.

“Their remark related to nosebleeds means they see women with typical male-centric views, considering women as mere tools for sexual entertainment to cheer up men’s political activities,” the joint statement said. “They also fueled controversies once again saying ‘impressed by biological perfection,’ implying that its natural to view women as sexual objects.”

“The show’s hosts should realize their show is no longer a B-level alternative broadcast and has grown into a political representative if they want to become real liberals,” the statement said.

The Web site for Chung’s fan club, called Chung Bong-ju and Future Powers, was filled with posts criticizing the joint statement. A member of Chung’s site said, “The function of the [three] cafes is mostly cosmetic surgery or fashion to commercialize your sexuality. While you are selling your sexuality, is it ironic you feel unpleasant by men’s views of women are sexy?”

Another member also said, “You, gathering to learn about fashion or cosmetics, should just appreciate our four revolutionists [hosts of the show] fighting against the ruthless reality alone.” A member also said “I don’t understand why they are asking for an apology while the woman in the bikini doesn’t feel any sexual harassment.”


By Kim Hee-jin [heejin@joongang.co.kr]

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