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South Korea Blames Internet Rumors for Death of Actress

A couple of weeks ago Choi Jin Sil, South Korea's most famous actress, committed suicide. Now the country's officials and media have placed the blame of the tragedy at the feet of the Internet, and the rumors its users perpetuate.

Before she took her life, South Korea's vigorous online community accused Choi of being a loan shark, and motivating another actor to gas himself because she pressured him to repay a $2 million loan.

Choi's death has increased the urgency for a government that already put quelling verbal abuse at the top of its agenda, after online comments critical of their plastic surgery apparently caused the suicides of two young celebrities, a singer, and another actress. Nine hundred agents from the Cyber Terror Response Center are searching blogs and discussion boards for slander, or users who instigate cyber bullying.

In the US, the cyber bullies who contributed to the suicide of a 13-year-old girl had to answer to the law — do you think there should be a different legal standard when the victim is a celebrity being bullied by the public?


Join The Conversation
neonjelly neonjelly 8 years
celebrities should understand that they are subject to not only praise but criticism as well. there's more to choi jin sil's death than those internet rumors. she was a great actress and seemed like an overall genuine person. my mother was devastated when she heard of her death. [and that picture does no justice to how beautiful she was]
Jude-C Jude-C 8 years
Well said, MM. It may be different in South Korea, perhaps the culture creates a much more intense sensitivity to what strangers think of one, but I can't see too many limits on online speech being imposed here. I mean, Britney Spears, Lindsay Lohan, and company would all have killed themselves by now based on what people say about them on the Internet. Angelina Jolie as well (I mean, if you read those posts about her...). To have three female celebrities commit suicide supposedly because of Internet cruelty is shocking and strange.
MarinerMandy MarinerMandy 8 years
Libel and slander are difficult to prosecute for if the victim is in the public eye. South Korea and Japan do have problems with suicide culture. I don't know too much about South Korea, but I was reading an article about how in Japan people will meet on websites design to bring people together to commit suicide in MySpace but for suicide. You can't really blame the internet for that; it's a cultural problem that is exacerbated by the internet.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 8 years
Well, libel and slander ARE crimes. Free speech is limited in some cases.
Mykie7 Mykie7 8 years
Oops, hit post too soon. Most celebs in the US know to stay away from the tabloid gossip. They've said how sick or sad it makes them, so they stay away. THAT'S the way to combat this situation. If they're not smart enough not to read what is surely going to be judgemental garbage, then they sort of get what they asked for.
Mykie7 Mykie7 8 years
This is UTTERLY ridiculous. This is like saying that every one of Britney Spears problems were because people bashed her relentlessly on the internet (Which they did). If anyone had "Reason" to commit suicide it was her, but she didn't. I'm not giving that as a glowing recommendation however because what DID happen to her was almost worse, but what I AM saying is you can't stifle people's free speech. As much as I may not like it, people that don't like her have every right in the world not to like her. To call that a crime violates the constitution.
snowbunny11 snowbunny11 8 years
Legally (in America anyway) public figures are expected to put up with a lot more in terms of bullying (than a private person would), I think it's just expected. The thing that bugs me is that when a celeb who is smaller than I am is ripped apart on pop for being "fat" or "slutty" or whatever, it kind of has started creating a culture where cruelty is acceptable. I think St. Pat Jack is correct that S. Korea (and Japan too?) have odd attitudes about suicide, and that is what really needs to be addressed.
billyart101 billyart101 8 years
what a bizarre situation. you'd think that being a celebrity-theoretically with plenty of money-would help one find many a distraction from people who are simply talking trash about you. I can see how being apart of an online community and participating in negative chat rooms could devastate a young child. However this must be a cultural thing for it to really bother a celebrity that much. Maybe it's America's strong sense of capitalism, but I think most celebs in the states and europe, would say screw them I'm fabulous, wealthy and they're just jealous. It could have something to do with the strong belief in reincarnation in eastern cultures, but I wouldn't presume to be an expert.
popgoestheworld popgoestheworld 8 years
There is more going on than just internet rumors.
ilanac13 ilanac13 8 years
well - i think that the internet is one of those gray areas - i think that when there's a forum for people to post just about anything, then there's going to be trouble. you guys are right in the point that when you decide to be in the public eye, you're opening yourself up to having comments made about you and that's why they say that you need to have thick skin if you enter the business. i think that it's a horrible thing when it comes down to this - to see that so many people are being traumatized by the things that are written about them that they commit suicide. i feel like there's really nothing that can be done though unless you choose not to read the blogs and sites. nothing is sacred anymore - so if you think that some secret isn't going to be shared - then you're wrong. my thoughts do go out to the friends and families of anyone who's suffered through something like this. i've had people say HORRIBLE things about me online that have gotten me very depressed - but thankfully i've just turned away from the comments
Jillness Jillness 8 years
"South Korea needs to address its culture of suicide that is truly pervasive in the country as a whole before looking to blame any one individual for this death." I agree. This just seems very odd...I feel like there has to be more to the story. She killed herself because they accused her of being a loan shark and causing a man to gas himself? Doesn't that sound just bizzare? It almost makes me think of the mafia or something.
DefyAllLogic DefyAllLogic 8 years
that seems strange to me. if they're celebs then they should expect to be talked about. good or bad. but why is it so awful over there to have someone say mean things about you (not even to your face) that you kill yourself? our celebs aren't dying from negative publicity. i don't think the issue is the comments its the fact that no one in the culture is dealing with them in a healthy way. sad about her but it isn't like she had no way out and was being tormented day in and day out. who's scouring the internet for the high school bullies (not including childish adults egging them on, they get prosecuted) spreading rumors? no one, you get thick skin or medication and get over it.
StPat-Jack StPat-Jack 8 years
The cyber bullying experienced by a public figure goes hand in hand with their chosen career. W/O the internet, celebrities have always been a target and the internet has given those with too little self-worth and too much time on their hands, easier and more intstantnious contact. IMHO, South Korea needs to address its culture of suicide that is truly pervasive in the country as a whole before looking to blame any one individual for this death.
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