In light of the events that led to Park Jaebeom’s departure from 2PM, and ultimately from Korea—for fans, every cuss word in the dictionary that has to be said about the netizens has been said. We have always thought that the netizens are low-life entities that have way too much time in their hands. Digging up a comment dated 2005, not even on Jay’s own account but on a series web connections via his friends is no easy feat. Maybe this isn’t just an issue about their nature, but a reflection of the relationship between the Korean Entertainment industry and the Internet system as a whole.
We have always asked, what is the nature of the netizens that makes them have as much “power” as they seem to have? But maybe we are asking the wrong question. What is it that allows them to have that “power?”
A space for anonymity
We all know that the Internet consists of nameless, faceless, age-less, gender-less, race-less (and whatever socio-economic category + less) people coming from different backgrounds. It’s not just a divide in physical or geographical space. Anyone who’s anyone can be whoever they want to be. No one can really tell who’s behind the computer screen, no one can determine whose ideas go with which person. I can be a teenage dude one day and an old lady the next! In relation to Jay’s issue, a “female” netizen claimed that she was responsible for ratting out Jay’s comments to a reporter and putting it out in the open for everyone to see. I was a bit surprised that some people said “Well at least now we know that netizen is a she.” But will that make any difference? My point is, we always say that netizens are scary. But I think it would be safer to generalize that the Internet is the one that’s really scary. Behind those nameless, faceless people are humans as well. I’m not saying this in defense of netizens but the avenue which makes them the way they are can also be a factor.
A sense of freedom
In relation to being anonymous, comes a huge claim on freedom. No one knows who I am (except maybe my friends in my social network) so I can say whatever the hell I want! Or I could make up another identity and make a comment under that name. Anything goes! In Jay’s side, he must have felt this freedom to vent out his frustrations to a friend (which is normal), but again, the avenue he used to do it is the Internet. A lot of people are saying that of course he didn’t know the situation will blow up to this extent (in any case who can really forsee this will happen?), and the conversation between him and his friend was invaded—but can these reasons match up with the fact that the web is an open and public space? Even e-mails can be traced, accounts can be hacked, anything you do on the net can and will be used against you if you’re not careful. Again, it’s beyond SCARY. I do understand though, that Jay has the right for freedom of expression, just like all of us. But I would like to emphasize though that freedom in any form is never absolute. It has its limits. Otherwise there would be no laws. We would be killing each other for all we care. However, with the expanse of the Internet, can laws or limits bind it? Can it protect the rights of several people, much less an individual like Park Jaebeom?
Yes, but it will be hard.
A sense of equality
If there’s a place where netizens can all feel equal, it’s in the net. There was no distinction between a celebrity and an ordinary person when this all happened! I guess in this place, equality can be a double-edged sword. But I kept thinking, however, that the balance is tipped towards the netizens. In this case THEY are more powerful. On the other hand, WHO’s allowing them to be more powerful? I remember when there was this issue with the ending of the drama “Lovers in Paris.” Somehow the plot leaked and the netizens didn’t like it. So the PDs changed it. How many times have we heard about an artist committing suicide because of netizen bombardment? Maybe, just maybe, it’s the whole Korean Entertainment industry that gave them much power. Even individual celebs as well. Surely one can just brush off comments by antis and go on your way. Because netizens are the ones that buy their albums, watch their movies… they can break whoever they made. But is that enough for them to have power?
A personal note
I’m sorry about making a term-paper like post on this subject. It’s just that I feel disheartened not only because of Jay’s departure, but also I am disappointed in the system as a whole—netizens, entertainment companies, celebrities, society, everything. Sometimes I wonder why the hell do I work hard making KPOP posts, an industry that I love and grew up in—only to be disappointed over and over again. Then again, we really can’t point a single finger on anyone. If you point a finger at one person, you might as well point your four remaining fingers on yourself! We can’t disentangle ourselves from the netizens. WE are netizens ourselves. It’s just sad that there a lot of netizens who give it a bad name by frigging going overboard.
P.S. This will be the last time I’m going to talk about this topic. I’ve said my piece. Nothing I say or do can change what happened.
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