Monday January 7, 2013
South Korean celebs express views via social media
By LEE TAE HO
Some South Korean celebrities have started to speak their minds via social media.
A few years ago, South Korean celebrities did their best to refrain from declaring their support for a particular political party or candidate. Unlike Western stars who seem to have no problems with sharing their political views or affiliations, Korean celebrities find it difficult to say anything political to the media without getting a backlash from the public.
These days, however, things seem to have changed. South Korean stars in their 20s and 30s are now more willing to voice their opinions online about public issues. Yoo Ah-in, the 26-year-old star of the KBS hit drama Sungkyunkwan Scandal, is one of these celebrities who regularly posts his political views via social networking sites.
“Entertainers have the right to vote, too, right? We’re not just here to upload self-taken pictures of ourselves on Twitter,” Yoo once said, which drew mixed views from the public.
Due to his controversial remarks, his Twitter postings became the talk of the town right around the time when South Korea held its 18th presidential election a few weeks ago.
Soon after Yoo’s favoured candidate (Ahn Cheol-soo) announced that he was giving up halfway, Yu tweeted: “I hope you guys are happy now. You should feel ashamed of yourselves for criticising Ahn!”
After the election, he sparked another controversy by saying that the public should respect the views of the 51% of voters who chose Park Geun-hye, president-elect and a former dictator’s daughter.
Since his view was somewhat opposed to many South Korean Twitterers’ progressive ideas, a heated discussion ensued between Yoo and regular netizens. Some said entertainers should be careful of exposing their political views as they are role models of South Korea’s young generation and should not show biased opinions.
On Dec 23, model-turned-actress Lee Sun-jin criticised some Twitterers who denounced the elderly for supporting Park. She got a barrage of critical comments from young South Korean netizens to which she responded thus:
“The reason why I voiced my opinion is because I believe we, the younger generation, should be considerate towards our elders.”
In the meantime, however, Yoo and Lee are also garnering positive responses from other netizens. Many have said online that they admire the two for directly stating their views.
While there are still mixed opinions about stars stating their opinions on social issues via social networking sites, it seems clear that the public is starting to prefer “real” confessions over mere PR words.
Real world issues
Jung Joon-ho, acclaimed star of IRIS, is someone who is discussed a lot online in South Korea thanks to his forthrightness. He appeared on a TV news programme recently and said that entertainers should do volunteer work whether their hearts are in it or not.
In the past, these stinging words might have attracted some angry public responses. However, this time around, Jung received much support for his statement.
When it comes to conscription in South Korea, it is quite clear that the popularity of celebrities is directly related to the issue of fulfilling the mandatory duty.
Military service is a very sensitive social issue in South Korea. Popular TV personalities have been removed from programmes, while some politicians have lost elections when it was found out that they or their sons evaded the duty.
Steve Seung-jun Yoo, a former pop singer in the late 1990s, had repeatedly stated that he would fulfil his two-year military service. But just before he was drafted in 2002, he became a naturalised US citizen. The Korean public then turned their backs on him, which essentially ended his career. The South Korean government deported Yoo, and then later banned him from entering the country.
Several entertainers have sought to be exempted from military service, because even a top star would soon be forgotten once he enters the army.
But these days, Korean fans have also changed. Actor Hyun Bin joined the Korea Marine Corps when his popularity was at its peak with starring roles in Secret Garden and Late Autumn. The actor’s decision to volunteer for the marines garnered praise from some of his fans, while others showed concern. This is a sharp contrast to the reactions that many entertainers accused of draft-dodging used to receive.
“All Korean males are required to serve in the military. As I will only be doing what all Korean men have to do, I feel embarrassed at the level of attention,” Hyun Bin said before joining the marines.
Hyun Bin, who was discharged from his military duty on Dec 6, is said to be inundated with offers of TV and film roles as well as commercials. His South Korean fans, as well as those from all over the world, certainly did not forget the star even though he was away from the public eye for 21 months. – Reuters