Thursday, March 26, 2009

Red Carpet, Red Tape

Anyone who's watched Korean news broadcasts, listened to Korean radio, visited a Korean website, or opened a Korean newspaper in the past few weeks has heard/seen many, many things about the rumors circulating around the suicide of Jang Ja-Yeon (장자연).

It's been reported that Ja-Yeon was blackmailed and bribed into having sex with older, influential men in order to land roles (prime example being "Boys Before Flowers (꽃보다 남자)," hugely popular and hugely popularizing its stars). She supposedly wrote a list and lengthy statements describing everything that she'd gone through. In detail. Naming names. Pointing fingers.

I applaud the late Ja-Yeon for her attempt to bring about some form of justice. I really do. The whole casting-couch thing is so stupid, so cliché. Must we still see instances of it? Why are the young too dumb to learn from the mistakes of the past? Being young doesn't make you invincible, not by a long shot, but seldom do we (as a race) acknowledge that. At least Ja-Yeon tried to do something to right many of the wrongs she saw. I can appreciate that effort.

BUT. (There's always a but.) Ja-Yeon would have served her community and herself so much better by speaking out while alive. She would be able to bear witness to those that had abused her and she would be here to answer the seemingly endless questions. She had the wherewithal to document the sins of her sexual attackers but not enough to see how much turmoil the documentation would cause?

This is where the Korean code of morals and ethics kicks in, in its most unattractive form. The shame that would come to Ja-Yeon and her family would have been immense were she here today. There's no shame now, but only because she's dead. This is literally the Korean pack mentality. No one, not her family, her hairstylist, her dogwalker, or even her 90-year-old granny would be exempt from the hyper-critical scrutiny. If she were alive now, the public humiliation, the relentless attention, the complete invasion of her privacy would probably drive her to kill herself. Ironic, no? Being savvy enough to realize that particular part of the inevitable series of events, Ja-Yeon beat a hasty retreat, right into an early grave at the age 26.

I admit, I have that same neo-Confucianism running through my veins, into both my heart and brain. But that does not mean that I will not stick up for myself no matter what public opinion is. I suppose in that sense, I'm very American- the truth will prevail, the truth will make everything RIGHT.

The worst irony of this whole thing, in my opinion, is that the RAPISTS are protected. Their names have not been released because of their "right to privacy," something that Ja-Yeon and her family would not have had if she were alive. THIS PART PISSES THE HELL OUT OF ME. I am willfully refusing to think about what might happen if the names of the RAPISTS are never made public. I can't allow myself to believe that such a miscarriage of justice could happen.

From across the Pacific, when I look over at Korea, I see people that can turn from adoring fans into rabid naysayers at the blink of an eye. Even with Ja-Yeon dead, netizens are posting plenty of negative comments, things like "she deserved it" and "she was asking for it" and "how could she be so stupid?" and so on. It's ... amazing. I don't quite know what to even say.

I hope the slimy guys that used Ja-Yeon in such a horrible way get the punishment that they deserve (although I doubt that they will). I hope that Ja-Yeon's family gets some sort of resolution to the death of their loved one. And I sincerely hope that the younger generation pays attention so that none of them repeat these mistakes- any of the mistakes committed by any of the involved parties, not just the accused but also the victim.

I also hope that the younger generation realizes that fame? Not worth this amount of heartache. Don't get the painful plastic surgery to become a famous and rich but sexually abused Barbie. Keep your small eyes and flat nose and be a happy son, daughter, husband, wife, father, mother. Please.


Diana March 26, 2009 at 11:32 PM  

Thanks for this post. It's helping me make sense of the situation over here. Being a feminist in Korea is not the easiest thing in the world.

jeanny March 27, 2009 at 4:31 PM  

I bet! Keep up the good fight and don't let those Koreans beat down your feminism. :)