South Korea: Twitter, Too Much Noise or Courageous Disclosure?

In South Korea, not a few celebrities and businessmen have frequently gone under fire by their Twitters. Not only these special people who are still engaged in a bad relationship with Twitter which Twitter keeps hurting them but they still love it, but the ordinary citizen have gotten a bit of blast from unpredictably powerful Twitter and the aftermath it brings.

According to a social media consultancy, Clientopedia’s report from June, the Korean-language is the sixth most widely used in Twitter at 2.05 percent. Considering a tiny proportion of Koreans in Twitter user numbers (at 0.5 percent in the world), it shows how much Twitter is chased after by Koreans and the leverage it has in the country.

An image from Twitter Korea website.

The most recent incident that Twitter has played in, occurred few days ago. South Korea’s Hiphop legend, Lee Ha-neul had a rather boisterous bout with Korea’s major TV network. Lee, 38 year old rapper and 17 year music industry veteran whose hiphop group DJ Doc made numerous huge hits in Korea, opened a duel with SBS, Korea’s one of three major terrestrial TV networks via his Twitter. Lee wrote that SBS’s music show program ‘Popular Music’ has declined to feature his team because the team didn’t appear in SBS talk show ‘Strong Heart’ as SBS wanted, almost confirming a widely believed TV stations’ custom of giving singers a chance to promote their songs under the condition that they amuse the audience in the Networks’ talk shows. Some sarcastically named this custom a ‘1+1’ as in ‘buy one, get one free’ deal. SBS  denied Lee’s accusation and said they find a sudden drop of DJ DOC from the show quite baffling, since they were in the middle of solving schedule conflicts and added that the incident has nothing to do with the talk show.

This is what Lee tweeted :

누구를 위한 무대인가??강심장을 안 하면 자기네 방송에 출연 안 시켜주신다며 스케줄을 빼주셔서 고맙게도 널널한 주말 보내게 해주셨다. 가뜩이나 노래를 부를 수 있는 무대가 없어지고 있는 추세에 우리말고도 한번에 무대가 아쉬운 다른 선후배가수들이 이런 공갈압박을 받으며 활동하고 있다고 생각하니 기분 참 씁쓸하다… 음악방송pd를 향한 기획사들에 일방적인 짝사랑도 문제지만 지금은 잔뜩 어깨에 힘주고 가수들을 자기방송에 소모품 정도로 생각하는 pd들에 권위의식!! 토 나온다. 그런 방송 인기가요 우리 Doc는 안 하기로 했다.

For whom the stage stands?? They (SBS) have given me a slow weekend by blocking me from singing in that music show because I did not appear in the Strong Heart program. There are less and less stages for singers and senior/junior musicians are clinging so desperately to appear in just one stage, despite all the menace and pressure given to them. This is a bitter reality…It is sick to watch the entertainment agencies’ courtship with Music show’s producers, but what makes me vomit is the arrogance of the music show producers who held their heads high and treat the singers like disposable goods for their shows. We (DJ) DOC decided to drop out that show.

Majority of internet users who believe in the show business’s secret deal, have lavishly praised Lee on his courageous comments, while some expressed that they are worried for his future in the show business. One blogger commented as while powerful singers like DJ DOC can afford harsh criticisms to TV networks, recently debuted singers whose face are not known to public would never be able to file complaints and lauded Lee’s act as invigorating.

Kim Mi-hwa, Korean comedy’s living history and who has been in the show industry for 27 years and often categorized as one of vocal ‘politainers(politics plus entertainers)’ was dragged into sensational controversy several weeks earlier as she tweeted about the alleged Blacklist in KBS (another major terrestrial broadcasting) which is believed to weed out the government’s critics from KBS’s programs. Now she faces a lawsuit filed from KBS side.

As this radical shift in the disclosure pattern is felt even to non-twitter users, which are still majority of Koreans, many are still feeling bit uncomfortable with this unfiltered messages shoot directly from each individual, not to mention conservative media bashing hard on Twitter. Conservatives and moderates are asking more discretion from twitterers and stressed that the social conformity which had been one of most treasured Korean values should be secured. The blogger Blogmania commented that this kind of full-out disclosure is unsettling and irrelevant, calling it a ‘noise’. The blogger reminded people that this newly acquired ‘petitioner’s drum’ can only empower certain individuals.

김미화의 블랙리스트 발언에 이어서 오늘은 DJ DOC 의 이하늘의 SBS 인기가요와 관련하여 트위터에 원색적인 비난을 하는 글을 올리면서 소통의 장이 되어야 할 트위터가 연예인들의 신문고가 되는 것이 아닌가 합니다…이 두건의 일들로만 보자면 힘없는 연예인들이 여론이라는 힘을 등에 없고 거대 기업(권력)에 도전하는 것처럼 보여져 또 다른 권력의 재 창출로도 해석 되어질 수 있기 때문입니다…앞으로도 자신이 부당한 일을 당하게 될 때마다 이런 일을 공론화하는 기능을 트위터가 맡을 것 같아서 그 결과가 어떻게 되든지 간에 그러한 일이 벌어질 때 마다 발생하게 되는 노이즈를 저와 같은 일반인들이 받는 것은 피치 못한 같아서입니다.

After Kim Mi-wha had mentioned about the blacklist in her twitter, Lee Ha-neul tweeted unfiltered criticism at SBS’s Popular Music. The twitter which supposed to work as a place for communication is becoming some entertainer’s Sinmungo (Petitioner’s drum from Korean history)…In these two cases, (allegedly) powerless entertainers are seen as the challengers resisting against big corporates (or power) after empowered by media. And this is clearly a re-creation of another power…If celebrities choose to publicly complain about any kind of unfair treatment via Twitter, the ordinary people like me will have to endure the ‘noise’ they make.

However, twitter is no longer irrelevant even to the non-twitterers. The unfiltered information poured straight from the Twitter has embarrassed numerous ‘irrelevant’ people, especially in case of Chung Yong-jin, vice-chairman of Shinsegae Group. Chung is a heavy twitter user and customers have been filing complaints about the Shinsegae owned E-mart’s petty problems like some bad behaviors of staff and fruit conditions (some claiming the water melon is not sweet enough), directly to the vice chairman without talking to middle men. Though the consumers may enjoy the swift reactions, the managerial level workers can be covertly blamed for the thing they don’t even aware of. The blogger Plusblog commented that the fast delivery of uncontrolled message and the unpredictable impact are the beauty of Twitter.

이런 가운데 트위터가 소통의 장으로 너무 트여있다라는 목소리가 일각에서 나오고 있는데요. 일단 트위터라는 서비스는 정보의 전파속도가 기존의 미디어보다 훨씬 빠르고 제제할 수 있는 수단이 없기 때문에 문제가 많이 제기되고 있습니다…검증되지 않는 내용의 정보들이 필터링 없이 빠른 속도로 대중들에게 퍼져나간다는 게 위험 할 수도 있는 것이 사실입니다. 하지만 검증이라는 함정에 빠지지 않고, 언론 조작이라는 더 위험한 현상들을 방지 할 수 있다는 점이 트위터의 장점이라고 할 수 있습니다.

Many have voiced out worries that Twitter is too much ‘opened’ space for communication. In Twitter, the spread of information is done much faster than traditional media and it is untethered by any other controlling measures, thereby it raises (quite a) controversy…But the fact that the unverified information is spread out to public unfiltered, it means, from different angle, that the Twitter is delivering the information without falling into a death trap of ‘verification‘. Twitter also prevents public from getting confused by media manipulation. These are the Twitter’s strengths.

Korean news articles are mostly focusing on the dysfunctions Twitter has and how it has affected famous peoples’ lives adversely. But it is the local journalists who have turned basically private and intimate Twitter pages into public space while they refresh Twit pages on hourly basis searching for scoops.

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