Ji Soo, Mingyu, Soojin face severe criticism for alleged bullying, here's dark truth behind the issue in Korea
Snatching lunch money, dumping you in lockers and locking you in toilets are situations commonly portrayed to show bullying, but the way it manifests in Korea is very different
The theme of bullying is a commonly explored subject in Korean movies and shows. The recent accusations against Korean actors and K-pop stars have put bullying on focus with international fans wondering if it really is fair to punish someone for crimes that they had committed as a child, especially if they have changed in the time since the incident has occurred. However, the local Korean fans, have gone all out against stars who were accused and it is important to understand why there is such a strong reaction to one of the most common crimes committed by minors.
In fact, the shows that have gained global acclaim portray how bullying has affected students enough for them to give up on their lives even. The aggressors in these conditions do not only attack their victims physically but also attack them mentally. They repeatedly question the capability of the victims based on looks, color, academic performance and class among other things. In fact, we have heard of kids born with a golden spoon but Koreans have a term that explains where they belong economically by assigning labels as such as golden spoon, dirty spoon.
One of the things that young people in their country deal with is unfair treatment. If the aggressor is in a position that is considered 'higher' than that of the victim, if the aggressor has influence, or their parents have influence within the school, many cases of bullying get buried. So when anonymous internet users came forward to claim that JiSoo or SEVENTEEN's Mingyu were bullies in school, Koreans decided to take a hard look at their favorite stars.
More than 15 celebrities were named, and of them, JiSoo was someone who released a statement apologizing for everything that he had done in the past. JiSoo, especially, was one of the stars who many international fans were sad to see hit a dump because he is a talented actor. In fact, his show 'River Where the Moon Ends' was just beginning to hit great viewership when news of his bullying and sexual harassment came out. He was replaced by another actor for the role, and since then he has stayed low. He might never be able to come back as an actor.
If that sounds extreme, one needs to just remember the scenes in 'School 2013', 'Angry Mom', or the most recent 'Itaewon Class'. In fact, Park Sae-ro-yi's character in 'Itaewon Class' is a perfect example of how unfair and tragic the situation is, of those who are not privileged. You might wonder if the shows are exaggerating, and that the ground reality might not be as extreme. However, many Koreans online took to forums online to explain to their international counterparts how painful high school experiences are for those who are bullied in Korea.
While this in no way diminishes the experience of kids bullied outside the country, it does try to put their situation in perspective. Students who are not privileged economically have to find ways that might not always be morally right but they do it anyway to ensure that they can graduate from school. This is portrayed brilliantly in the Netflix show 'Extracurricular'.
In fact, there is a thread on Reddit called, 'Bullying in Korea (is it as bad as shown in manhwa?)'. Another thread comes with a trigger warning and is called 'It's kind of weird to see people downplaying bullying allegation when they have no knowledge of it's background in South Korea'. One user even puts things in perspective as they wrote, "It isn't just in-school bullying - it encompasses physical and sometimes sexual violence, blackmail, insults, cyberbullying... (not saying that the violent parts happen ALL THE TIME, but just mentioning that the worst cases involve these.) oftentimes it's a combination of a bunch of things. It can really ruin someone's life."
This person also quoted a tweet that favored making someone an outcast because that was the only way young members could survive in groups. This comment had received major backlash and the user wrote how this particular comment made Korean fans extremely angry. The user commented, "This is how angry people get about school violence. It's not just a 'oh so-and-so was mean to someone during their school years,' it's something that can be more serious. I'm not saying that the recent person in question is innocent or guilty, but wanted to explain why these issues are so serious."
While JiSoo was one of the few stars to accept accountability over his past actions and apologize about the same, many others had claimed that the accusations made against them were untrue. For instance, the case of SEVENTEEN member Mingyu is a great example of how claims made online through secondary sources are not always reliable. The claim against him surfaced on February 22 and this was written reportedly by a girl who claimed that she was bullied by him during middle school. She had said, a group of “scary kids + unnies” would steal from her and verbally assault her.
This user had wrote, "***gyu would laugh at me getting bullied, and he even threw coke lids at my face from 4-5 meters away. When it hit me, he would laugh even harder." However, that very day, Mingyu's alleged classmate defended him on the same community where the claim was posted. Pledis Entertainment, the agency that represents Mingyu had released a statement at this time to explain, "We have confirmed with Mingyu himself. The claims made against him are groundless and obviously false. It took time for us to check the facts thoroughly. There is a yearbook picture which the accuser posted, but it is completely different from Mingyu’s yearbook picture. Also, unlike the accusation which stated Mingyu began his traineeship in 9th grade, he actually started training in 8th grade."
Bullying has corroded through the Korean school system, and in many cases adult employees in corporate companies are also bullied into working more hours, completing work for others and being a victim of nepotism. All of this must be taken into consideration when one decides to comment on how the allegations made against stars have ruined their careers. In the case of (G)I-DLE's Soojin for instance, a sister of a victim shared that Soojin made her an outcast and the allegation said that Soojin would “make them slap each other and would send group texts saying that [her] sibling is a loner/outcast.”
She wrote, "Everyday, on the way to school, you’d scream behind her. You’d say things like, 'Hey you, little b*tch!' and 'You bbang– ddong–!' You’d even mock her like, 'What are you going to do without any parents?' You also made her get into fights by spreading rumors about her. You kept pressuring her to tailor her skirt shorter, saying that it’s too long."
Soojin's label denied the allegations initially and also claimed that they will take legal action if necessary against false allegations. However, recently after actress Seo Shin-ae made a statement personally about having been bullied by Soojin and her group, CUBE and community app Universe made a joint decision to exclude her in a new song. It was decided that she would not be included in the music composition, audio or video of the song which will be released in a five-member format.
Each of these instances shows how different bullying is for individuals and the depths to which it pervades a person's mind and affects them.