Some bloggers went too far and their fanatic nationalism led pop idol Jae-beom to quit his boy band after failing to weather harsh criticism for negative comments he made four years ago on Korea and its people, political commentators said Tuesday.
The former leader of the boy band 2PM returned to the United States after the negative description of Korea he made on a private site circulated rapidly among Internet users.
Experts say this displays the ugly side of the Korean version of nationalism or patriotism.
Jae-beom wrote on My Space back in 2005 that he “hates Koreans and wants to come back” to America where he was raised.
The 22-year-old, then a “trainee” preparing for his debut under the star incubating program sponsored by an entertainment management company, made the comments when he chatted with his online buddy.
The media reported his comments and some Koreans’ nationalistic vitriol against the star lasted for several days. It caused the leader to step down from the group and return to Seattle, where his family live.
Following his sudden, tearful farewell, his fans kicked off a campaign to bring him back, announcing that they would boycott a 2PM concert scheduled for October in protest at the management company which they suspect flexed its muscles over the affair.
Commentators and critics said that the case displays an ugly side of nationalism in Korea, echoing that his comments were tolerable and he shouldn’t be victimized.
Chin Joong-kweon, a political expert and former adjunct professor of Chung Ang University in Seoul, called the rising star’s forced exit “a tragedy driven by (bloggers’) fanatic patriotism.”
The liberal commentator said in a message on his blog that it was natural for the then teenage boy who was raised in a different cultural setting to complain about Korea to his friend in a private conversation as he would have probably had a hard time adjusting to the country.
Chin said bloggers and yellow journalism were responsible for having him kicked out of Korea, urging them to apologize for what they did.
Prof. Kang Won-taek of Soongsil University in Seoul told The Korea Times that he shared the view that the pop star’s leaving was related to some Koreans’ extreme nationalism that was circulated relentlessly through the Internet.
“There are bound to be differences between Koreans who were raised in Korea and ethnic Koreans who have spent their young and adolescent periods in America,” he said.
Kang indicated that Jae-beom shouldn’t be victimized just because of his frank description of his feelings which were made four years ago.
Meanwhile, Lee Hyun-chool, senior researcher at the National Assembly Research Service, pointed to what he called “bloggers’ herding toward online extremism” as a source of the ugly nationalism.
“If an issue flares up online, Internet users write their ideas and thoughts freely and the unfiltered thoughts spread rapidly and relentlessly. Bloggers are exposed to the unproven stories, and this ultimately could lead to online extremism,” he said. (Korea Times)