The boy who knew too much: a child prodigy

This is the true story of scientific child prodigy, and former baby genius, Ainan Celeste Cawley, written by his father. It is the true story, too, of his gifted brothers and of all the Cawley family. I write also of child prodigy and genius in general: what it is, and how it is so often neglected in the modern world. As a society, we so often fail those we should most hope to see succeed: our gifted children and the gifted adults they become. Site Copyright: Valentine Cawley, 2006 +

Saturday, May 09, 2009

The suicide of Korean stars.

Korean stars have a strange habit: they commit suicide with appalling regularity. Yet, their suicides - and there have been many - are not without cause.

Choi Jin Sil, a celebrated Korean actress, committed suicide on October 2nd 2008. Jang Chae Won, a transgender entertainer, committed suicide on October 3rd 2008. The previous month, actor Ahn Jae Hwan gassed himself in his car. Woo Seung-yeon a 24 year old rookie actress hanged herself on April 27th 2009. Jeong Da-bin, a South Korean actress also hanged herself - in February 2007. Female singer, Yuni, killed herself on January 21st 2007. Movie actress Lee Eun-joo killed herself in February 2005.

I could go on listing self-inflicted Korean deaths, but I won't. I think I have listed enough to make the point: Korean stars have a seriously bad habit of killing themselves. Now, the question is why? What do all these cases - or almost all these cases - have in common?

The fans. Or shall we call them "anti-fans"? The common factor linking these deaths is the brutal, even evil, concerted comments by "anti-fans" on the stars' websites and any and all news stories relating to them. It is common in South Korea for netizens to gang up on stars and assault them with thousands and thousands of hugely unpleasant, slanderous, vile, brutal comments that attack every aspect of their lives, appearances, relationships and decisions. Few stars are prepared for this kind of ill-treatment, when they first become famous - which is why, perhaps, so many of the Korean star suicides are very young. They finally succeed at what they have aimed to do with their lives and, instead of finding joy in their success, they find themselves hounded by the most evil people imaginable. They come under constant online attack from their always anonymous detractors and attackers.

Artists, of all kinds, are usually more sensitive than the average person - that is what, after all, makes them artists. This means that these stars are vulnerable to these attacks. They find themselves not loved for their gifts, as they might have expected, but besieged by hate - and, for so many of them, the only way out appears to be at the end of a rope.

There is another consequence of this suicide of stars. Stars have followers and with each death of a star, there tends to be a rash of copycats. Thus it is no surprise that South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the developed world at 26.1 per 100,000, per year, in 2005. Indeed, among men in their twenties, it is the major cause of death.

Thus, it could be said that Korean netizens, through writing their constant barrages of hate, are killing thousands of their fellow citizens: they are, in fact, internet mass murderers.

Recognizing the seriousness of the situation, the Korean government has responded by setting up a Cyber Terror Response Centre with, an enormous 900 employees whose job is to scour the net, its messageboards and web sites, to identify posters who habitually post slanders and instigate cyber bullying. It amazes me just how big the problem must be, if it requires 900 full-time employees to begin to address it.

The Korean situation provides a strong argument against permitting the continuation of internet anonymity. Many an evil person hides behind anonymity on the internet to post vile material. Such postings are not without consequence and do, in fact, destroy lives and even kill people. It has to stop.

Korea is not alone in having this problem, though it is particularly acute there. It is a global problem, to varying degrees - and it all stems from the fact that internet hate posters can hide behind anonymity. This brings out the worst in the worst people.

It seems to me that there should always be a way to identify internet hate posters - and that they should be charged with a crime, each and every time they post internet hate. Unless the world takes a stand against such behaviour, we can expect other cultures to eventually go the way of the Korean one - in which people in the public eye are deluged with so much hate, that they would rather be dead, than continue to live and suffer it.

Let us learn from the Korean example and ensure that all hate posters, everywhere can be brought to justice.

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posted by Valentine Cawley @ 3:06 PM 


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I didn't know about this, but there have been a few American stars who died young as well.

It could be the pressure of being famous or just finding out that being popular also makes you hated by others too.

Many in the UK dream of Fame and Fortune, TV celebrity lifestyles, but that still doesn't make them happy.

I like the Motto seen on the MRT Stations "Value Life, Act Responsibly", it should be a message for everyone.

1:28 AM  
Blogger Christine said...

Yesterday I was having a conversation with a Korean who lived in Toronto for four years. He said that Koreans are always worrying about what others think of them. They are obsessed with fashion, learning, and working themselves to death in order to outdo other people. He said it's a big reason why so many Koreans want to go abroad. He said he felt so free in Canada because he didn't worry about what anyone thought of him.
I had gone to a botanical garden a few weeks ago and I was amazed at how many Korean women were walking the garden in high heels. The man said its because they care so much about fashion.

8:12 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes, valuing life is the thing to do...but these Korean stars have terrible lives once they become they would rather be dead. Their own people make their lives unlivable.

The difference with the young American stars who die young, is that usually they are not suicides - they might be overdoses like River Phoenix, for instance.

Thanks for your comment.

10:09 AM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thanks Christine, for your comment.

It is easy to see why the Korean stars are killing themselves in such high numbers, if they actually care what people think of them. I understand that the kinds of comments they have to suffer, online, are extremely unpleasant and highly critical. It is obviously too much for many of them.

Even so, I don't think we should begin to blame the victims here by saying that they died because they cared too much about what others thought: no-one should have to suffer a deluge of hate posts on a daily basis, simply because they have risen to fame. That is insane.

10:11 AM  
Blogger Miao said...

If I am not wrong, some Korean artistes committed suicide because they couldn't take the hostile working conditions in the Korean entertainment industry, which is notorious for frequently subjecting artistes - especially newcomers - to unreasonable contract terms. Woo Seung-yeon, for example, left a suicide note, accusing her company and agent of inhuman treatment.

But you are also correct in pointing out that Netizens' vicious behaviour has contributed to some of their deaths. Ahn Jae Hwan gassed himself because he couldn't repay his mounting debts which were snowballing due to the excessive interest rates. Netizens then started a rumour, accusing Choi Jin Sil of being Ahn's creditor, saying that her loansharking caused Ahn's death. She was so depressed by the rumour that she eventually committed suicide. The netizens who were responsible for starting the rumour were caught, but I am not sure what happened to them after that.

3:39 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Miao, for your comment.

I looked into the background of the artists. Typically, they suffer from netizen attacks...this appears to be something of a norm in Korea. As I noted in my post, most of the deaths, were prompted, in some way, by such attacks.

As you note, however, there are other factors, too, in some of the cases. Even in these cases, however, the environment created by hostile netizens shouldn't be ignored because that would tend to contribute to a negative/depressive mindset in the stars, leading to suicide as an option which might come to seem increasingly viable.

The Korean government sees netizens as responsible for much of the problem...hence their Cyber Terror Response Centre.

Thanks for your comment and details about particular cases.

3:58 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

By the way, Miao, a group of Koreans I spoke to blamed netizens for the high suicide rate among Korean I think the state of the industry is a lesser influence on the situation. The common perception among Koreans is that "anti-fans" are hounding stars to their deaths.

4:52 PM  
Blogger Christine said...

Yes. Korean culture makes a big deal on appearances. People get very hurt when they are insulted and don't feel that they are good enough. The cutting comments by people are taken very seriously. They should use more tact when talking about them and not be so critical.

10:51 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Yes. Moderation in public discourse would seem wise - unless Korea wants to have a severe shortage of experienced artists (because they don't hang around long enough to become experienced...)

10:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This posting is for Korean stars:

There is a Pakistani folk tale that an artist painted a portrait and put it up at a busy bazar chowk (market crossing)with remark to pinpoint the feature not properly done. He received so enormous amount of dots on portrait that original work was not recognizable. Deeply dejected, he decided never to paint again.

But his ustad (teacher/mentor) came to know about this who called him and said asked him to paint the same portrait again and put it up for improvement by any one. The artist did. The portrait remained there for the whole day but nobody could add even a single line to portrait.

The ustad said, when it comes to criticism, every body can, but when it comes to performance you have seen the result.

The artist got the message, and continued with his work.

javed iqbal khan

6:02 PM  
Blogger Valentine Cawley said...

Thank you Javed for your wise and strengthening tale.

Kind regards

7:27 PM  

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