South Korea under pressure to crack down on cyberbullying after high-profile deaths | South Korea
The South Korean government is under increasing pressure to crack down on cyberbullying after the apparent suicides of an athlete and a YouTube influencer who were relentlessly abused online.
Kim In-hyeok, a professional volleyball player, was found dead at his home in Suwon last week, a day before the death of Cho Jang-mi, a popular live streamer better known as BJ Jammi.
Kim had received a barrage of hateful comments about her appearance and speculation about her sexual identity.
The 27-year-old, who played for Daejeon Samsung Fire Bluefangs, reportedly left a note containing “pessimistic” thoughts about his life, according to South Korean news agency Yonhap.
Cho, a YouTube influencer who was also hugely successful on game streaming platform Twitch, suffered from depression after more than two years of making sexually derogatory comments and claiming she hated men, according to a social media post. by a member of his family.
His death sparked calls for heavy punishment against other YouTubers and commentators who posted hateful rumors and comments about Cho, who was 27.
A petition on the presidential Blue House website had garnered more than 150,000 signatures as of Tuesday.
Although the global reach of South Korean pop culture is often cause for celebration, at home the combination of celebrity obsession and high rates of digital connectivity have been blamed for a number of celebrity suicides this last years.
The 2019 suicide of singer and actor Sulli sparked anger over management agencies’ failure to protect their stars from ‘toxic fandom’ and demands for government action against bullying on popular internet portals where users were able to comment anonymously.
His death prompted web portals Naver and Daum to shut down comment sections for sports and entertainment stories, but online abuse remains a problem on social media sites such as YouTube and Instagram.
“More and more people are suffering from depression and mental illness because of hate speech online. It is an issue that can destroy a person’s life,” Kim Tae-yeon, a lawyer specializing in defamation and cyberbullying cases, told Yonhap.
Cyberbullies who once abused victims on South Korean sites have simply taken to global social media platforms, knowing they will be harder to identify. As a result, police struggled to prosecute, despite an increase in the number of reported cases.
“Even if violators are caught, they usually end up with mild penalties such as fines,” Kim said.
Kim In-hyeok had publicly complained about the online abuse he had received and addressed speculation about his sexuality and use of cosmetics.
“I never wore makeup, I don’t like guys, I had a girlfriend and I’ve never appeared in an adult film,” he posted on his Instagram account last August. “People who have no idea who I really am are sending countless direct messages and posting malicious comments every time I play a game. It’s really hard to bear all this. Please, stopped.”
In 2019, Cho was accused of making a gesture in one of her videos that indicated she hated men. Her mother, who was monitoring online comments directed at her daughter, killed herself soon after, according to reports.