On November 14, false rumors about Lee Hyori’s death spread like wildfire on Twitter, causing the singer to personally respond with the words, “What do you call a joke that’s neither funny nor meaningful? Garbage.”
More recently, another celebrity death rumor caught fire in the online world, this time about Kang Ho Dong.
The death rumor, started through a vaguely worded Twitter message, also spread quickly online, causing fans to panic and worry. The rumor was found to be false and it is still unclear who started this rumor.
Fans reacted, after hearing that the death rumors of Kang Ho Dong were false, with “Why hurt someone who is having a time of self-reflection,” “This is crossing the line,” “This joke isn’t funny,” and “It reminded me of Choi Jin Shil so I was really worried.”
This second occurrence of a celebrity death rumor is prompting Korean citizens to harshly criticize such pranks, saying that whoever is doing this is crossing the line.
This particular rumor seems to have touched a nerve with the Korean public, who has been dealt with many celebrity suicides over the past few years, like that of actress Choi Jin Shil. The deaths of many celebrities were ruled a suicide and attributed to depression and public shame. In the context of Kang Ho Dong’s temporary retirement due to a tax evasion scandal, the death rumor seems to have hit the chord with the Korean public’s general concern over depression and suicide. The rumor seems to also have been fed by the public’s lack of up-dated knowledge on Kang Ho Dong’s whereabouts.
In comparison to Lee Hyori, who frequently communicates with her fans through twitter and is often seen around through photo shoots and interviews, Kang Ho Dong has not been actively seen in the media or the public. The most that people heard about Kang Ho Dong was that he was staying at home, quietly spending time with his family.
Celebrity death rumors are nothing new to the entertainment industry worldwide, and they go as far back as in the 1960s when rumors of Paul McCartney’s death shook the hearts of millions of fans. It is unclear exactly who and why some people start these rumors but it seems to hurt more in South Korea. Celebrity death rumors have a fertile and sensitive feeding ground in South Korea, which is the most wired country in the world. It also has one of the highest suicide rates globally, and celebrities have been found, too frequently, dead by suicide. Studies have also shown that suicide death rates spiked nationally when celebrities committed suicide in South Korea. So celebrity death rumors elicit a more serious response than in other countries.