Korean Netizen vs International Reactions to K-Pop News

As a Soompi writer, I have the chance to read both comments on our news articles, which come from an international, English-speaking audience, and comments on articles aggregated in Korean search portals like Naver and Daum. Reading comments often befuddle me because international audience and Korean audience sometimes show different reactions to the same issue. Also, when Soompi published articles about Korean netizens’ take on certain issues, I found that many International netizens were critical of Korean netizens’s reactions to the news. So for Soompiers who are interested, I want to give you a way to see some controversial issues in the perspective of Korean netizens, and help you understand them, whether you agree with them or not.

Many factors can affect how a netizen reacts to an issue, such as gender, age, ethnicity, religion, and specifically for Korean entertainment news, whether you are a fan of the celebrity covered in the news or not. In order to see how Korean and international netizens’ opinions are different, I compiled popular comments on articles of controversial issues in 2014. The comments of international netizens were taken from Soompi while comments of Korean netizens from Naver, and they were carefully chosen based on number of likes they received and whether the comment reflected and summarized majority of comments in the article. Also, the selected articles of Soompi and Naver had the same, if not very similar, content.

By comparing comments on these articles, I found that the comments couldn’t help but be different for these two different communities. First, most Soompi readers tend to be young, female, K-pop fans, while commenters on Naver are from a broader demographic, since Naver is a search portal used by more than 25 million Koreans to get news on every subject.  Second, while Soompi’s audience is English-speaking readers from all over the world, Naver’s users are mostly limited to Koreans. This means that the comments on Naver will be from people with a country-specific background and education. What wouldn’t seem like a big deal to an international audience will be a sensitive issue to Korean netizens because of the country’s history.

So, what’s your own opinion on the following issues? Can you say who’s right or wrong?

Issue 1: Jessica No Longer Part of Girls’ Generation; Focusing on Business in China

Jessica GG

Soompi article 1: SM Releases Official Statement Regarding Jessica, Girls’ Generation to Continue as 8

  • dy0w**** – SM is trying to make the public think Jessica is the bad person…
  • Ming**** – Honestly GG members are at an age now where they need to be preparing for their future…Jessica is doing that. I’m wishing her great luck and prosperity.

Soompi article 2: Ex-Girls’ Generation Member Jessica Expresses Desire to Succeed in China

  • Erik****(Twitter)- congratulations to sica unnie…

Naver article 1: SM Says “Jessica Asked to Be Released First, Girls’ Generation Will Continue with Eight Members”

  • skjl****- There will be a lot of damage on Girls’ Generation. I am worried about Krystal who would be left behind in SM.
  • 7kdy**** Both [Jessica and SM] are claiming different things.

Naver article 2: Jessica Says She Wants to Succeed in China

  • gkrd****- Just live in China
  • rlfh****- She’s already Chinese

Did Jessica abandon her country for money, or was she kicked out unfairly for seeking personal ambition?

Article one of Soompi and article one of Naver have similar comments regarding Jessica leaving Girls’ Generation. Although, going through the comments for both articles, I would venture as far to say that international netizens are more distrustful of SM Entertainment, and more for Jessica being the victim, whereas many Korean netizens surmise that the breakup was caused by the Girls’ Generation members disliking Jessica’s individual activities and Jessica disregarding her original job for her business. Still, Korean netizens seemed to also think that SM may have kicked Jessica out unfairly.

However, many Koreans did not forget that Jessica announced the agonizing news through Weibo, a Chinese SNS, rather than through SNS that Koreans used. After reports of Jessica being active in China started pouring out, many Korean netizens became angry with her alleged betrayal of not Girls’ Generation or SM, but the country itself.

For many Soompi users, Jessica is another victim of SM’s horrible management system. Articles on Jessica often have comments encouraging Jessica and her new business. Also, many international fans are hoping that Jessica would come back to Girls’ Generation one day, and show great dislike towards Jessica being referred to as an “ex” Girls’ Generation member.

Issue 2: MC Mong Comes Back with an Album after Taking a Break for Five Years

mcmong miss me or diss me

Soompi article 1: MC Mong Makes His Return after 5 Years with “Miss Me or Diss Me” MV

  • rect****- A comeback I have been anticipating. ♥ I miss hearing his music and seeing him appear on variety shows.  Even if he doesn’t appear on any show, I am simply happy he really didn’t leave his passion for music behind.  This song is so good, too. ^^

Soompi article 2: Celebrities Show Support for MC Mong, Fans Lash Back

  • Noda****- thats right. knetz are mostly a bully. hey, everyone has a past. you dont keep bringing it up just because you dont want them to be successful. he reflected for 5 years, and you guys dont even support him but being angry to the person that stands by him. its totally f**ked up if you asked me.

Naver article 1: MC Mong to Comeback with New Album in Mid-September; An Album in Four Years

  • Lee7****- “MC Mong admitted being guilty of postponing serving the military number of times, and was charged with six months of prison, a year of probation, and 120 hours of community service.” People keep saying he was innocent but he was judged innocent for the “teeth” part only, he was judged guilty for rest of the charges.

Naver article 2: Will MC Mong Succeed with His New Album?

  • Tos1**** I keep hearing people say “Isn’t being on hiatus for five years enough” but let’s make this clear. Do you think he took a break for five years because he wanted to? Haha. The Military Administration extended the age limit for MC Mong so he had the choice to serve the military if he wanted to till age 35. That’s why even if he wanted to make a comeback, he had to stay silent till he was 35. The proof is that he announced his comeback right after his 35th birthday. Some people think he spent five years suffering and regretting each day. If he really regretted his actions, he should have gone to military during those five years. 

Naver article 3: MC Mong Number One on Many Music Charts; Netizens Not Happy

  • ppzz****- I am extremely thankful for all the military soldiers who are holding back from what they want to do, what they want to eat, and who they want to meet and are protecting the borders in this freezing weather. Let’s not forgive this toothless monkey.
  • gus9**** Please don’t listen to him, think about your friends, family, and neighbors who endured the hardship of serving the military for two years. He is unforgivable. The Military Administration gave him a chance to go [to military] yet he still chose not to.

Is MC Mong a criminal, or a musician?

Although many international netizens know by now that avoiding military is a serious problem in Korea, they are willing to overlook MC Mong’s mistake and embrace him as a musician. Comments on Soompi articles encourage MC Mong’s comeback and were critical of unforgiving Korean netizens that hate MC Mong for something he did in the past.

Korean netizens, however, are still adamantly unforgiving of MC Mong. Many comments on these Naver articles are allegedly left by Korean men who either did, or will, serve their mandatory military time.

As claimed in the featured comments, many Korean netizens say that MC Mong purposely took a break for five years and came back after he turned 35 when he would be exempted from military for his age, even though he had said during trial that if he was given the chance to serve time in military, he surely would. Moreover, when allegations arose that MC Mong was working as a member of famous producing team Duble Sidekick during the five year hiatus, many netizens became angry that he was not taking “a break” regretting his actions, but was making money behind people’s backs.

Many netizens are also claiming that rules became stricter, when excusing people from military service because of health issues, after the happening with MC Mong. Korean netizens are enraged by possible damage he is causing to the Korean community.

Issue 3: Kris Leaves EXO and Files Lawsuit against SM Entertainment

exo and kris

Soompi article 1: Reports Claim SM Violated EXO-M Kris’ Basic Civil Rights

  • Myha****- Kris is the most courageous person. To be able to oppose one of the most powerful agency of South Korea takes a lot of courage. As an Exo fan I’m sad about him leaving but I am damn proud of him! I will always support you Kris no matter what and even if SM is pressuring other members to unfollowed you and stuff, I’m sure they all supporting you too in their hearts. You might not be an Exo member anymore but you will always be their hyung.. Kris Fighting!
  • dc22****- I think most K-pop fans already know about SM’s horrible contracts and the poor way they treat their artists. As well as the company’s money-hungry business model.  So while it may be surprising to previously happy EXO fans, the fact that an SM artist has a problem with the way SM treats them should NOT be a surprise.
  • zaiz**** – The thing is – and I’m being honest here – He is Chinese and EXO M is never going to be the same priority as EXO K…I doubt he’s the only one to be treated this way although i’m sure that EXO M is treated worse than EXO K to some degree in terms of respect. Members can keep filing lawsuits but SME is never going to change because their abuse of these members produces stars…

Naver article 1: EXO Member Kris Files Lawsuit against SM to Cancel Contract

  • mun****- He says SM used him as a tool. From what I know, SM supports their singers a lot. Do you know what other boy groups have to go through in order to be on TV? [SM] gives them a good dance choreographer, song writer, stylist, concerts…Money going into this kind of support doesn’t just drop from the sky. I know he must have been overworked but isn’t a lawsuit too much? …Yes, SM and the way they do business may be more harsh than YG or JYP, but at least they give high-quality support to their singers.
  • alsl****- I’m not a T-ara or KARA’s fan but don’t people know what T-ara and KARA went through in the beginning of their debut? In order to go on television just one more time, they slept one or two hours every day and were [overworked] also. I know he must have had a hard time and SM has its faults, but he is a member and the leader of a group and this seems irresponsible. Does he think other sunbae singers have it all good, sleeping a lot and earning enough money?
  • good****- Yes yes, Chinese think Koreans are idiots. They use Korea until they become popular, and then when they are popular, they file a lawsuit to go to China and act like celebrities with lots of fame. I bet China thinks SM is a useful idiot.

Did Kris leave EXO irresponsibly, or is SM just plain evil?

Many international netizens consider Kris as one the victims of SM Entertainment and the way it runs its business. Kris accused SM Entertainment of overworking him, disregarding his health, and “violating his basic civil right.” In order to reclaim the civil rights that SM took from him with an unfair contract, many fans support his decision to leave SM.

Some Korean EXO fans have a similar response. Many are showing support for Kris’ decision, saying that they want what is best for Kris. But majority of Koreans netizens and some EXO fans are critical of his decision. Many say that he used Korea in order to become famous, and is going back to his home country as a celebirty. Also, although many are aware of SM’s past doings and their alleged tendency to overwork their singers, netizens seem to think that Kris is overlooking the benefit he gained from SM and the support SM poured out on him for him to become what he is today.

International netizens are angry with the way SM treated Kris and overworking him, and Korean netizens are claiming Kris should have still been responsible despite the mistreatment since other idols go through same hardships but are still pressing on.

So is it okay for someone to be overworked because everyone else is overworked? Rather than blaming Kris for not putting up with his working condition, perhaps one should blame the idol industry itself, and the fact that overworking became a norm for idols. However, the horrible working condition in the idol industry is not new news. Should they, who signed contracts to become idols, have been aware of what they were getting themselves into in the first place, and be responsible for what they signed up for? What do you say?

Issue 4: G-Dragon and Kiko Mizuhara Are Dating

gdragon mizuhara kiko

Soompi article 1: Dispatch Catches BIGBANG’s G-Dragon and Kiko Mizuhara on a Date in Seoul

  • no17**** – I think its cute that gd’s been with kiko for a long time and that proves hes not a guy who plays with girls :))) and i think its funny for dispatch to release news like all of us didnt know about them ahahahahahaha!
  • nata**** – i am happy for them thank goodness he can be happy with this girl! they look cute together, and to the so called fans who are no longer his fans, because of this bye……..!

Naver aricle 1: “Fantastic Baby” Kiko and G-Dragon on a Date in Seoul

  • cpaj****- A famous Korean singer is dating someone who proudly showed on her SNS that she bowed to the Yasukuni war shrine. Does [G-Dragon] have no self-esteem?
  • cuty****- I don’t really know that model, but she is pro-Japanese?????? Oh my gosh, [if she is] I bet G-Dragon knows too….if they like each other, it’s not for me to say anything hahaha Is there really no other girls [to date] though?
  • gkdb****- why didn’t they just admit it earlier… they are getting even more negative responses. They are the best at playing around with their fans.

Does G-Dragon not care about his country’s history, or is him dating nobody else’s business?

To international netizens, the news that G-Dragon and Kiko Mizuhara are dating was merely another report about a celebrity in a relationship with another celebrity. G-Dragon and Kiko Mizuhara received great support from G-Dragon’s fans, as many had already been speculating their relationship without solid evidence until Dispatch’s report.

To many Korean netizens, however, G-Dragon became a thoughtless sellout who dates a “pro-Japanese.” Here, pro-Japanese indicates politically far-right Japanese who support historical happenings such as Japan’s occupation in Korea during World War II and Japan’s use of Korean “comfort women” during the war.

There isn’t definite evidence that Kiko Mizuhara is actually “pro-Japanese,” and many claims have stemmed from rumors. Nevertheless, many Korean netizens have shown extreme hatred toward Kiko Mizuhara and have commented with hateful attacks for her actions, such as allegedly taking a picture with Rising Sun Flag (a flag used by Japanese military during war), liking the particular photo on Instagram, and bowing to the Yasukuni war shrine (shrine made to serve the war veterans). However, Kiko Mizuhara had claimed that she is not politically far-right, and the person standing in front of Rising Sun Flag is not her.

instagram2

I hope that the conclusion you should take away from this article is not that Koreans netizens are racist or that they represent Koreans as a whole, but that a country’s specific history and relationship with other nations may affect the way its citizens/netizens view an issue. K-pop fans can belong to a borderless world devoid of historical controversies, but Koreans netizens are citizens of a nation with a complicated history and its own particular set of concerns and political issues that are different from other nations.