Invasion of Privacy Degrades Korean Women Twice Over
Before the “entertainment x-file” hit cyberspace, the hot issue among local Netizens was a post by an English teacher in Korea who wrote that local women treated him like a king and were easy to sleep with. Oddly, however, it was not predatory foreign men who came under attack as a result but Korean women.
On Saturday, the Chosun Ilbo met with the 28-year-old manager of a club near Hongik University. She had become another victim of character assassination by Internet when photos her and eight regular customers taken at a party began making their way around the web. It was a “sexy costume party” held at her Mary Jane club last November. Some 70 percent of the participants were Korean men and women, while the rest were foreign men and women.
“Two customers were on the verge of quitting their jobs, and another was seeking psychiatric counseling,” she said Saturday. “Another customer had a job offer taken away. Our club is preparing to close. This is clearly an act of murder.”
In mid-December, photos from the party were posted on English Spectrum, a website frequented by foreign English teachers working in Korea. They had been taken by some of the foreigners who attended the party and depicted Korean women and Western men dancing together in a suggestive way, Korean women revealing their breasts or underwear, as well as Western men and Korean women touching and kissing.
The photos escaped public scrutiny until 10 days ago, when they sparked an outcry at the height of the cyberspace hysteria about “foreign teachers degrading Korean women.” Several inflammatory comments posted on English Spectrum by English teachers living in Korea even lead to the formation of a movement to expel foreign teachers from the peninsula. When the photos were discovered, it was like pouring oil on an open fire.
Online rage switched targets from foreign men to the Korean women in the photos. Some online media described the pictures as “scenes of women openly enjoying sex with foreigners.” These stories were often accompanied by malicious comments like, “Whores, are Western bastards that good?” and, “The English you learn from selling yourself is body language, not real English.” Even more frightening was that calls for the women’s names, work places, email addresses and phone numbers to be made public were promptly answered.
The club manager describes the pain that followed as “trampling on her life.” “I get anonymous threatening phone calls at the club all the time. ‘Why don’t whores like you just die quietly,’ ‘Foreigners’ whore! Why don’t you shut down your club?’ ‘We will hold a picket demonstration in front of your club’… I get nervous anytime I hear the phone ring.”
A 27-year old also in the pictures said, “It’s true that I enjoy dancing to relieve stress, but isn’t it going overboard to treat me like a whore?” Fighting back tears, she said, “My co-workers point at me behind my back…
“I don’t know how they got my email address, but I get tons of emails with frightening titles, so I don’t even turn on my computer these days.” Another girl pictured said she was offered a secretarial position in early January, but because of the photos, the job offer was withdrawn.
The same paradox – of the victims of Internet revelations being degraded again in vicious Internet attacks – was also at play when Korean entertainers were attacked following the publication of unsubstantiated rumors about them in the “x-file.” Meanwhile, there is no word on whether the men who left the degrading comments on the site were ever held accountable.
The victims are suing the Internet media behind publication of the pictures. Their lawyer Im Sang-hyeok said, “Just as the tsunamis in South Asia left wretched survivors in their wake, Korean women were left as victims in the places swept by excessive Internet enthusiasm.”