Many experts assert that K-pop fans intentionally spreading false information can result in serious consequences.
When a celebrity is faced with the consequences of their alleged misconduct, it is common for fans to speak out in defense of their idols in the Korean entertainment industry.
However, in some cases, many hardcore fans are willing to spread false information, deliberately directing public opinion to protect their favorite artists without being aware of the consequences of their actions.
Blindly defending idols
On August 12, male singer Seungri (former member of Big Bang) was sentenced to 3 years in prison under 9 counts, including illegal gambling, embezzlement, using prostitution services, arranging prostitutes for potential business investors…
At the trial, the judge Hwang Min Je affirmed, “It is difficult to see the defendant was not aware of financial payments paid to the prostitution service. It appears that he carried out systematic sexual prostitution”.
Immediately after Seungri was sentenced, social media were flooded with posts claiming he was a victim of injustice. His fans – mostly non-Korean – started using the four-leaf clover emoji under the male singer’s Instagram posts to wish him luck. Moreover, they constantly shared articles claiming that the court made a big mistake in sentencing, and that Seungri was completely innocent.
In their eyes, Seungri has become “a pawn for the crimes of others”. In fact, the prosecution of the male singer is part of the investigation of a series of cases surrounding the Burning Sun nightclub scandal. Among the individuals involved in the case, Seungri was among the fastest to be convicted.
Just days after Seungri was sentenced, a fan of another K-pop idol – former (G)I-DLE’s member Soo Jin – also declared the singer innocent when she was forced to withdraw from the group after months of dealing with allegations of bullying her former classmates.
Some fans even decided to attack actress Seo Shin Ae – Soo Jin’s former classmate. The actress is one of the victims who publicly exposed Soo Jin’s bullying behavior. Under the videos Seo Shin Ae posted, Korean netizens were startled to see various hateful and threatening comments aimed at the actress.
Fans’ backlash and suspecting the Korean legal system?
Sharing with SCMP, Dr. Crystal Abidin stated that fans trying to deny the truth is not a surprise.
According to Crystal, in the cases of K-pop idols being convicted of breaking the law like Seungri, part of the reason behind the fans’ backlash comes from their suspicion of the Korean legal system.
In recent years, the Korean legal system has become the topic of controversy among many international fans. Besides, the lack of media coverage in Korea of certain cases – such as criminals installing hidden cameras – also makes the foreign public feel dissatisfied.
“Fans come from all walks of life. They carry that mistrust with them and wonder whether these proceedings have value and whether they’re to be believed” Crystal shared.
On social media, things move very quickly. Over time, public attention to an event will diminish. As a result, fans who are responsible for translating information from Korean mass media into other languages play an important role in the fan community.
The fact that many K-pop fans only translate news that benefits their idols, mistranslate details in allegations, and spread misinformation is a problem that has existed for years. However, it was only after false news became a problem and K-pop entered the globalization phase that the public began to pay attention to this phenomenon.
Wiser access to information
Sharing with SCMP, Dr. Crystal Abidin encouraged K-pop fans to question events taking place in the entertainment industry in moderation.
“The fact that a lot of these fans are engaging in critical thinking, displaying extremely savvy literacy skills, using corroboration and checking sources, is important”, Crystal Abidin said.
However, Dr. Crystal warns that K-pop fans being exposed to too much misinformation can have a huge and unpredictable impact. Whenever the Korean media reports on legal issues, many translations are spread widely among the fan community.
“Some instances showcase how fans are really diehards, and others have consequences for people,” Crystal revealed.
In addition to the fact that fans fabricated fake information to defend or bury scandals for their idols, many viewers also expressed concern over how K-pop stars can influence fans.
Esther Chan, Asia-Pacific bureau editor of the misinformation media organization First Draft, warned, “The strong emotional connection between fans and idols means that fans tend to trust them and believe in the messages they convey.”
Although K-pop stars rarely engage in discussions around political or social issues, many experts are concerned about their influence, especially in an age of alternative viewpoints becoming popular and widely noticed on the Internet.
Esther Chan shared: “With their massive following and the benefits it brings, celebrities and influencers must acknowledge their responsibilities, be aware of the potential damage of misinformation, and understand how quickly false news can be spread.”