Stars exposed as school bullies in the Korean entertainment industry are no longer rare cases but there are some reasons that make these issues hard to prove as facts or not.
Many celebrities, including actor Nam Joo-hyuk, have been embroiled in school bullying controversies during the past few years. Some were caught and forced to leave showbiz due to proof photos of them committing underage drinking and smoking. Others strongly refuted unilateral claims and managed to clear their names thanks to testimonies from classmates.
Nam Joo-hyuk has been accused of school bullying since last month. His agency has also issued several firm refutation statements. However, a “truth battle” began as additional revelations continued to be revealed. Announcing their plan to take strong legal action to protect their actor’s honor, the agency maintains their position that the verbal violence on SNS was groundless.
Suspicions of school bullying have gradually been raised in the entertainment industry on a small and even large scale. Most claims point out damages in the past and there is no material evidence due to the nature of most revelations. In addition, those who claim damages are often reluctant to disclose their personal information, so they exposed the cases as online community articles rather than press statements. If the disclosures contain initials or names like Mr./Mrs A or B, the “netizens investigation team” will begin to do their work of making speculations.
School violence, the distress of real victims
In fact, it is not easy to prove the damage caused by school violence. Photos from school days and graduation albums are often the means to certify that they are alumni of particular schools. Article 307 of the Criminal Act states, “A person who defames another person by stating the groundless facts publicly will be punished to not more than two years in prison, or imprisonment without forced labor and a fine of not more than 5 million won”. Even when they tell the truth but it defames someone, they will still be subject to punishment.
Even when the victims’ school bullying damage claims were true, defamation charges can still be applied to them. The criminal law stipulates that it is not easy for non-celebrities to prove themselves and continue litigation against celebrities’ agencies for a long time.
Kim Hyun-sik, a lawyer at K&J law firm, said, “Even when there is a school violence fact, if it is posted on online communities, it will still be considered defamation under laws”, adding, “Of course, there should be circumstances in which the perpetrator can be identified. Since the police focus on fairness in reporting, it is considered important in practice whether or not the allegations against the perpetrator are also covered.”
Additional school bullying damage disclosures recently had a big impact on public opinion
Ironically, an “anonymous” article is also a way to protect the person who makes revelations. In fact, victims of school violence have been hurt for a long time and it is not easy to accuse the perpetrator if they reveal their real names. In particular, the key point in the recent cases is whether “another victim” will step out. The most efficient solution is to get the accusers and the celebrities or their agencies to meet one-on-one and reach an agreement. However, if more disclosures from the second and third victims are made, the situation will become so big that it might be difficult to deal with.
To prevent the mass production of victims, most of the revelations are handed over to the court to unveil the truth. In the process, some celebrities have actually proved their unfairness. GOT7’s Young-jae and April’s Na-eun were accused of school bullying but they quickly refuted the claims. Above all, the situations were settled after a series of testimonies from their old classmates poured out. In addition, the first disclosure in actor Jo Byung-kyu’s school bullying case was deleted and identified as a false fact after his agency took legal action. Park Ji-hoon was also suspected of committing school violence due to the revelation from a person who claimed to be his middle school mate, but the police later confirmed that the accuser was an office worker who has no relations to Park Ji-hoon.
There is also a growing need to eradicate fake revelations for malicious purposes to defame stars. This is because of the so-called “witch-hunting” in which netizens use the fact with no clear physical evidence to guess the names of stars one after another. Therefore, the entertainment industry chooses to watch over the whole situation related to the revelations of stars. Nam Joo-hyuk, who has recently been embroiled in allegations of school violence, will be more cautious because he is already in the stage of discussing his next works. It is certainly not easy for him to prove the allegations as false facts. Attention is focused on whether Nam Joo-hyuk will be able to solve the suspicions.