Looks like netizens have gone too far. On November 9th, a college student was arrested for slandering Wonder Girl’s Sohee via Twitter. Apparently this student has had a history of such behavior — he was sued by JYP in April for badgering Sohee with nasty tweets, despite warnings to refrain from doing so. Since then, a full-on investigation has been launched, and this has resulted in the student’s arrest for slander and violation of the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection. According to Business Software Alliance’s “Country Report”, this is a law that “prohibits the [online] posting of illegal content, including material that infringes upon public interests and social order, specifically obscenity, defamation, violence or cruelty, and incitement to gambling.” Since the netizen violated this via his defamation, he is currently in custody and is awaiting legal action (and so is a very eager JYP, no doubt).

While I am glad retribution is happening, I can’t help but wonder why it doesn’t happen more often, and why has this case been singled out. Did something alarming factor in? When looking at previous defamation lawsuits, there seems to be a clear, publicized instigator: JYJ’s defamation lawsuit against Dispatch was in response to Dispatch’s release of a report/audio recordings documenting the hitting of sasaengs, and Tablo’s lawsuit against Tajinyo was a response to a long and bitter witch-hunt from thousands of netizens who were willing to invade and threaten every aspect of his life. Meanwhile, JYP is responding to one person’s particularly nasty tweets — and considering that thousands of hateful comments are made to/about K-pop stars every day with no repercussions (and JYP hasn’t even released what the most offending tweets were — but without ample information, it’s difficult to justify that the reaction to this particular netizen is fully warranted and fair.

And if it’s simply just a case of curbing hateful comments/cyber bullying in general and upholding the law mentioned earlier, then why isn’t it being applied equally everywhere? Why aren’t netizens being arrested (or at least monitored) left and right for some of their downright atrocious behavior? For example, where were the investigations/arrests when Block B underwent the defamation, violence, and cruelty of online suicide petitions, (which led to the hospitalization of one of the members)?

Don’t get me wrong – I’m glad that there is one less person harassing Sohee at the moment and that someone out there is finally receiving some karma for hateful remarks, especially before the situation spun out of control like Block B’s and Tablo’s did. In a world where anonymity is used as a weapon as well as a shield, there really should be some serious attempts at shaping digital culture so that online hate isn’t so easily accepted and promoted. And as Korea in particular has had some famous incidents of celebrity suicides due to malicious online comments, the fact that online harassment is being taken more seriously is a step in the right direction. However, without full information, it will be hard to perceive this as a complete victory for online behavior. For all we know, it could be evidence of a large corporate industry cracking down harshly on an easy target.

What do you think? Is the college student’s arrest is justified, or could JYP be overreacting?

(Starnews 1, Business Software AllianceStarnews 2, New York Times)