Comedian belatedly in hot water for calling ‘comfort women’ whores
By Na Jeong-ju
Public opinion appears to be taking a decisive turn for decency over freedom of speech.
A foul-mouthed popular podcaster alienated supporters of an opposition party whose ticket he ran on in the April 11 parliamentary elections, negatively affecting the outcome.
Of course, his young fans remained loyal.
Now, a comedian, who has gained popularity for badmouthing people, has opted to put himself in semi-retirement for his ill-considered remarks.
Both of them were caught by remarks they made years ago. Still fresh in memory is a top singer who was forced to leave Korea over anti-Korean remarks he wrote on his blog.
What do all these incidents mean? Is society finally taking the role of self-regulating the language it uses in a time-delayed reaction to indecency raging on the Internet? Maybe not _ it could be an aberration. This remains to be seen.
“The use of indecent language has become common among politicians and talk show hosts. The problem is that their language is affecting ordinary people’s way of talking and ultimately their lives,” said Kwak Geum-ju, a psychology professor at Seoul National University.
Now, public tolerance is reaching its limits and it’s likely that a higher standard of decency will be introduced, the SNU professor said. “It can be a mistake to take it as business as usual,” Kwak said.
Popular TV host Kim Gu-ra, and Kim Yong-min, one of the hosts of the online talk show “Naneun Ggomsuda” (I’m a Petty Trickster) have fallen from grace due to foul language they used in the past.
Their fate is reminiscent of former 2PM member Jay Park, who had to suspend his singing career after being involved in a controversy about negative comments he had written about Korea on the Internet site MySpace during his “training period.”
Kim Gu-ra announced a “temporary retirement” from the entertainment world Monday after coming under siege for the remarks he made in an online talk show in 2002.
Kim Yong-min contended for a parliamentary seat in the elections on a main opposition Democratic United Party ticket but lost after he was found to have verbally abused Christian leaders and senior citizens in online shows.
Their fans say they should be excused because the “mistakes” were made long ago and they were not as popular as they are now. However, some people argue that they should be held responsible for a lack of decency and the negative impact they had on the public’s language as public figures.
As a host of the show, Kim Gu-ra used foul language to criticize a group of prostitutes protesting against the police’s crackdowns in front of the National Human Rights Commission in Seoul. The problem was that he compared them to Korean “comfort women” who were forced to work as sex slaves for Japanese soldiers during World War II.
“The hookers are said to be moving in two large chartered buses. They remind me of the comfort women,” Kim said.
After the remarks were made public last week, hundreds of viewers posted messages on the websites of television networks to denounce Kim and call for measures to stop him from appearing on TV.
On Monday, Kim announced that he would voluntarily withdraw from four programs and undergo a period of self-reflection.
“It’s my fault. I hurt innocent people by talking that way. I sincerely apologize to them,” he said.
Kim gained popularity on the Internet by making scathing remarks against politicians and entertainers, sometimes using vulgar words, before advancing to major TV stations in 2004. He once called President Lee Myung-bak “a construction jerk” and “an anchovy” when Lee was running for the presidency.
Kim Yong-min also made controversial remarks against senior citizens in an online show hosted by Kim Gu-ra. Asked about how to handle a group of senior citizens protesting in front of Seoul City Hall, Kim Yong-min said with a laugh, “We should remove all elevators and escalators at City Hall Station. They have no choice but to use stairs so it will be hard for them to come to City Hall.”
He suffered a severe blow to his bid for a parliamentary seat after the remarks were reported. Associations representing senior citizens called for his withdrawal from the elections. Kim apologized, but ultimately lost.