The Granite Tower
Criminals on the TV Screen: Ethics In the Public Realm
Kim Min Young  |
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승인 2017.10.03  00:08:55
트위터 페이스북 미투데이 요즘 네이버 구글 msn

Red hair, earrings with a cross hanging on each side, microphone in one hand. A beastly flow that bombards the crowd with braggadocian lyrics. This catapulted the rapper Young B into the forefront of the wave of underage rappers that will make it into the mainstream Hip Hop scene. Young B’s reputation as a school bully has made him the center of controversy. Does he really have the right to represent this new wave of artists?

High School Rapper was a sensation among the populace at the beginning of 2017. While Show Me the Money was definitely the starter for hip hop becoming prevalent in Korean culture, High School Rapper was seen as more entertaining due to heavier competition among teenagers representing their province. It became immensely popular, but it was soon brought under heavy fire. Such fire was sparked by two of the participant rappers, Young B (Yang Hong Won), and Jang Yong Joon. The latter’s father, Jang Jae Won, had to withdraw from his post as a congressman when it was disclosed that his son had drank alcohol and met with prostitutes in the past.

However, the real controversy stemmed from Young B’s past. After his skills in the competition propelled him to new heights in the tournament, the victims of his bullying were triggered to jump onto the Internet and comment on his wrongdoings. School bullying is a sensitive subject within Korean society, and people immediately called for the removal of Young B from the tournament. While Jang stepped down, Young B stated he was not going to blow his opportunity of victory and proceeded in the audition program. He ended up winning first place.

This was met by even further criticism from the public. One of the strongest reasons cited by critics against criminals being on the TV screen is that it lowers the standard of morality in mass media, influencing teenagers. While Jang comparatively has been untouched ever since he stepped down from the program, Young B stubbornly remained on the screen participating in the sixth season of Show Me the Money right afterwards. While he could not survive long enough to make the semi-finals, he once again had the opportunity to defeat countless other rappers, despite being much younger.

There are two opinions on how Young B’s appearance on screen is to be viewed: positive and negative. However, the public has many different reasons supporting their stance. The bigger portion of the masses believe that Young B’s appearance on TV is not desirable. Young B appearing on TV, happily doinghis own thing and winning prize money could be interpreted as a bad example in the eyes of the untroubled youth. Criminals deserve to be treated as such and receiving prize money and praise for his skills hardly seems like the life of a criminal.

Still, opposition to this opinion also exists. Many people support the argument that while Young B’s actions as a teenager are not something to be commended, the mistakes he made in the past are to be resolved between him and the victim. The masses have no right to tell Young B what to do or not to do when they were not involved in his past in any way. Influential rapper and Just Music label CEO Swings has gone on to mention in his Instagram Live to state,  “What has transpired between Young B and his victim is their business. He has no obligation whatsoever to apologize to the masses.” The heart of their argument is based on the logic that these celebrities are ex-convicts, and ex-convicts are not the same status as criminals. If ex-convicts have the right to work in any workplace, then TV figures should not be any different.

There is much gray area in the reasoning of the arguments involved. One of the strongest arguments against ex-convicts on screen is that the victims will be offended by their success. Besides question of whether victims have the right to ask for further punishment outside the limits of the law, there are also questions whether criminals involved in victimless crimes should be treated the same. Such examples include people with marijuana charges, who were involved in criminal activity but harmed no one but themselves. 

On the other hand, the defenders of these convicts state that there is no legislation that bans these individuals from being exposed to the masses. These people are often rebuked with arguments that despite the absence of legislation, the supporters of the convicts are aware of the harmful potential the presence of these controversial celebrities pose to the youth. This rebuttal draws the conclusion that the supporters of ex-convicts are putting technicalities above actually solving the problem.

At the heart of all these discussions lies the question whether celebrities are public figures that have an obligation to fulfill for the masses. If they are public figures, the logic that they should not be allowed on TV appears valid. On the other hand, there are those who maintain that while celebrities do appear in the mass media, they are far from the status of a public figure. Their salary is not derived from taxes. The people who do provide them money do so to fulfill their own need for entertainment. People do not watch television for the sake of celebrities.

▲ Professor Jung Seung Hwan. PHOTOGRAPHED BY PARK TAE IN.
Whether criminals can be allowed on the screen or not is a matter that involves various moral dilemmas. In many cases, what makes sense for one concept does the exact opposite for another. Professor Jung Seung Hwan (Law School) stated, “Celebrities being public figures has always been a controversial issue. However, it seems true that Korea does have harsher standards for figures on TV.” The only viable conclusion will have to be through the law, possibly the Constitution, since that is the standard that people of this country can relate to the best. The law, not the voices of the masses, will settle the |Professor Jung Seung Hwan disputes.
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