At the young age of 25, Sulli, the former member of Korean Pop (K-POP) girl group F(x), was still ardently following her dream career in the entertainment industry until her tragic death on October 14. The mourning spread from ordinary citizens to celebrities and government officials, ultimately provoking an agreement that something needed to change in terms of online etiquette and the behavior toward celebrities.
Since Sulli’s death, citizens and government officials alike have been proposing the “Sulli Act,” a bill that aims to rectify nationwide cyberbullying, which many believe contributed to the star’s unfortunate death. More specifically, the bill will include the requirement for cyberbullying-preventative education at schools and workplaces.
Legislation to prevent extreme negativity in online comments was first proposed in 2006 in the name of “Real Name System.” However, the public demanded that it be rescinded by arguing that the system violated the freedom of expression, the freedom of speech, and the right to self-determination of personal information. As a result, the Real Name System was lifted in 2012. But now, a majority of the legislature and the public want to reintroduce it in the “Sulli Act” to ensure a more open, and thus more responsible, online atmosphere.
In addition to this congressional action, the star’s death has led to other deep-seated issues surfacing in South Korea regarding the protection of human rights and the privacy of public figures. Sulli was frequently vilified by anonymous netizens for posting so-called sexual photos of herself on her social media account, as well as for making an exceptionally confident choice of going braless. This cyberbullying can be regarded as a result of the unclear boundaries between celebrities’ public and private lives. On one hand, people believe that celebrities are inherently subject to such inhumane comments because their occupations are based primarily on their publicity, not their private lives. However, in the current situation, many citizens now agree that hate comments are indeed disrespectful regardless of the recipient’s public status.
The dream to become a celebrity often springs from the simple desire to sing, dance, or act. It may be safe to assume that no celebrity figure wanted to have a life without privacy. Celebrities are naturally judged not only by their outward appearances but also by their privacy and values, especially compared to other professions, but that doesn’t mean they are capable of ignoring hurtful comments.
At this point in time, critical contemplation about this issue is required more than ever. The morals learned through Sulli’s death should not stay in the past. Citizens should learn not to be caught up in the manipulative articles that are still being released by the media even after its remorseful articles. Moreover, it is evident that negative comments are hurtful to everyone, and that the current situation regarding the privacy and rights of public figures needs to be improved.
It is quite disappointing to realize that our problematic social behavior needs to be repressed by implementing measures such as abolishing the real-time search word function on portal sites and introducing the “Sulli Act.” For now, there is hope that these new measures will become effectively rooted in our social ideology and thus prevent similar unfortunate events from happening again.