What They Said is a regular series on the quotes Korea is talking about.
On February 5, the deaths of two celebrities sparked public outrage and reignited the conversation around cyberbullying and trolling. One of the deceased was Kim In-hyeok, a 26-year-old professional South Korean volleyball player, who had been found dead at home. His death was ruled a suicide, and the police disclosed that he had left a note indicating the state of his mental health. Newspaper articles pointed to cyberbullying and trolling as what led Kim to take his own life, citing an Instagram post from August 2021, in which he had appealed to people to stop trolling him and spreading false rumors about his appearance and sexual identity, among other things. His final Instagram post, on February 4, began with:
“Goodbye… Good night…”
— Kim In-hyeok, professional volleyball player, February 4, 2022.
It also included lyrics to the song ‘Please’ (부디) by Lucia, with the words, “Please, hold me/I’m shaking, help me stand please/Don’t let the rough waves swallow me/Please, embrace me/I’m shaking, hold me, please/Rough winds are trying to knock me down.”
After the news of Kim’s death, his friend, the television personality Hong Seok-cheon, posted on Instagram:
#GreenBook is a touching film about the difficult journey of an African American musician fighting against discrimination. People say that South Korea joined the ranks of developed countries some time ago, but I wonder about our level of awareness of discrimination and human rights. It’s really sad that no one seems to want to publicly speak out on the issue right now. In this season of politics, the season of the Olympic Games, and the season of the pandemic, the reality of people only thinking of themselves weighs heavy on my heart. It’s hard to say anything these days, and it was because of cowardice that I couldn’t protect my young friend. The cruelty of those who attack, discriminate, and drive to death people who are different from themselves is happening every day in this land in 2022. Where should I stand? I feel really useless ㅠㅠ Rest in peace #KimIn-hyeok.
— Hong Seok-cheon, TV personality, February 6, 2022.
The other person whose death came to light was Jo Jang-mi, a 27-year-old Korean Twitch streamer, known online as Jammi. Her uncle shared the news on Jammi’s TGD page on February 5:
Hello, this is Jang-mi’s uncle.
I have been too preoccupied to tell you until now, but Jang-mi has taken her own life. I am sorry to deliver this sad news to her many fans and supporters.
Jang-mi had been suffering from depression due to countless malicious comments and rumors, and that was the cause of her death. The ongoing rumors about her involvement with a rapper and drug use are completely groundless.
Jang-mi’s family, including myself, and her acquaintances can attest to this fact, and we will take legal action against anyone who spreads false rumors.
Please stop disrespecting the deceased. It is very difficult for her family and friends.
Jang-mi left a note, and through that we were able to learn how hard it was for her and how much bullying she had been subjected to.
I beg all of you. Please stop circulating any more ridiculous rumors.
Sadly, it’s true that she made her own choice while battling depression, and that is all.
To all of you who loved Jang-mi, or Jammi, I am very grateful, and sorry.
Please help Jang-mi rest in peace.
Rest assured, we will take legal action against malicious rumors.
I wish everyone happiness in the future.
Additionally, please do not hurt other streamers. They have sincerely supported and helped her. They helped me until I was able to put all the information together to write something here.
Lastly, once again, Jang-mi never did any drugs or had a relationship with a rapper.
She has already suffered from the rumors and malicious comments. Please stop hurting her.
— Twitch streamer Jammi’s uncle, February 5, 2022.
Soon after the news of Jang-mi’s death, which had happened in January, a petition appeared on the Cheong Wa Dae website, calling for the punishment of a far-right YouTuber known as PPKKA and the internet community FM Korea, both of whom have perpetuated rumors about Jang-mi being a radical feminist.
People in political circles also began to voice their opinions regarding the issue of cyberbullying. Hwang Heedoo, a former professional gamer and a member of the Democratic Party of Korea, wrote on Facebook:
PPKKA, the Lethal Tongue, and the Era of Madness
A certain streamer has passed away after suffering from depression, caused by the YouTuber PPKKA, who loves to spit out hateful speech from behind sunglasses.
Driving both the mother and daughter to their deaths, he has a lethal tongue.
It is a fact that some FM Korea users ridiculed the streamer with a barrage of unspeakably terrible words.
What’s even more shocking is that extremely malicious comments were posted about her even after her death.
In cases like this, most trolls justify their actions by shifting the blame to other anonymous trolls and leave to find other targets.
But they are all online killers.
As I’ve been saying for several years, the online terrorist acts of anonymous YouTubers and internet communities are a very serious problem that must be resolved.
I only wonder why politicians, regardless of party affiliation, are not coming together to take measures against such a serious issue.
May the deceased rest in peace.
— Hwang Heedoo, former professional gamer, February 5, 2022.
Kim Yong-min, a National Assembly member for the Democratic Party, was one of the first politicians to speak up about cyberbullying since the news of the two suicides.
The act of driving others to death through hate and malicious comments is no different from murder. Since the comments sections were removed from sports and entertainment news sites, it seems that the devil’s mouth has moved to social media. May the deceased rest in peace. We need to change the system and create a culture that saves people.
— Kim Yong-min, National Assembly member for the Democratic Party of Korea, February 5, 2022.
In the past few years, a number of celebrities have taken their own lives after being subjected to internet trolling, including Korean boy band SHINEE member Jonghyun in 2017, Choi Jin-ri (better known by her stage name Sulli) in 2019, and professional volleyball player Go Yoo-min in 2020. It has led to changed policies on the major web portals, Daum and Naver, which have shut down the comments sections for entertainment and sports articles to protect the celebrities and athletes featured. Unfortunately, trolls are still very much active in internet communities and on social media. In the wake of the recent deaths, people are once again raising their voices for stricter measures against cyberbullying and trolling, but it remains to be seen whether those who are allegedly responsible will be held accountable for their actions.