6 months' jail for defaming singer

Singer Park Ji-min blasted those who sent her lewd messages after she posted photographs.
Singer Park Ji-min blasted those who sent her lewd messages after she posted photographs.PHOTO: JIMINXJAMIE/INSTAGRAM

SEOUL • South Korean celebrities have chalked up another victory against online abusers.

Days after news came of the Bundang Police Station referring two netizens to the prosecution for defaming A-list actress Song Hye-kyo, a court has sentenced a person to six months in jail.

The sentence is suspended for two years, with the defendant going to prison if conditions are violated.

The defendant alleged last year that Girls' Generation singer Sunny and actor Lee Seo-jin were having a secret affair.

The judge noted that the "malicious rumour" was posted on a platform with many users.

Such an irresponsible act, with its harmful consequences for the victim, must be dealt with severely, the judge said.

The defendant must also do 80 hours of community service, a verdict that has drawn support from many who note that the South Korean entertainment industry is saddled with a toxic fan culture.

Some said a heavy fine should also have been levied by the judge to further deter trouble-makers.

The sentencing comes in the wake of actress-singer Sulli's death last Monday, with the tragedy linked to her harassment by netizens.

Foul play has been ruled out, but drug and toxicology test results are pending.

Sulli took a break from girl group f(x) in 2014 after she was hit by rumours and negative talk.

Another celebrity, Jonghyun of boy band SHINee, committed suicide in 2017 due to depression.

Goo Ha-ra, once part of girl group Kara, was found unconscious at her home earlier this year.

While there have been calls to clamp down on online trolls, management agencies and lawyers said their attempts were stymied by netizens who use untraceable accounts.

Sulli's death has prompted Members of Parliament to mull over new rules that could mandate netizens to use real names.

Celebrities have also come out strongly to condemn those who monitor, and criticise, what they do.

f(x) member Victoria lashed out on Weibo, telling naysayers not to waste time on speculation. Urging them to do something more meaningful, she told them off for trying to stand out online with ridiculous and damaging lies.

Singer Park Ji-min blasted those who sent her lewd messages after she posted photographs, warning that she would report the culprits to the police.

But some fans have also asked their idols to play smart and not court trouble.

"Social media is a double-edged sword, get used to it or don't use it at all, you have that choice," one person wrote.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 21, 2019, with the headline '6 months' jail for defaming singer'. Print Edition | Subscribe