Goo Hara's death prompts calls for harsher punishments for sexual harassment

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The apparent suicide of a second K-pop artist in a month has cast renewed focus in South Korea on vicious personal attacks and cyber bullying of vulnerable young stars, and how it mostly goes unpunished.
A memorial altar for K-pop star Goo Hara at a hospital in Seoul on Nov 25, 2019. PHOTO: DONG-A ILBO/AFP

The number of signatures for an online petition calling for harsher punishments for sexual harassment doubled to more than 217,000, following the death of K-pop idol Goo Hara.

The petition is intended for the office of South Korean President Moon Jae-in and was initiated by an anonymous user before Goo's death.

Goo, 28, was found dead on Sunday (Nov 24) in a suspected suicide. Prior to her death, she had faced threats from a former boyfriend - hairdresser Choi Jong-bum.

Choi had threatened to release an intimate tape of her to the press and was taken to court for intimidation and destruction of property, among other offences.

Though he was found guilty, he received only a suspended sentence, essentially escaping jail time.

Netizens have blamed Choi for Goo's death and are demanding that the government relook punishments for sex offences.

A government policy dictates that petitions to the President of South Korea that cross 200,000 signatures must receive a response.

The death of Sulli, a close friend of Goo and another K-pop idol who died in a suspected suicide last month, similarly has prompted fans and agencies to take action.

The former member of girl group f(x) was the target of malicious hate comments online.

This prompted calls to adopt a real-name system - where users have to use their real names when commenting - to stamp out anonymity on the Internet.

Lawmakers in South Korea have also proposed Bills to eradicate online bullying, such as a Bill requiring online users to reveal their online user name and IP address.

Another Bill proposes that South Korean web portals such as Naver and Kakao must filter out malicious, discriminatory and hateful comments, and block people online from posting such comments.

While no laws have yet been passed, South Korea's major Internet company Kakao suspended online comments for entertainment news articles after Sulli's death.

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