|K-pop girl group BLACKPINK / Courtesy of YG Entertainment|
By Dong Sun-hwa
In the past, K-pop labels treated online trolls with some generosity. When their stars were attacked on false grounds, the companies reported them to police but usually did not take the offenders to court once they apologized.
But in an era where the global reputations of their stars are ever more important and fake news can tarnish them instantly, the agencies are taking a tougher stance against such people. In Korea, defamation ― whether it is based on facts or lies ― and contempt can leave one liable to be prosecuted and subject to civil action. In criminal trials, the accused usually end up with a fine of around 2 million won ($1,700), which many think are "too lenient."
YG Entertainment, home to K-pop big names like BLACKPINK and WINNER, is one of the labels that have declared a war on online trolls. In its Oct. 14 statement, the company revealed it has lodged a complaint against those who have "infringed on YG singers' rights and interests."
"To date, we have mostly avoided taking legal action, because we thought offensive and slanderous remarks were something that our much-loved artists should tolerate to some degree," the company said. "But now the situation has reached an unbearable point… Too many people are spreading groundless rumors about our singers, libeling them and even sexually harassing them. So we filed a complaint against some internet trolls for violating the laws concerning defamation, slander and obstruction of business."
It added that it will keep fighting online trolls if they continue to cross the line.
"We also welcome fans' reports about problematic online comments," it said.
HYBE, the record label behind K-pop juggernaut BTS, has also been taking a hard line against internet trolls. In June, it released a statement saying it has filed complaints with police against people who have made "socially unacceptable comments" about its stars, saying it will seek to hold them legally accountable without settlements or clemency.
"We also reported unlogged users and those who later deleted their comments to cover their tracks," the company said. "We will take stronger action against those who have attempted to conceal evidence."
Meanwhile, to prevent cyber bullying and protect the mental health of celebrities, Korea's two most popular search engines, Naver and Daum, removed comment sections for entertainment and sports news last year.