We would be remiss in our duties if we only reported good news regarding Sergeant Ji Chang Wook. This is one of those times where The Kitchen hoped we would never have to report some bad news, but this post will attempt to summarize the events of this past weekend.
An investigative telephone show named “그것이 알고싶다” (aka “I Want To Know That” or “The Its Know”) is an SBS social commentary broadcast along the same lines as the “60 Minutes” show here in the U.S. On the night of 23 March, “The Its Know” broadcast a special episode containing an exposé on the recent Korean nightlife scandal entitled “Burning Sun – Ask About Its True Nature.” This episode covered investigations being conducted regarding two of the largest nightclubs in Gangnam-gu, “Burning Sun” and “Club Arena,” and their parent company’s executive director Lee Seung Hyun (better known as Seungri, who is a member of the boy group Big Bang). Without going into too much analysis about the ongoing scandal and the investigations themselves, allegedly there are many individuals associated with these two now-closed nightclubs accused of drug dealing, prostitution, police bribery and corruption, money laundering, and other illegal activities at both Burning Sun and Club Arena.
Sometime during the episode, several pictures were shown in a photo montage of various celebrities included in photos taken at Burning Sun with a woman reported to be a ‘Madame Lin.’ Madame Lin is alleged to be one of the masterminds behind purported corruption, money laundering and organized crime events at these two nightclubs. Some of these celebrity photos were obtained from Madame Lin’s own social media account, which has since been deleted. The show’s intent behind broadcasting all these photos of celebrities together with Madame Lin was simply to illuminate the fact that she often associated with the famous people (both male and female) who visited these nightclubs.
During the broadcast, all faces shown in these photos were overlaid with a computer graphic technique called a ‘mosaic’ to blur their identities. South Korea has very strict laws regarding the privacy rights of non-public individuals; unfortunately, celebrities do not fall into that category as they are considered public figures by their very nature of appearing on television and variety shows, CFs, print advertisements, etc. That is the reason why when we see fan photos taken with their favourite celebrities, their faces are usually hidden via a mosaic or other overlay.
But in that photo montage, a picture of Ji Chang Wook without a mosaic was shown during the broadcast. Wook happened to be one of the celebrities that this Madame Lin had requested to have a picture taken with her and the DJ working the night he was in attendance at a Burning Sun party. As you might imagine, without any explanation from the “The Its Know” emcee that would put the picture shown into context, netizens basically went ballistic, making assumptions that by merely showing this photo during the broadcast without any description, Ji Chang Wook had somehow known about or was otherwise involved with the illegal goings-on at Burning Sun.
It is interesting to note that a mosaic was placed over the face of the football player Cristiano Ronaldo, who was a VIP guest at Burning Sun on a few occasions. Ronaldo is certainly a more worldwide-known public figure than Ji Chang Wook, so to hide Ronaldo’s face and not Ji Chang Wook’s face via mosaic was an unacceptable major fail on the part of the director, producers and editors of the “The Its Know” program.
As expected, whilst he still is on active duty in the military, Wook cannot personally answer for himself regarding these accusations. But his agency, Glorious Entertainment, was quick to put out a statement:
Hello, this is Glorious Entertainment.
Our company’s actor [referring to Ji Chang Wook] has nothing to do with the individual in the photo that was exposed by the show broadcast on the 23rd.
We would like to inform that this photo was from a fan request, which was granted [by the actor].
In this regard, this situation is leading to the spread of false rumors, malicious rumors, and sexual harassment towards the company’s actor, causing serious damage to the actor’s reputation.
As we learn more, this is causing harm and pain to the actor, as well as his family and fans who are watching the situation.
Please refrain from illegal activities such as writing, posting, and spreading speculative rumors about the matter at hand.
By utilizing the reports we received and personally monitoring, we will do our best to protect our actors.
Please send us false information and malicious rumours about our actors by email below:
Subject line: False Information Contents_Date
Lastly, we express our sincere gratitude to all the actor’s fans for always cheering for him and giving us unwavering love.
On the morning of 24 March, an official of SBS’s “The Its Know” spoke to the major news portals to give a weak-sauce apology to Ji Chang Wook, and attempted to explain that the use of Ji Chang Wook’s photo was a device to explain Madame Lin’s close relationship with Korean celebrities:
I found a photo of Ji Chang Wook on Madame Lin’s SNS. He is a public figure, so I did not have a separate mosaic. I am not aware of any connection with Burning Sun. I regret that such a controversy has arisen, he said.
The mosaic of these photos seems to have been caused by errors in communication. There was no need to do it [mosaic] Ronaldo’s face because [his name] had already been written in the subtitles, but it is believed that there was a problem in communication between the production team and CG [computer graphics] department. I think this photo has made it even more controversial, he added.
Later on 24 March, the producers of “The Its Know” posted another feeble attempt at an apology to Ji Chang Wook on their official show homepage:
We announce that there is no confirmed relationship between the individual in the photo and the actor that was exposed during the episode. The photo was taken when someone who alleged to be a fan of the actor, had requested a photo together with said actor. [According to SBS] The usage of the photo was simply an act to underscore that this individual [Madame Lin] often associated with many celebrities as she moved throughout clubs.
Finally, on the morning of 25 March, the SBS VOD (video-on-demand) portal removed its broadcast video of the 23 March episode of “The Its Know,” claiming that it was re-editing the episode and was returned online later that afternoon. [Note: The Kitchen has not reviewed either video to confirm or deny any purported edits made.]
Also as expected, Ji Chang Wook’s fandom has been extremely focal in demanding that he and Glorious Entertainment commence legal proceedings against “The Its Show” and its production company for slander and defamation against Ji Chang Wook. Petitions have been initiated, and SBS has been bombarded with requests demanding they “Apologize to Ji Chang Wook.”
South Korea has some of the most stringent laws against verbal, online and in-print libel, slander and defamation claims. Articles 307-312 of South Korea’s Penal Code describe various “crimes against reputation,” including “defamation, defamation through printed materials and insult.” The publication of “false factual statements” which damage the reputation of others carries a penalty of up to seven years’ imprisonment and a fine. However, truthful statements can also lead to criminal liability; individuals who defame others by “publicly alleging facts” face up to three years’ imprisonment.
South Korea is also one of the first democratic countries in the process of introducing a “cyber defamation” law, but even though there is a groundswell of support throughout the country, its movement forward has currently stalled in the government. Whether or not this incident would fall under any cyber-defamation laws is still open to interpretation.
The alleged slander and defamation shown by “The Its Show” producers in not fully vetting their program before broadcast for potential errors could conceivably fall under one or several of these statutes, and Glorious Entertainment would be well served to review all the details before launching any legal action against those who have allegedly caused such damage to Ji Chang Wook’s reputation.
The Kitchen will not editorialize or pass judgment on Ji Chang Wook regarding what he can or cannot do on his military leave or during his prior non-military life. He is a grown man and deserves his privacy and unfettered move through society. But the truth is that even with prolific apologies from SBS and the “The Its Know” production team, this incident has left a huge stain on his image that will take awhile to remove. The damage already determined by the “Court of Public Opinion” is taking over in full force, and it is going to be a long road to acquire complete vindication for Ji Chang Wook going forward.
Sources: Glorious Entertainment; SBS Entertainment; OSEN; SpoTV.co.kr; Naver; Westlaw Services