Celebrities Find Weblogs to Be Both Help and Hindrance to Career
By Park Chung-a
is currently one of the hottest stars in the nation. The actor plays a charming, androgynous jester from the late Choson Kingdom in "The King and the Clown
", the hit film that attracted more than 2 million people within nine days of its release. His television drama "My Girl"
, in which he plays a happy-go-lucky playboy, boasts the highest viewer ratings in its timeslot.
But while his stock is definitely on the rise, Lee has also found unexpected trouble. It all started from a personal note that he posted on his friend's Cyworld Internet blog. The note, which was lightly written with many emoticons, read, "Japan is my country and I will go there when I am done with this movie. I like pro-Japanese people".
Lee meant the words in jest, but blog users who discovered them were not amused.
Users began spreading the private note around the Internet without providing any context or explanation. As a result, people started to fill up portal Web sites and Lee's personal blog with abusive language, calling him a traitor and more.
As the situation worsened, Lee issued a public statement. He explained that he wrote "Japan is my country" as he aims to become a star in Japan by pursuing his acting career there in the future, and that "pro-Japanese" is a joke that he uses among his friends who study Japanese together.
Lee eventually closed the blog, which he ran for over two years, due to too much traffic. Instead, he announced that any news or announcements would only be conveyed through his agency's Internet Web site.
Lee is not the only celebrity to have had trouble with his personal blog. Popular actress Jung Ryeo-won
, who starred in the last year's mega-hit soap opera "My Lovely Sam-soon" - "My Name is Kim Sam-soon
" also closed down her blog last week as people posted expletive-filled messages criticizing her skills in hosting the MBC Acting Awards in December. According to Cyworld officials, Jeong's Internet blog was last year's most visited blog, attracting a total of 14.6 million people.
"Abusive language written on an agency's official Web sites or portal Web sites can just be ignored to some extent", said an official from entertainment agency who claimed anonymity. "But since personal blogs are things that entertainers run on their own, swearing and criticism cannot but hurt them.
"Some Internet users even visit blogs of stars' friends and leave hateful messages there. Thus, in order not to harm their acquaintances, stars often close down their blogs".
Cyworld ( Open the link
) which provides the most popular Internet blog service in South Korea, has about 17 million members, which is more than one third of the country's population. Since having a Cyworld blog has become so common, an increasing number of entertainers are running them.
"As keeping the public's attention is vital for a successful career as an entertainer, personal blogs can be a useful tool for entertainers to better communicate with their fans and promote their friendly image", said Lee Jae-hyun, a media expert and professor.
The upside of stars' blogs is that they can provide fans with an intimate glimpse of their idols. For example, Kim Hee-sun
, a popular actress in Asia, updates her blog regularly with photos of herself during free time and with information about events related to her acting career and her schedule. Like many other star's blogs, she also has a folder that is open for her fans to freely upload pictures.
Kim's blog was the third most visited in the nation last year, following actress Jeong and singer and musical actress Ock Joo-hyun
Korean-American model and actor Daniel Henney
rarely updates his blog, but his fans still visit and update it everyday, putting pictures of him there that they find online or offline and leaving messages for him in the guestbook.
However, media expert Lee pointed out that stars who own blogs always face the risk of controversy and cyber attacks since every word they write is watched by fans and random blog users, as well as media. "Hence, it is difficult for stars to freely express their own personal thoughts. Even making a joke is hard, as you see (in the case of Lee Joon-gi
)", he said.
One of the worst cases happened in August when comedian Ahn Son-yeong posted a very private message on the blog of her actress friend. The message implied an inappropriate sexual relationship between another female entertainer and the actress with her real name given. The original message was copied and spread rapidly throughout the Internet.
Ahn later said that the message was mistakenly posted in an open guestbook rather than in a private one. Indeed, many stars choose not to make a guestbook available as they always turn out to be the source for most controversies.
In edition, some users publicize their blogs under the assumed names of stars. The recent victims were famous actress Kim Tae-hee
and singer Sung Si-kyung, both of whom do not have personal blogs.
For entertainment reporters, stars' blogs have become an important source for news stories. Last year, 14-year-old Kim Sung-eun
, who starred in a popular TV sitcom series in late 1990s, confessed on her blog that she often felt like a psychopath while acting at that time. "I often felt like stabbing people who call me `Midari' with knife. I am still not happy", she wrote. These words immediately made headlines of news stories and even a TV program dedicated one episode to the hardship of being a child actor, featuring Kim herself.
"A personal blog is a precious and private territory for its owner and all blog owners, including stars, should enjoy their freedom of speech there. Internet users should behave more politely when regarding stars' blogs", said Lee.
However, as long as stars live on people's attention, it seems unlikely that they can enjoy total freedom of speech on their personal blogs without creating controversy.