By Oh Young-jin
Was Jae-beom, leader of the popular boy band, 2PM, wrong to write insults about Koreans on his MySpace account four years ago?
Let's anatomize this frequently-asked question and find out what's inappropriate about it, not least of all, for the peace of our collective mind.
First, Jae-beom is not Jae-beom but Jay Park, the third-generation Korean-American, meaning he is an American who happened to be born to a Korean immigrant family. In other words, it is not right to expect him to have Korean sensibilities ― being patriotic to his grandparents' motherland or respectful of things Korean.
Chances are that he grew up fighting for his niche in the black-and-white racial palette of Seattle.
As JY Park, the president of the entertainment firm bearing the initials of his name that owns 2PM, says on his Web site popup, the 2PM leader was picked up for his sense of rebellion and talent, not for his patriotism toward Korea.
Second, Jay Park wrote some nasty things about Korea in his 2005 entries that, if taken personally, would be insulting. But at that time, he was an 18-year-old far from home and working as one of many wannabes in JYP's stable seeking instant fame and fortune.
I wouldn't beg him to come back to Korea, but I think giving the 22-year-old the boot for remarks he made four years ago in what's supposed to be his own personal space is an insult to Korea's collective consciousness.
Here are a couple of leftover questions.
One is about the fickle nature of the Internet. Immediately after his writing was known to the public, Jay Park received a traitor's treatment in cyberspace. For every one supportive posting for him, there were 1,000 more that were angry with him. Many called him all kinds of names and threatened to deport him.
Virtually overnight, however, the tenor of the Internet opinion turned around, with critics replaced by supporters.
Especially after he went back to the United States, his fans staged a systematic effort to bring him back.
There was no middle ground on the Internet and it all came down to either/or.
Behind this extreme swing in online opinion is the security of anonymity that enables one to act as if it were their personal playground where they can do whatever they want without the fear of being made responsible.
Their playground is level in a sense that there is no hierarchy separating adults from children, subordinates from bosses or men from women. But if one takes a consummate form of democracy that guarantees absolute equality, he will do so at his own peril.
It's because the playground can turn into a combination of the judge, jury and prosecutor, allowing no principle of "presumed innocent until proven guilty." It did with Jay Park. He was given the guilty verdict without a chance to defend himself.
If the Internet was a one-man judiciary, then JYP, his agent, acted as if he were a defense lawyer working for the other side.
It took four years for JYP to train Jay and four days to ditch him.
Contrary to trade practices of punishing any runaway singer to the extremity of legality, the agency undid its contract in a matter of hours after the brouhaha took place.
On its Web site, CEO JY Park says that it was Jay's decision to leave and asked the fans to respect his decision.
This swift course of action leaves a lot unanswered.
First, JY Park himself was a singer who thrived on controversy; his viewpoints often contradicted the establishment. Then, why did he give up so easily on Jay?
On the basis of his Web site statement, his dissatisfaction with Jay's behavior could be a reason. He says that his disciple often was on the borderline of open rebellion, at one point quoting him as saying, "I would be successful if I didn't sing songs made by JY Park."
If it were not for personal animosity, sending Jay away could be a business decision. In other words, JY Park might feel keeping Jay could jeopardize his other businesses ― the Wonder Girls for one.
I wouldn't go as far as to enlist an online suggestion that he was trying to dramatize the whole event so as to marshal the support of 2PM fans and ensure a hero's welcome for Jay.
At the time of my writing, JYP Entertainment's Web site was closed, with an apology available in a popup.
No matter which case may be closer to reality, one thing for sure is that JY Park sees Jay Park as expendable in his pursuit of money and fame.
Then, what about us?
What do we see in Jay and the tight abdomens of boy bands and pretty faces of girl groups?
What did you think while listening to Girls' Generation's latest hit, "Tell me your wish," or watching Jay's six-pack, or bad-boy expressions on his face?
You don't have to tell me. I already know.