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Allegations of school violence by stars cast gloom over entertainment scene

Experts say movement could be a learning lesson for bullies

In a survey released by the Ministry of Education in January, 28.1 percent of 9,300 students who admitted to bullying said there were no particular reasons for their actions or that they were just playing around. (123rf)
In a survey released by the Ministry of Education in January, 28.1 percent of 9,300 students who admitted to bullying said there were no particular reasons for their actions or that they were just playing around. (123rf)

A series of claims accusing celebrities and sport stars of school violence is spreading like wildfire in Korea via social media.

The claims, also being dubbed the “school #MeToo” movement, began with the controversy regarding volleyball athletes and twin sisters Lee Jae-young and Lee Da-yeong.

After the Lee sisters admitted to the charges, accusations of school bullying by sport stars and celebrities followed swiftly.

Actors Cho Byeong-kyu, Park Hye-su, Kim Dong-hee and K-pop stars Soojin of girl band (G)I-dle, Chuu of Loona, Mingyu of boy band Seventeen and Hyuna have denied bullying allegations that were brought against them.

Hyunjin of Stray Kids and Kihyun of Monsta X, on the other hand, have owned up to their past actions.

A contender on Mnet’s current hip-hop audition TV show “High School Rapper 4” was accused of a sexual assault incident that occurred in 2018. The contender, Kang Hyun, left the show, apologizing for causing a disruption.

“Though we talked with the 40 contenders on multiple occasions before the start of the show, we were not aware of the incident,” the production team said.

Some TV shows featuring the stars in controversy have been put on hold.

The airing of the first episode of drama series “Dear M” featuring Park Hye-su was postponed. Cho Byeong-kyu was pulled off as co-host alongside Yoo Jae-suk from the production of KBS’ new reality show “Comeback Home.”

The revelations have left fans reeling in shock, fearing they may have been supporting bullies. Some fans are going as far to demand entertainment agencies drop those who have been accused of school violence from their bands.

“It would be wrong to support stars who have hurt others so much when they were young,” said office worker Lee, who wished to be identified by his family name. Lee was an avid fan of a boy band member embroiled in a recent controversy.

“I do not want to support someone who had inflicted mental or physical pain on the weaker ones,” Lee said.

Experts say the wave of disclosures may encourage more victims to come forward or send a stark warning to wrongdoers.

“The revelations can educate the students about what school bullying is, and that they may be bullies to others, too,” said Lee Jeong-hee, a teacher at Healing Center Haemalgum, an institution for victims of school violence.

In a 2020 survey released by the Ministry of Education in January, 28.1 percent of 9,300 students who admitted to bullying said there were no particular reasons for their actions or that they were just playing around.

Seeing as how celebrities’ history of bullying before they shot to fame could put the brakes on their careers, it sends a word of caution to students bullying their peers, Lee said.

“It can teach students that their actions can come back to haunt them after decades and may restrict them from doing what they want to do and that everything may fall apart,” Lee said.

Lee pointed out that much of the attention on school violence cases have centered on the punishment and reeducation of bullies, rather than the victims.

“The public sentiment towards school violence has been changing a lot over the years. Before, it was treated as a small mishap that could happen between classmates,” Lee said.

“However, still much of the focus is on the bullies and their punishment and reeducation. Not many care about victims who suffer a lifelong trauma, sometimes unable to rejoin the society. The victims are the ones who should be helped.”

By Im Eun-byel (silverstar@heraldcorp.com)
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