Why Are We Ignoring the Disturbing Allegations Against ‘Squid Game’ Star Lee Jung-jae?

OFFERee Jung-jae took home the award for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at Monday night’s Emmys for his role in Netflix’s global drama. Squid gameagainst those who like It’s better to call SaulBob Odenkirk’s and Heirby Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox. In the process, he made history as the first Asian to win an Emmy for Lead Actor.

As Seong Gi-hun, a divorced father and a heavily indebted gambler who is lured into a deadly game of survival with a huge cash prize, Lee has emerged as a sudden star. break of Squid game, which still ranks as Netflix’s most-watched series ever (although he’s had a long career in Korea over the decades, including the Grand Bell and Baeksang). Lee is arguably the most recognizable Korean actor in the world right now — and his stardom will rise even further after landing the lead role in Acolyte, one coming Star Wars recital.

But if we’re using Lee to celebrate everything that’s great and different about Korean television, we also need to acknowledge everything else he stands for — including how, similarly to the West, Korean male stars enjoy the benefits of an outdated growing industry to protect and preserve their image.

In 1999, Lee was detained by the Gangnam police for driving into a collision with another driver, a 23-year-old woman. His blood alcohol level is 0.22% (in Korea, the limit is 0.05%). Lee denied the allegation, claiming that his manager was driving. Three years later, he was charged with the same crime.

That same year, 1999, he and a drunken friend attacked another man and were charged with assault. He was again charged with assault the following year after he allegedly dragged a 22-year-old woman from a nightclub in Busan and kicked her, causing her injuries and requiring a two-week hospital stay.

Fast-forward to 2013, in an interview with Vogue KoreaLee showed up to meet his friend and celebrity stylist, Woo Jong-wan, shortly after he committed suicide. Before his death, Lee declared, “I said [him], ‘You should stop being gay. Haven’t you done enough? ‘” He went on to describe Woo’s homosexuality as an ‘inconvenience’. The citations were subsequently taken from online versions of the interview.

Fans think it’s been so long, so it’s okay. Indeed, we should acknowledge and encourage development if we see it. But we didn’t. Lee did not wrestle with the allegations in interviews or share any information about the steps he took to rehabilitate himself; instead, they were caught up in all but the rug. We also don’t know if this is Lee’s total past. We can only judge what we see and as you can tell from those quotes that disappear, what we see about Korean stars is heavily curated — by the electrical industry. photo and television, media and fans.

Much of what we see from many Korean performers is a carefully curated image that removes imperfections to create an ideal avatar. It’s the most obvious thing in K-pop. Groups like BTS and Oh My Girl are carefully managed by labels. Band members live in dormitories, sometimes sharing rooms. Their performances are tightly controlled, both on and off stage. Not impromptu; nothing is not described. They became a franchise – a permanent reality show that fans couldn’t take their eyes off of.

This is not entirely unique to Korea. In many ways, it’s popular among modern-day celebrities. But while this type of plagiarism in the West often focuses on humanistic celebrities, in South Korea it’s about building an unrealistic, aspirational and uncompromising ideal.

After all, when we see public figures as human, it’s easier to attribute their transgressions to people. In South Korea, red flags are carefully hidden under layers of branding that can’t be dislodged – at least if you’re a man.

The amount of time that Lee enjoyed with these reports was compared to Johnny Depp. It’s the same kind of fixed, manufactured image that allows Depp’s fans to completely remove evidence of his abuse—or even penalize it.

So, are Lee’s fans dispassionately ignoring reports of his assaults and homophobia. Who cares? they ask, more interested in the image they have helped build over the years. This kind of violence simply doesn’t suit the Lee Jung-jae they convince themselves they know, fueled by a series of assholes defending men in the film and television industries. globally.

The same fallacy that isolates Lee from these reports means that, in South Korea, men can survive allegations of sexual harassment and assault while rumors of bullying can derail a career. of Seo Ye-ji, or Song Ji-a wearing fake branded clothes, causing her to be dishonestly injured and kicked out of social networks.

The same fallacy that isolates Lee from these reports means that, in South Korea, men can survive allegations of sexual harassment and assault while rumors of bullying can derail a career. of Seo Ye-ji, or Song Ji-a wearing fake branded clothes, causing her to be dishonestly injured and kicked out of social networks.

It is this misconception that allows Depp to continue collecting endorsements and gigs while Amber Heard may never work in the industry again — and other men use her as a way to smear her. their own accusers.

It’s easy for Western audiences to forget all this while watching Korean television, losing themselves in a culture that so many of us know little about. But if we’re going to interact with Korean television (and we should, it’s unbelievable), we need to understand that what we’re seeing is a carefully crafted fabrication of the What does Korea look like, where anything maybe considered a disadvantage is censored out of the program. And its stars are also insulated from opinions that run counter to Korean ideals — for example, that one of Korea’s biggest stars may not be as clean as its managers, assistants and like-minded people want him to show up.

I want people to love Korean television — it’s a worthwhile love affair — and celebrate the success of the stars in the global market. But we also have to understand that beneath the ostensibly pleasant stories of men like Lee Jung-jae achieving global stardom, there can be as much darkness as in places like Hollywood.

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