Lee Jung-jae took house the lead actor in a drama sequence on the Monday Night time Emmys for his position in Netflix’s world smash squid recreationsuperior to the likes of One of the best of Saul on demandBob Odenkirk and SuccessionJeremy Sturdy and Brian Cox. Within the course of, he made historical past as the primary Asian man to win an Emmy Championship.
For his position as Seung Ji Hoon, a divorced father and indebted gambler who’s lured right into a lethal survival recreation with an enormous money prize, Lee emerged because the breakout star. squid recreation, which nonetheless ranks among the many most-watched sequence on Netflix of all time (though he is had a profession in Korea for many years, together with the Grand Bell Awards and Baeksang). Lee is arguably the preferred Korean actor on this planet proper now – and his star will rise even increased after enjoying the main position in the assistantSubsequent star Wars seems.
But when we’ll use Lee to have fun all that is cool and totally different about Korean TV, we additionally must acknowledge every little thing else he represents — together with how, Western-style, male Korean stars get pleasure from business advantages that bend backwards to guard and protect their picture.
In 1999, Lee was arrested by Gangnam Police for driving inebriated and inflicting him to crash into one other driver, a 23-year-old girl. His blood alcohol content material was 0.22 p.c (in South Korea, the restrict is 0.05 p.c). Lee denied the cost, claiming that his supervisor was driving. Three years later, he was charged with the identical cost.
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That very same yr, in 1999, he and his buddy attacked one other drunk man and have been accused of assault. He was charged with assault once more the next yr after he allegedly pulled a 22-year-old girl out of a Busan nightclub and kicked her, inflicting accidents that required two weeks of hospital restoration.
Quick ahead to 2013 the place, in an interview with Vogue KoreaLee appeared to his buddy and distinguished designer, Woo Jung Wan, shortly after his suicide. Earlier than his dying, he informed me, “I mentioned [him]’It is best to cease being homosexual. Wasn’t that method sufficient? He went on to explain Woo’s homosexuality as “an inconvenience.” Quotes have been later pulled from digital variations of the interview.
Followers say it was so way back that it would not matter. The truth is, we should acknowledge and encourage development if see her. However we did not. Lee didn’t contest the allegations in interviews or share any details about the steps he took to rehabilitate himself; As a substitute, they’ve all been wiped underneath the rug. We do not know if that is the sum of my previous. We will solely decide by what we see, and as you’ll be able to most likely inform from the disappearance of those quotes, what we see of Korean stars is closely curated – by the movie and tv business, by the media, and by followers.
A lot of what we see from many Korean performers is a extremely structured picture that removes imperfections as a way to create the right avatar. The obvious factor in Ok-pop. Teams like BTS and Oh My Lady are fastidiously managed by manufacturing firms. Band members reside in dorms, typically sharing rooms. Their efficiency, each on and off stage, is tightly managed. No improvisation, nothing unwritten. They’ve turn out to be manufacturers – a permanent actuality present that followers simply cannot get away from.
This isn’t totally distinctive to Korea. It’s, in some ways, common to modern-day celebrities. However whereas within the West this sort of popularity homogenization is commonly centered on humanizing celebrities, in Korea it’s all about supporting an unrealistically formidable mannequin that can’t be compromised.
In any case, once we get to know public figures as human beings, it’s simpler to connect their transgressions to them. In Korea, purple flags are so fastidiously hidden underneath layers of branding that it may be unimaginable to get them off—at the least when you’re a person.
The leeway Lee loved throughout these reviews has been in comparison with that of Johnny Depp. It is the identical form of well-established, manufactured imagery that permits Depp’s followers to dismiss irrefutable proof of his abuses – and even punish them.
So, too, Lee’s followers casually ignore reviews of his assaults and homophobia. who cares? They ask, extra within the picture they’ve helped construct over time. That form of violence merely would not go away with the Lee Jung-jae they satisfied themselves they knew, spurred on by the sprawling options to misogyny that shield males within the movie and TV business world wide.
The identical misogyny that isolates Lee from these reviews signifies that in Korea, males can escape accusations of sexual harassment and assault whereas rumors of bullying can derail Website positioning Ye-ji’s profession, or Track Ji-a’s carrying of pretend designer garments causes her to be branded . Dishonest and stalking from social media.
The identical misogyny permits Depp to proceed to collect assist and illustration whereas Amber Heard could by no means work within the business once more – and different males use it as a strategy to discredit their accusers.
It is easy for Western viewers to neglect all this whereas watching Korean TV, and lose themselves in a tradition that many people know little or no about. But when we’ll associate with Korean TV (and we should always, it is unbelievable) we have now to know that what we’re seeing is a fastidiously created fabrication of what Korea ought to seem like, and the place something is. may Thought-about a forbidden defect of the reveals. And its stars are equally insulated from concepts that go in opposition to Korean beliefs—for instance, that one in every of Korea’s greatest stars won’t be as clear as administrators, assistants, and supervisors need it to be.
I would like folks to fall in love with Korean TV – it is a rewarding affair – and welcome the success of its stars within the world market. However we should additionally perceive that beneath the tales of males like Lee Jong Jae reaching world stardom, there may be simply as a lot darkness in locations like Hollywood.
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