Celebrity News
Choi Jin-shil’s death spurs talk of cyber slander laws
by | October 3, 2008 | 40 Comments

“Last Scandal” co-star Jung Jun-ho, actress Choi Ji-woo

If there’s something to take away from the overwhelming attention and the number of entertainers who came to pay their final respects to deceased Choi Jin-shil, it’s that she was much-respected and much-loved by many colleagues over the entire length of her 20-year career.

People are also taking her death as a sign of needing to strengthen cyber slander laws, citing examples in the past where Internet slanderers were prosecuted and fined for defamatory postings. An article in the Joongang Daily (English language) states:

[D]efamation by spreading false rumors is subject to up to seven years in prison but most get away with fines.

According to the Supreme Court of Korea, only 2 percent of slanderers are actually prosecuted. However, the number of online slander cases has been on the rise, from 316 in 2005, to 350 in 2006, 403 in 2007 and 213 in the first half of this year….

However, opposition parties including the Democratic Party said this is an attempt to regulate cyberspace to eliminate anti-government postings. The DP said the ruling party is trying to “use the suicide incident politically.”


The Korea Times (also English language) also talks about policymakers looking to enforce stricter identification requirements on highly trafficked websites in order to participate in forums and discussion.

This means that users will have to type in their resident registration numbers ― a 13-digit code that indicates birth date, sex and registration site ― or I-PIN numbers, a personal identification code for online use, to leave messages. …

The operators of the Web sites will be required to disclose the identities of bloggers accused of cyber attacks on request of police or victims seeking legal action, government officials said.

On the flip side, this has sparked concerns of censorship and government stifling of free speech. It has vague Patriot Act-like overtones and I’m not sure I would trust the government to “monitor” cyber slander without abusing that power, although I do think Korea’s got a particularly pernicious (sub)culture of Internet nastiness that deserves a smackdown.


Choi Jin-shil’s mother holding hand of her son, Choi Jin-young (also on right)


As for the numerous people who came to pay their respects, I noted that the red carpet was a bit sparser on the second night of the Pusan International Film Festival. You can indeed see that many of the stars who’d been in Pusan on the day Choi was discovered dead had attended the opening night that evening, then returned to Seoul to pay respects to Choi.

(By the way, I still think these memorial visits are vastly exploitative — both on the media and celebrity ends — and the PIFF juxtaposition is almost like unintentional but grimly ironic proof of that, since we can see how the memorial process is almost like a pseudo red carpet event in and of itself. Which is too bad, because I believe that it’s unfortunate when the very real grief of some gets conflated with the “show” put on by others. But side rant over.)

Jung Sun-hee:

Shinae, Uhm Jung-hwa, Go Ju-won:

Choi Su-jong with wife Ha Hee-ra, Chae Shira:

Choi Ji-woo:

Kim Jung-eun and Kim Hyun-joo

Ex-husband Jo Sung-min, Kim Hyun-jung, and Kim Ji-sun:

Han Jae-seok, Jang Dong-gun, and Gong Hyung-jin together, then separately:

Han Jae-seok, Go So-young, Oh Ji-ho:

Kim Ah-joong and Go Soo:

Cha Seung-won, alone and with Jang Jin, Shin Aera:

Woo Hee-jin and Lee Bon:

Kim Min-jong with Ryu Shi-won, Solbi:

Yoon Eun-hye, Park Hae-jin, Kim Hyo-jin:

Hosts and comedians Yoo Jae-seok, Park Myung-soo, Kim Jae-dong, Lee Hwi-jae:

Kim Hye-ja, Last Scandal co-star Kim Byung-sae, and Byun Hee-bong:

Kpop singers Hwanhee, Hwayobi, and Kim Jong-kook:

Mickey Jung with wife Harisu, Kim Min-sun, and Lee Min-woo:

Kim Hee-ae, Kim Heung-kook, Jo Hyung-ki, and Jung Sun-kyung:

Kim Yong-gun, Lee Jae-ryong with Yoo Ho-jung, Lee Kyung-shil, and Lee Yoo-jin:

Pop ballad singers Alex, Tim, and Kang Su-ji:

Ahn Hye-kyung , Jo Yeon-woo, Jung Bo-seok, Oh Seung-hyun:

Kim Jung-min, Lee Hyun-ji, Lee Haneul, Kim Jung-min:

Bbaek-ga, Byun Jin-sub, Jung Su-ra, Kim Gu-ra:

Member of Parliament Yoo Jung-hyun, Yoo Hae-young, Tak Jae-hoon:

Via Hankook Ilbo


40 Comments from the Beanut Gallery
  1. Toya

    WOW, lots of people came this time. It was a lot before but, wow. Like I posted in the previous topic about this, her death was mentioned in the Toronto Sun.


  2. Shaenna

    Hopefully, we don’t hear of anymore deaths. So many people have already left us… They will truly be missed.

  3. rocketfuel

    So, where do these cyber trolls roam? anyone know which websites?

  4. Toya

    Hey Rocketfuel, planning on crashing ’em?

  5. pabo ceo reom

    Essentially it’s ubiquitous…the anonymity of the Internet can bring out the ugly in people.

  6. le

    she is really missed. i remember just watching the NG special over the holiday, it had Last Scandal scenes. i’m still in shock. netizens are really horrible, i hope there is a way to stop those negative comments & rumors.

  7. Sevenses

    The media coverage this time is more respectful and less ‘Oooh she’s dead let’s see’ than Ahn Jae Hwan’s. Which is good, and is as it should be any time there’s a death.

    Also, cyber slander and general asshattery is really prevalent everywhere else too. We’re lucky that it doesn’t happen here.

  8. belleza

    “By the way, I still think these memorial visits are vastly exploitative”

    I’m kinda ambivalent about it, because public appearance is more an integral part of Korean society than it is here. But I didn’t know Park Hae Jin knew her personally. Uhhh, I’ll just leave it at that.

    “the anonymity of the Internet can bring out the ugly in people.”

    Here’s a good article about troll culture:

    And, of course, you can walk over to 4ch. Or uhh the commentary section of a few K-pop sites. I mean, people can say what they want about netizens or whatever, but it’s not as if we’re much better. People take pleasure at putting other people, especially celebrities, down. It gives their life purpose.

    I don’t know about cyber surveillance, though. If they really want to implement it properly (i.e. where it can actually work), then everybody gives up a lot of their privacy.

  9. SORA

    rest in peace n may God be with her family

  10. 10 OurPointOfView

    Truly, truly sad.

  11. 11 Rokku

    I agree with you that online slandering seem to be a lot harsher in Korea than elsewhere. As in the comments are really out of control in term of respect. The simplest thing to do is to have moderators on these forums to delete any ill-intention posts. It seems like these posts aren’t being deleted but instead allow to prosper until it can reach the star themself.

  12. 12 Suzy

    belleza, I just read that nytimes article. Wow, that was enlightening and scary.

  13. 13 Sue

    i’m pretty thoroughly against that.

    but don’t you have to enter your 주민등록번호/KSSN to post comments on most (non cafe & blog) sites anyway? i’ve found i’m not able to usually leave comments because my real name/id is not verified (no KSSN).

    i think it’s already scary enough that the majority of korean sites require those KSSNs. privacy in korean-internet seems like a joke to me.

  14. 14 Izit

    “memorial process is almost like a pseudo red carpet event in and of itself”

    Come on…

    Don’t u think you went a bit too far ?

  15. 15 javabeans

    Don’t u think you went a bit too far ?

    No, I don’t.

    You’ll notice I also said, “It’s unfortunate when the very real grief of some gets conflated with the ‘show’ put on by others.”

  16. 16 all4movies

    At least, wearing all black looked very appropriate rather than at a wedding.

    I hope Choi Jin-Shil knows how much she was respected and that her presence will be missed on earth.

  17. 17 teokong

    Judging from the stream of people coming to pay respect, it shows that she was well repected and loved. No ‘ugly’ comments please.
    Thanks javabeans for the post.

  18. 18 Kobe

    Oh come on. Scrutinizing and censoring of Internet traffic will never ever be accepted by users in general. Like what Sue said, a lot of Korean sites are already very heavily restricted requiring those pesky KSSN’s and taking it any further would be going OTT.

  19. 19 katy rose.

    sevenseas – i agree, media coverage does seem more respectful. from what i’ve seen. i don’t seek out memorial service photos, but it seems like reporters took their photos at more respectful and appropriate times than what i’ve seen from other memorials.

    belleza – that NY Times article seriously freaked me out. Some of the people (and by some I mean one in particular) the reporter interviewed and talked about came off as seriously demented to me. Like, dude. Hospitalize these people. [and on a side note, the fact that Mr. Reporter Guy STAYED at the homes of them..omg. Like really, i’d be hella scared to do that.

    lzit – “memorial process is almost like a pseudo red carpet event in and of itself”

    I’m with javabeans on this one. Because it really is, and saying so isn’t going too far. And at least she added the word “pseudo” to soften the effect of the words. Celebrity memorials in Korea are as heavily covered and publicized as a lot of other public events [or at least, it seems so to me].

  20. 20 asianromance

    I’m not sure about having the government regulate cyberspace and tracking internet postings to the user- that kind of censorship has me paranoid about the government hiding things from its citizens and also, it is a violation of privacy. I just think there should be more awareness overall about responsible internet use. Maybe a documentary can be made or a movie about how hateful online posts can cause someone a lot of pain. I wish they would keep the media away from these memorial visits. I keep feeling like, behind the scenes, the photographers counting the cash it makes from taking and selling these pics. Everyone looks so sad- it’s painful to look at the pics- for this batch of pics, I just quickly glanced and scrolled down. A few of these actors/actresses had seen choi jin shil on the big and small screens since they were pre-teens and teens. It is like having a whole era cut out of your life.

  21. 21 k drama fan

    Some of them is like acting you can’t even see the tears in their eyes
    If they were close or at least respected her, they should have cried

  22. 22 D:

    jungsun hee’s raw grief gives me heartaches. i’m so sad for her – dealing with the loss of her husband, friend, and all the rumors about her husband’s death and her involvement. ughh.

    RIP 🙁

    i think the whole cyberspace thing should be more enforced. i mean, some of the comments are crazy.
    it should be taught in schools to respect others. it seems like the “trolls” are mostly younger kids who want to make themselves feel better.
    people should have better sense than that.

  23. 23 danny

    k drama fan are you serious?
    A person doesn’t need to show tears to prove that their in pain.
    People grieve in different ways, some are more emotional than others.
    just because other people are not showing their tears, does not mean they are not grieving or that they love CJS any less.

    As for those ruthless trolls, they are everywhere not just in korea.
    My experience from reading entertainment blogs espescially Popseoul, is that they dont care who they hurt, as long that they can bash the actors/actress they hate, it gives them a sense of satisfaction. I dont think that internet bullying is gonna go away anytime soon. Sad but that’s the truth.

  24. 24 marz

    watching some of the stars there, they look deeply affected by the whole thing.
    mostly sun hee, she looks so fragile and lost. i think she is about ready to collapse.
    shinae too. gosh.

    poor jung jun ho two his female leads have passed away. he must feel bad too.

    this whole cyberspace slanders and stuff is wayyy serious. things like those can really affect the readers and influence i think sometimes. it should be monitored but maybe im not sure about those privacy invading stuff. maybe there’s another way.
    people should really be careful of the words.

  25. 25 Jac

    One reason I read Dramabeans is because I notice javabeans steps in to ‘correct’ extreme opinions. I believe that every web/blog owner/moderator has that social obligation to put people in their places (when REALLY needed). It’s like a parent guiding a child – being firm but not yelling all over the place. I may not necessarily agree with everything that javabeans has written, but I read it with an amount of respect.

    We can blame the system, we can blame the culture but all the ‘evilness’ stems from only one source – Man. If we can discuss issues diplomatically, give constructive criticisms, accept comments and treat everyone with a good amount of respect, that would be a world somewhere in Paradise. But that is not going to happen, is it?

    Would I want cyberspace to be policed? No.

    “memorial process is almost like a pseudo red carpet event in and of itself”

    While I don’t really agree to this, I didn’t take offense at it simply because it is evident that, thought was given in crafting this sentence. IMO, as long as it is not outright bashing, the degree of hurt is likewise reduced.

    Grief is an abstract emotion, it’s the degree of grief that differs.

  26. 26 yasi

    just hope God bless her and the family would be in peace after her death

  27. 27 rocketfuel


    I wish I had the nerd power to crash a site….I also wish I was fluent in korean, but the most I can do is read korean fonts. I just want to put my flame suit on and flame…..anyone who can read “engrish.”

  28. 28 Rina

    Is that Park Hae Jin carrying the casket? If so, I’m guessing he did know her.


  29. 29 Winnie

    “memorial process is almost like a pseudo red carpet event in and of itself”

    I’m also with javabeans on this one. Celebrity weddings and funerals (moreso for weddings, but unfortunately for funerals too) are an opportunity to get your name out there, to show that you have connections in the celebrity world. That being said, I don’t feel comfortable judging anybody in particular, because I just can’t know who is genuinely close to whom. Plus, even if you didn’t know her personally, Choi Jin-shil was a well-liked and important figure in the industry. I imagine many people went simply to pay respects to a person who genuinely deserves it.

    And since we’re on the topic of internet accountability, THANK YOU to javabeans for always providing well-written, sensitive, and balanced commentary on difficult issues like this. That’s why it’s one of the best Kpop culture blogs out there, in my opinion.

  30. 30 Squirt

    Part of me thinks they should monitor cyber slander…another part of me thinks they shouldn’t I don’t know. It’s so easy for someone to write lies and hateful comments online without having to take responsibility for it. I think people should at least be forced to show their true identity. That will probably stifle alot of trolls.

    As long as someone can write respectfully without resorting to bashing I don’t see a problem.

  31. 31 ed

    rocketfuel, if you’re still game there is a seriously disturbed “baduk” on marmot’s hole:


    reading that @rap just depressed me even more. so this is what choi jin-shil had to put up with…just beyond putrid.

  32. 32 Jenny

    It is very very difficult for a person especially a celebrity to end one’s life, leaving friends and family behind. And knew it would shock everyone.

    She must be extremely traumatized, only God knows what she went thru. To such an extent that no money no friendship can get her out of it.

    I sympathized, pitied her and we all mourn for her for a better life after death if there is ever one.

  33. 33 Jenny

    It is very very difficult for a person especially a celebrity to end one’s life, leaving friends and family behind. And definitely wouldn’t want to leave her children behind. And knowing it would shock and break everybody’s heart.

    She must be extremely traumatized, only God knows what she went thru. To such an extent that no money no friendship can get her out of it.

    I sympathized, pitied her and we all mourn for her for a better life after death if there is ever one.

  34. 34 rocketfuel


    I responded. 🙂

    *edit*…it’s being moderated so it might not go through, but this is what I wrote:

    “Your comment is awaiting moderation.

    There there, don’t pick on baduk. Stupid people say stupid things because stupidity is their first language. While Baduk may sound like it’s speaking English, it’s nothing of the sort. It’s coming from a place where gossip magazines is it’s religion and the truth is a 2nd language.

    Do the world a favor Baduk, don’t breed and spread your dumb genes. The last thing we need is a bunch of things pretending to be human.”

  35. 35 Chris27

    Hi, i was replying on “belleza’s comment”.
    The link that she was posted…really scary. And the most terrifying is i found this:


    My god…i feel sick to see it. Many people left a sick comment to others obituary. Thanks belleza to share the info.

    *Feel sorry to hear choi jin shil’s death, hope her family can bear the grief.”

  36. 36 JOJO

    I felt to sad when i heard this.. if not because of satan, who steal away her, she would have been still alive, and she may even enjoy her life time with her family. but i hope that she will rest in peace even she gone anywhere else where God had plan for her.

    i miss the time whereby she act in Last scandal,
    if she’s not dead yet,
    she could probably shooting the second season D:

  37. 37 ikram

    hi! my love joi jin sil i can’t spikes bat i love you soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooow match …………………………………………

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