*Disclaimer 1: I do not mean for this to be an attack on anyone that genuinely likes/loves NB.
While perusing the titles on the much maligned NetizenBuzz Twitter page, I came across a title that made me pause. It was about Shinhwa’s leader Eric and featured a post made in 2004 that had somehow resurfaced as a topic worth discussing. The comment is unsurprising for a man who would have been roughly 25 and at the height of his career in a society like Korea which adheres rather strongly to ‘traditional’ gender roles. I’m in now way defending his actions but I would be very surprised if he still maintained these beliefs.
What gave me the biggest pause was the title and how it framed the original post as a recent comment. The title connects his words to V App which has only recently become a popular social media tool. Whereas the interview in question is from an interview no way connected to V App or even the 2010’s. The title also did not specify which Eric made these comments which lead to confusion as many Kpop fans had assumed that it was Eric Nam, not Eric Mun.
[Now I know Eric Nam is too pure for this world to say those terribly misogynistic words so I knew from jump who the perpetrator was but I can understand the confusion if you are not familiar with 1st generation idol groups.]
Clearly, the title was meant to garner clicks and drum up conversation on her page and that was successful. But with so many English language Korean sites that do the job of providing Korean entertainment news (almost to the second it drops in Korea) and multiple sources for Korean search trends what purpose do we have for a site like NetizenBuzz? If NB was providing us with something we needed or useful information, I wouldn’t even take the time to write this but I have, personally, yet to see the worth in that site.
Do we, international fans, need to know what Korean netizens feel about the much hated T-ara, Jessica, Krystal and Sulli on an almost weekly basis? Did we need post after post of Korean’s disgust for TOP after his suicide attempt? What positive information have we gleaned from how the ordinary Korean feels about body types, dating rumours, drug use, idol pay cheques, idealized skin shades, etc.?
Don’t strain yourself by thinking too hard.
The truth is that it’s far too easy to come out of an NB post thinking that Korean’s are ignorant, mean spirited, colourist, racist, xenophobic, hateful people. The comments chosen tend to reflect the unrelenting jealous nature of people who are so unhappy with their lives that they go out of their way to write hateful things about people on the internet. Instead of reflecting the diversity of opinions available, NB purposely focuses on the most nonsensical articles and the worst comments that can be found, translates them and then posts it for English consumption.
And what does the international community do? We eat it up. Let’s be honest that 99% of the consumers of these crappy posts already believe that Korea is still too set in the past or too ‘foreign’ to have opinions that align with Western ‘enlightenment’. I would go as far as to make the argument that these posts strengthen Western superiority and maintain harmful ideologies about Asia. How many times have you seen a comment deriding the Korean public for their opinions on matters within their own country? As outsiders looking in, it is far too easy to judge those on the inside that live and breath a world that we simply are not apart of.
Even with all that I’ve mentioned above, the most pressing question I have is what do we gain from these posts? Unlike other sites, that present actual news, NB doesn’t translate the information in the articles. The focus of the translations are on the comments from netizens. Meaning that the entirety of this site is full of biased titles and cherry-picked comments which in no way offers valuable information that can’t be found from many other sources. There have been too many times that I’ve come across a post and wondered what the article is about before moving on to a different site that can provide that information.
The most egregious part of this is the information provided in the FAQ that is meant to explain why the site focuses so much on negativity. She posts that positive articles are mainly PR driven and products of media play without considering how the content on this site can also be PR driven or a product of media play. Let’s not forget that NB pushed the T-ara are bullies narrative towards the international community and has yet to acknowledge or apologize for her part in spreading false information that hurt the group for 5 years. And yet she posted about the dangers of uninformed netizens running amok here:
…imagine what happens when an uninformed netizen writes a malicious thread filled with rumors or lies. You can only hope and pray that it doesn’t catch on and end up in the overall ranking because after that, you can pretty much kiss any chance of saving the group’s image goodbye, especially with the witch hunt mentality that comes with it.
I’ve also noticed that her current posts on Na Hye Mi (Eric’s future wife) tend to come across as mean spirited. Obviously, Eric has elevated Hye Mi’s popularity somewhat but there seems to be more focus on Hye Mi’s lack of a career and “unattractive” qualities than on Shinhwa’s group activities. Do I need to know that netizens don’t care for her? Wouldn’t it be more prudent for international Shinhwa fans to know how Korea feels about the group since popularity equals to their continued activities. Personally, it’s coming across as if NB may be a bit upset about Eric’s upcoming marriage and that is what is guiding the translations I’ve been seeing lately.
*Disclaimer 2: This is not a personal attack on NB the person but on the content of the site and how it reflects back to the owner.
Look, I do understand that there’s an audience for the type of content that NB provides and she makes valid observations about the mechanisms of the Korean industry. I also can see the value in knowing what the Korean public has to say about their homegrown talent, I only ask that international fans start to question what they are consuming. To repeat what I tweeted earlier today: Does it matter what Knetz think or feel? Did it ever really matter? And even if it does matter, does [consuming] biased [information] make it worth it? After all, insidious intentions beget ignorance more often than not and there’s already too much ignorance in the world we live in.