Actor Ko Kyeong-pyo has become popular recently, thanks to the success of his TV drama. He also shares his opinions on twitter once in a while. One of his tweets referred to the Korean rapper ‘Black Nut’, with the infamously scandalous lyrics. Mr. Ko not only questioned the popular opinion that the lyrics are misogynic, but also urged people not to read too much into the song itself. As a result, many people were disappointed in him. They argued that being a public figure, he should be more cognoscente that people have different opinions, when he shares his point of view publicly.
Likewise, many other celebrities are revealing their points of view through Social Networking Services (SNS) and as a result, people in Korea are taking sides on whether or not they should have the freedom to do so, or the responsibility to keep their opinions on controversial maters to themselves.
Let's look at the pros. Some people believe that celebrities should be able to state their opinions about social situations or political events publicly. They were after all, individuals, before they became public personas. Therefore, they do not have a duty to portray neutrality, neither politically nor socially, and that's why we should respect their freedom of speech.
Currently, in Korea, the voting age is 19 years old and as a result, people become more politically astute from that age onwards. That's why when public figures state their own opinion, they make an effort not to sway public opinion, especially when it comes to political ideologies. However, just because a celebrity's social force is high, banning them from exercising freedom of speech is not right.
Now let's look at the cons. We would like to highlight the fact they are public figures. Nowadays, youth and many other folks have the tendency to watch more talk shows or TV reality shows than the news. But if teenagers who have yet to build their own values and opinions, watch celebrities talking about certain issues, we can easily imagine a scenario where their influence is paramount on the young minds and the youth end up aimlessly following the words of their favorite stars.
Some celebrities are also using their popularity to position themselves as politicians. Actually congresswoman Kim Eul-dong was an actress before entering politics as well as Jeong Dong-young, the former presidential candidate, was a TV broadcaster before he gave politics a run. The comedian, Lim Seong-hoon, who has been hosting ‘Capture the Moment’, ‘How is that Possible’, and ‘A Choice of Solomon’, was asked to join a political party due to his popularity. The party officials assumed his fame would lead to a strong influence on the minds of the general public.
If celebrities were to make political decisions, counting on the mere support of followers from their TV shows, then their fans will not judge their policies on their own merit, but rather just follow them and support their policies blindly. Furthermore, if people vote for the candidate’s TV character instead of their policies, this would be detrimental to the well-being of the nation.
Originally we thought celebrities should have the right to freely share their opinion on SNS, but we are aware that this can have a greater impact than we expect, therefore we need to keep the dialogue going. We hope celebrities are aware that their actions and seemingly simple words will have a significant impact on thoughts and minds of others.