If you’ve been following k-ent news of late, you’d probably already know that there has been a spate of bullying accusations leveled against various k-celebs, with each ballooning into its own scandal.
If you’ve been following k-ent news in the last couple of days, you’d also probably already know that Ji Soo has fallen from grace, and in a manner that is very sudden and quite spectacular. Reactions have been varied, but consistently strong. Most people feel a certain way about this, and feel it strongly.
If you haven’t been following k-ent news in the last of couple days and don’t yet know what I’m talking about, well.. buckle up, coz this one’s a bit of a doozy. 😬
What’s going on?
2-3 March 2021
An anonymous netizen posts on this forum, accusing Ji Soo of having bullied him while they were students at Sorabol Middle School. Subsequently, further accusations come forward from other alleged victims, and the assertions are detailed, lurid and altogether horrifying.
If you’d rather spare your eyes and your brain, then just know that the accusations involve extreme and prolonged bad (as in, very bad) behavior around bullying, sexual harassment and sexual assault.
His agency KeyEast Entertainment releases a statement saying that they will be investigating the matter fully.
4 March 2021
Ji Soo uploads a lengthy handwritten apology letter to his personal Instagram account, apologizing for his past behavior and all those that he had hurt. He does not deny any of the allegations and also does not specify the behaviors for which he is apologizing.
This is the translation of the apology letter:
“I apologize sincerely to those who I have hurt. There is no excuse for my past behavior. What I did was unforgivable. When I started my career as an actor, I covered up my past and it seems I made it to this point while receiving the undeserved interest of the public. However, there was a part of me that always felt guilty about the past, but it was too late to ask for forgiveness and that regret always came to me in the form of great anxiety. My dark past constantly weighed on me. I ask forgiveness from those who’ve suffered over the years as they watched me become an actor. I will live the rest of my life deeply reflecting on my unforgivable past. I’m pained and so sorry for the great negative impact my personal wrongs have had on the the show and director, the actors, and all of the drama staff. I hope sincerely that the drama does not suffer any additional damage because of me. To everyone whom I’ve hurt, I kneel before you to ask sincerely for forgiveness.”
KBS announces that they are planning to replace him as the male lead for River Where The Moon Rises, his currently airing drama.
5 March 2021
KBS announces that they will be replacing Ji Soo with rookie actor Na In Woo, for the role of On Dal in River Where The Moon Rises.
It is reported that Ji Soo will enlist in October 2021 to fulfill his mandatory military service as a social service worker. (He underwent surgery in 2016 to correct his acute osteomyelitis.) His military service warrant had apparently arrived in December 2020, prior to the breaking out of the scandal.
KeyEast Entertainment releases a statement essentially admitting to Ji Soo’s involvement in school violence, saying that they are continuing to investigate the matter, and want to find out the truth, while also clarifying that the allegations of sexual assault made against Ji Soo are not true. The statement also says that Ji Soo will halt all activities as an actor, and will spend the next 7 months before his enlistment reflecting.
Honestly, the first time I saw a k-celeb fall from grace, I was a lot more shocked.
This was back in 2013, when Park Shi Hoo’s scandal broke out. I’d felt quite blindsided by the news, particularly since, once upon a time (though not at the time the scandal broke out), I’d actually really liked him. (I know, I don’t know what I was thinking either. 😝)
Since then, many other k-celebs have had scandals break out, and some of the scandals have been particularly shocking, like the Burning Sun scandal in 2018-2019.
I guess I’ve developed a sense of jadedness about this, as a result, because even though I really did have a soft spot for Ji Soo, I was not devastated by the news. Just disappointed. I do think that because I am not emotionally invested in this in a strong way, I feel like I’m able to be a little more objective in thinking aloud on the topic of what a reasonable fan response might be.
Camp 1: Hate him?
A big chunk of netizen response has been around (and I condense and summarize) condemning him, canceling him, and basically heaping hot coals on him, hoping that he will rot in jail and never again see the light of day.
Camp 2: Forgive him?
Another big chunk of netizen response has been from Ji Soo’s diehard fans, who are essentially leaving comments telling Ji Soo that (and again, I condense and paraphrase), “It’s ok, everyone’s done wrong things in their lives.. the most important thing is that you’ve apologized. That’s a hard thing to do, and not everyone can do it, so you’ve done well, and I support you.”
A necessary tangent: Why the spate of accusations?
Some fans have said that the accusations are targeted to bring Ji Soo down when he’d finally gotten his big break in a major leading role.
I personally don’t think this is necessarily true.
Sure, there are false claims which are designed to tear down an up-and-coming k-star, but there are also real victims in the mix. Not all the scandals stem from truth, but some certainly do.
As with the #MeToo movement, I think most victims must have stayed silent for a long time because they were afraid to come forward, for fear that their claims would be dismissed or swept under the carpet. With other victims coming forward in the recent spate of bullying scandals, there is solidarity in numbers, and with media attention focused in a way that gives them confidence that their claims will be taken seriously, I think more victims find courage to come forward and speak up.
Also, I think there is that dynamic, where, the more you see your bully rise to stardom and prominence, amid lots of good opinion and fan love, the more it’s difficult to swallow. I actually think it makes perfect human sense, for victims to reach a boiling point upon seeing their bully onscreen, acting like the good guy and gaining success from it – and thus be spurred into speaking up about their experience.
Camp 3 (that’s me): Somewhere in-between
Personally, both extremes, of hating Ji Soo or forgiving him unequivocally, don’t sit very well with me.
On the one hand, I like to think that people can and do change.
To be fair, it’s true that not all people do change, but there are definitely folks who were really awful juvenile delinquents, who don’t end up being awful adults. With middle school being pretty long ago, it’s possible that Ji Soo might have sincere regrets about his past behavior. And, if he does have sincere regrets, I’d hope – as a fellow human being with my own regrets and failings – that he wouldn’t have to live his entire life being chained to a past that he cannot undo.
Also worth noting, I think, is the fact that Ji Soo did not issue an immediate denial (as so many other scandal-embroiled celebs do), but instead issued an apology. While many may say that he only apologized because he was “caught,” I feel that the lack of the knee-jerk denial is worth something.
For the record, I am not defending Ji Soo’s past actions. Those are undeniably horrific, and my deepest sympathies are with the victims, who must have suffered greatly, not just physically, but mentally and emotionally as well.
This is why, on the other hand, I also cannot support the unreserved forgiveness that Ji Soo’s diehard fans are pouring out. While I support the idea that Ji Soo shouldn’t have to ruin his entire life because of this scandal, I also support the idea that Ji Soo should face the consequences of his actions (many of which qualify as crimes), and make restitution for them.
I think this is necessary, not only for the victims, who need to feel that their suffering is being addressed, but for Ji Soo as well, who would, I imagine, only really feel set free from this terrible past, when his conscience is satisfied that he has paid the price and can therefore start looking ahead again. With this in mind, I hope that proper and thorough investigations can be carried out, and appropriate punishment meted out. If that’s not possible, then my hope is that Ji Soo would find his own way of compensating his victims.
Do I think that Ji Soo should continue to have a career in showbiz? Probably not. I think it would be better for everyone – including Ji Soo himself – for him to find a new career and start over, on a clean slate, away from the public eye.
..But that’s just my opinion, and only time will tell, whether Ji Soo will attempt to make a comeback, after serving his MS.
Another necessary tangent: Patreon implications
Even though KBS has already found a replacement for Ji Soo in Na In Woo, there is likely to be massive scrambling to re-write, re-film and re-work everything, because Ji Soo had reportedly already finished filming 95% of his scenes, up to episode 18.
My sympathies are with the cast and crew, who will have to suffer the fallout that has resulted from this scandal. KBS is reportedly airing episodes 7 & 8 as scheduled, but with as many of Ji Soo’s scenes edited out as possible, with Na In Woo taking over the role from episode 9 onwards.
With all the upheaval that this scandal has resulted in for the production team, it’s inevitable that the quality of the show will be affected. Because I do my best to pick quality shows to cover on my Patreon page (and River’s quality is bound to be affected by all this), and because not all patrons would still have the interest to follow this show after the scandal, I feel that the right thing to do, is to replace River Where The Moon Rises with another drama.
I plan to continue to watch – or at least, keep an eye on – River, to see how it all unfolds, but as far as Patreon goes, I’ve decided that I will cover Vincenzo in place of River Where The Moon Rises. If you’d like to join me on the Vincenzo journey, you can find my Patreon page here.
I’m no expert, and I certainly don’t consider my opinion a perfect one. I just hope that this post will help to provide a bit of perspective, and possibly, food for thought, in the midst of all the furore and noise.
We may take a lot of joy from our dramas and our Oppas, but at the end of the day, I think it’s important to remember that Oppa is only human. And humans inevitably fail, and sometimes, that failure can be enormous and spectacular. So let’s not be too devastated or too blinded in processing all of this, ok?
Hugs and smooches to y’all. ❤️