CULTURE

Why K-Pop Fans Shouldn't Engage With the TWICE Stalker

Do not engage with a celebrity stalker directly. Contact the proper authorities instead. #ProtectNayeon

JYP Entertainment

Fans of the K-Pop girl group, TWICE, are deeply concerned over a stalker who seems to be targeting Nayeon, one of the group's nine members.

For the past few months, a 25-year-old German man named Josh had been posting incessantly about his love for Nayeon. While talking about admiration or even love for one's favorite celebrity might be common amongst fan communities, Josh's behavior crosses serious lines. He first caught the fandom's attention back in October when he posted a nearly 12-minute video to YouTube titled "Pls Help Me To Get This Video To Nayeon."

제발, 이 비디오 트와이스 나연 보내는 것을 도와줘 Pls Help Me To Get This Video To Nayeon www.youtube.com

In his video, which––fair warning––is very disturbing, Josh films himself at a number of locations in Korea where Nayeon had been spotted in the past. He talks to the camera, extensively documenting how he fell in love with Nayeon three years prior and decided that he needed to talk to her. He had traveled to Korea in order to look for her, visiting over 100 different nearby shops to gain information on her or her family's whereabouts and distributing a letter which he asked shopkeepers to give to Nayeon should they happen to see her. Josh also expressed a deep sadness due to his inability to properly contact Nayeon, along with a more extensive plan to return to Korea in December and dedicate two more months to his search.

As one might expect, Josh's video was not received with the communal enthusiasm and willingness to assist him that he seemed to be anticipating. In a follow-up video, Josh lamented the hatred and death threats he received in response to his initial post, while also decrying any "fake news" painting him as a stalker for clicks. Regardless, he remained undeterred in his plan to contact Nayeon.

업데이트 비디오 / Update Video www.youtube.com

Some TWICE fans reached out to Josh directly on social media, leading him to lay out his intentions in detail. Josh explained his December plan to wait outside the home of another Korean celebrity, singer/songwriter J.Y. Park, to employ his help in tracking down Nayeon. After that, he seemed convinced that Nayeon would marry him, move to Australia with him, and start a family together. Most scarily, Josh thoroughly believed this was a reasonable course of action, without an ounce of self-awareness. "I think it is very unlikely that she wouldn't want a relationship after she gets to know me," he said.

Other TWICE fans have tried to argue with Josh. One punctuated her message that he didn't have a chance with Nayeon with a clown emoji.

But while I certainly understand the inclination to argue with someone performing such ludicrous actions, there's an important point that needs to be clear: Engaging with someone like Josh online is very, very dangerous, especially to the target of his stalking––in this case, Nayeon. Let me explain.

A person who engages in celebrity stalking––i.e. genuinely attempting to intrude into that celebrity's real life––is not someone acting rationally. Clinical research has shown that celebrity worshippers are more likely than the average person to "exhibit narcissistic features, dissociation, addictive tendencies, stalking behavior, and compulsive buying" and "have poorer mental health as well as clinical symptoms of depression, anxiety, and social dysfunction." To be clear, celebrity stalkers are at the furthest extreme of celebrity worshippers and are therefore most likely to display the most severe symptoms and behaviors.

This means that a celebrity stalker such as Josh is, most likely, very mentally ill. Unlike a traditional "incel"––a word that's been thrown around quite a lot in threads about Josh's stalking––Josh's behavior probably doesn't have its roots solely in male privilege or white entitlement, so much as unchecked mental health issues leading to a genuine disassociation with reality. In fact, therapy for a stalker typically involves complex psychological treatment, sometimes in conjunction with medication.

The larger point here is that when you're dealing with a mentally disturbed person whose actions are not based on an accurate model of reality, trying to logically reason with them or insulting them is a poor course of action, because you never know what could lead them to snap. After all, if they're not behaving reasonably in the first place, what's to stop them from hurting someone when they get upset?

To be fair, not all celebrity stalkers pose physical dangers to the celebrities they obsess over. Some, like the older, sickly man who stalked comedian Gabriel Iglesias, are annoying and creepy but most likely harmless. Others, like Margaret Mary Ray, who spent years stalking talk show host David Letterman, ultimately pose the greatest threat to themselves. But the truth is that some celebrity stalkers, like "Björk stalker" Ricardo López, truly do have murderous inclinations, and arguing with them directly could be like poking a bomb with a stick.

Unfortunately, there's reason to believe that Josh has the potential to become the latter. Despite his declaration that he would never hurt Nayeon because he loves her, TWICE fans have uncovered his terrifying comment history wherein he expresses a belief that he has the right to kill someone who breaks his heart.

pbs.twimg.com

It is now December and, as promised, Josh is back in Korea searching for Nayeon.

Many fans have contacted TWICE's label, JYP Entertainment, alerting them to the situation and encouraging them to protect Nayeon. JYP Entertainment responded, stating that they were "requesting the possible legal measures" and planning to hire guards for Nayeon.

Contacting the proper Korean authorities who might be able to do something concrete to stop Josh and protect Nayeon is absolutely the best course of action. But please, do not contact Josh or any future celebrity stalker directly. You're dealing with someone in a very precarious psychological state, and unless you're a trained professional in that specific field, you are risking making a very bad situation a whole lot worse.

In closing, Josh isn't someone who needs derision. He's someone who needs very serious help and, in the meantime, to be taken as far away from his target as possible. But insulting him or sending him threats online will not help that outcome and, if anything, could very easily spiral into him actually snapping. Keep contacting the proper authorities instead. #ProtectNayeon

Culture Feature

​​This Haunts Me: The Shredded Cheese Wife Guy

One Texas couple became a meme after they went 18 minutes without shredded cheese on their fajitas. What could be worse?

Courtesy of Junkee

Karens. Even if you don't know them by name, you know who they are.

Karens have been asking to speak to managers all over American suburbia ever since Kate Gosselin debuted her infamous reverse-mullet on Jon and Kate Plus 8 in 2007. "Karens"—the collective nickname for middle-aged entitled white women who love nothing more than being pains in your ass—have been walking among us for quite some time, but as shelter-in-place orders and mask mandates have taken over the world, the presence of Karens has become even more apparent.

Last weekend, a Karen went viral in a since-deleted Tweet for a reason only Karens would empathize with. Jason Vicknair, a 40-year-old man from Allen, Texas, was just trying to enjoy his first date night out in three months with his wife at a Tex-Mex restaurant called Mi Cocina. Things took a turn for the worse.

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CULTURE

The Hypocrisy of Koreaboo and Gossip "Journalism"

If websites truly cared about mental health, they would stop contributing to cyberbullying.

Koreaboo

Trigger Warning: Su*c*de

Whenever a famous person loses a battle with mental illness, the media reaction plays out in a similar fashion, rife with memorials and reminders that suicide is preventable.

But how can a website act like suicide is a tragedy and mental health issues need to be taken seriously when they've directly contributed to the denigration of those same people, time and time again?

Now I want to preface this article by saying that I recognize a certain degree of hypocrisy inherent to writing something like this on a site that thrives on entertainment news and pop culture. But at the same time, I speak from my own personal perspective, and I feel strongly that this bears saying:

Gossip "journalism" that directs constant negativity towards celebrities is cancerous and dehumanizing. It contributes to a larger online culture characterized by cyberbullying and cruelty, and when someone commits suicide as a result, that culture and the people who propagated it deserve a large chunk of the blame.

Sulli

Recently, K-Pop star and actor Sulli (Choi Jin-ri) passed away at only 25-years-old. From her time in the girl group f(x) to her later appearances in movies like Real and her solo single "Goblin" in June, Sulli stood out as an incredible talent. She was a vocal proponent of women's rights, advocating for pro-choice policies in Korea and shirking traditional idol boundaries by publicly dating and posting pictures with her boyfriend. In many ways, Sulli was a symbol of progress, fighting for her rights and self-agency even when those around her wouldn't, giving voice to mental health issues in a career where those issues are often suppressed.

In return, K-Pop gossip media and netizens (online commenters) bullied her mercilessly, criticizing her fashion choices, making fun of her body, and even sh*tting on her mental health. Then these same sites (Koreaboo, Allkpop, Netizen Buzz, etc.) that profited off her "controversies" turned around and profited off her death, spouting fake platitudes about mental health awareness.

For instance, Koreaboo, an English language Korean pop culture website, has been covering Sulli's passing incessantly while Tweeting about suicide prevention.

But fans have been quick to point out that Koreaboo had contributed to her online harassment multiple times. One would think that if they truly cared about her mental health, they would have listened when she talked about her own struggles and stopped contributing to her bullying. Except they clearly didn't.

Similarly, Sulli had reportedly turned to her management company, S.M. Entertainment, for help in regards to the constant stream of online hatred directed towards her, but their response was less than helpful.

"My life is actually empty, so I feel like I'm lying to everyone by pretending to be happy on the outside," said Sulli on The Night of Hate Comments, a variety show she co-hosted dedicated to celebrities reacting to cyberbullying online. "I asked around a lot for advice. They told me, 'Everyone has a dark side in their lives but they live pretending that they don't. Don't think of it as weird.'"

Sulli's words draw attention to the dehumanization that celebrities often face in the public eye; this is not an issue limited solely to Korea or K-Pop stars. Social media crowds and celebrity gossip sites alike tend to forget that the famous figures they're constantly harping on are, in reality, actual people with complex thoughts, feelings, and identities that transcend their public personas. Their fame does not make them impervious to emotional damage, and anyone who spends years subject to constant online abuse, bullying, and gossip is at risk of long-lasting mental health repercussions. There's also a pretty big difference between valid criticism and bullying––dwelling on someone's physical appearance and dramatizing their every minor action is absolutely the latter.

People can't spend years delighting in taking someone down for no better reason than drama and clicks, only to then feign sympathy when that person succumbs to the abuse. It's more than just hypocrisy; it's an absolute miscarriage of journalism.