South Koreans demand tougher cyberbullying laws following recent suicide deaths of Korean celebrities

South Korea Suicide Cyberbullying
  • South Korea’s government is under pressure to act after the recent deaths of a high-profile volleyball player and Twitch streamer, both of whom were victims of countless instances of online abuse and malicious comments.
  • Kim In-hyeok, a 27-year-old professional volleyball player for the Daejeon Samsung Fire Bluefangs, was found dead of an apparent suicide at his home on Friday.
  • Cho Jang-mi, a 27-year-old Twitch streamer and YouTube influencer who often went by the name “BJ Jammi,” was also found dead of an apparent suicide on Saturday, the day after Kim.
  • Kim had recently complained about the surge of hateful comments he received due to rumours regarding his appearance and sexual idenitity.
  • Cho was also reportedly suffering from depression after receiving sexually degrading comments and claims that she despised men over the span of more than two years.
  • A petition calling for stricter punishments for cyberbullying was uploaded on the presidential Blue House’s website and has managed to attract more than 150,000 signatures by Tuesday.

WARNING: This article contains mentions of suicide that may be disturbing to some readers.

The recent suicide deaths of professional volleyball player Kim In-hyeok and Twitch streamer Cho Jang-mi have put the South Korean government under pressure to enact stricter punishments against cyberbullying.

Kim took to his Instagram last August to tell online users to stop the malicious comments and rumors that he had been constantly receiving. Many had been criticizing his appearance, accusing him of wearing makeup and questioning his sexual identity. There had even been accusations of the 27-year-old appearing in an adult film. 

According to The Korea Herald, Kim said in his Instagram post, “I have never worn makeup, I don’t like guys, I had a girlfriend and I never appeared on an adult film,” in an attempt to end the online abuse. 

“People who have no idea who I really am send countless direct messages and post spiteful comments whenever I play a game. It’s really hard to bear all that. Please stop,” the athlete said. 

Despite his pleading, the cyberbullying continued and, according to South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency via The Guardian, the 27-year-old eventually left a “pessimistic” note that reflected on his life. 

Cho Jang-mi had also reportedly suffered from severe depression throughout her career as a YouTube influencer and Twitch streamer as a result of intense cyberbullying that included sexually degrading comments and false rumors. 

Cho had been accused of having feminist ideals by online users from male-dominated online communities. In 2019, at the start of her career, the 27-year-old was said to despise men after she used a hand gesture that online users took as an expression of prejudice against men. 

Many South Koreans are demanding that the government take the cyberbullying issue seriously and have started a petition on Cheong Wa Dae’s presidential Blue House website requesting for stronger punishments and laws.

The petition had amassed more than 150,000 signatures by Tuesday. 

Cyberbullying has been a serious issue in South Korea for many years and has led to several other celebrities taking their own lives after being victimized by long-term online abuse. 

The deaths of celebrities such as Sulli and Goo-Hara, who both died from suicide as a result of cyberbullying in 2019, led to calls for preventative measures and stricter punishments against cyberbullying. 

As a measure to prevent online abuse, following the deaths of Sulli and Goo-Hara, South Korea’s biggest web engines, Naver and Daum, removed user commenting features on the sports and entertainment sections of news stories.  

According to The Korea Herald, cyberbullying still presents itself as a major problem, particularly on social media. The National Police Agency found that while the number of cyberbullying cases have increased 45% from 2017 to 2020, the rate of criminal detection has decreased from 73.1% to 65.2%. 

Authorities have also stated that it is difficult to investigate cyberbullying cases on these platforms due to a lack of cooperation from major platforms like YouTube and Instagram, which are platforms frequently used to inflict online abuse. 

Kim Tae-yeon, a South Korean lawyer who handles cyberbullying cases, stated, “Even if offenders are caught, they usually end up with light penalties such as fines,” The Korea Herald reported.

Feature Image via @jamminim (left), @inhyeok0714 (right)

If you or anyone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, please contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. For a list of international suicide hotlines, click here.

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