I was taking a look at traffic to this little blog (bloguita?) a little while ago, and noticed a few hits coming from the forum attached to a popular Korean pop culture website. There, on a thread all about the actor Bae Yong-joon, one commenter had linked to my website, saying some nice things about Pop Goes Korea, but also making some strange claims about my “bias” against Bae Yong-joon, apparently instead favoring Lee Byung-hun.
Which I thought was more than a little odd. I mean, there’s a lot in the book about Lee because, well, there’s a whole chapter that profiles him. But in that chapter, when I talk about the rise of the Korean Wave, I clearly indicated the prime importance of Winter Sonata, the drama that made Bae so internationally famous. I may have tweaked Bae’s obsessive fandom once or twice in the past, but I think I’ve always given him his due.
So if I talked a lot about Lee Byung-hun, it was because he was the subject of the chapter, and because he was generous enough to give me plenty of time for interviews, responding to my many questions. Bae would have been a great choice for a TV chapter, but at the time, he just wasn’t interested in participating in the book (and I had some contacts with his company and manager at the time, so wasn’t just cold-calling from out of nowhere).
But, being the Internet, people like to speculate, which led to some really odd comments, like maybe I preferred Lee Byung-hun because his personal scandals appealed to my male sensibilities. Very, very odd. If anyone wanted to take a moment to research a little, they would have found plenty of stories about the importance of Winter Sonata and Bae in Hallyu history.
Anyhow, it definitely was not a big deal. I only mention it because of some other online fusses I’ve seen lately. There’s apparently a squadron of people who loathe the very nice folks at Eat Your Kimchi, so when EYK was announced as a guest on some Arirang TV show, a mini-mob arose, accusing EYK of all sorts of ridiculous stuff (like fat-shaming, which would be, like, the exact opposite point of their videos on the topic). The mind boggles.
Fans of K-pop groups are always quick to switch to outrage mode, whenever someone is perceived to have slighted their favorites. Some of those fans are famous for being totally unhinged.
But it isn’t just Korean pop culture fans, of course. It seems like any field where people are the least bit passionate, that passion turns so quickly and easily into a wild, mob mentality. Left hate right. Right hates left. The fantasy and science fiction communities, also love a good flame war (“So-and-so famous writer from the past was racist!” being a popular starting point).
All of which makes me so happy to be middle-aged. I have my loves and dislikes, but aside from my family, all my music favs, art, movies or whatever have a much more moderate place in my psyche. “I hate X.” “Oh, okay. I quite like X, but that’s all right.” Life is so much more pleasant this way.
* * *
Then again, no shortage of the big Twitter flame wars involve adults, so I guess age doesn’t mellow everyone.