Korea's Internet Suicide PandemicOh dear. Last week we told you about that actor who killed himself in Korea partly in response to some homophobic online attacks. And now, when looking at a larger trend of suicide in that country, it appears that Korea may have a dangerous internet bullying problem on their hands. The International Herald Tribune reported yesterday about the death of Choi Jin Sil, a Korean actress who committed suicide after a series of vicious internet attacks:
Those online accusations claimed that Choi - who once won a government medal for her saving habit and whose name, Jin Sil, means "truth" - was a loan shark. They claimed that an actor named Ahn Jae Hwan, who gassed himself in his car last month, was driven to suicide because Choi pressed him relentlessly to repay a $2 million debt. Choi's death followed a string of high-profile suicides attributed to cyberspace harassment. Two young female celebrities, one a singer and the other an actress, killed themselves last year after insulting comments about their alleged plastic surgery flooded the Web.
Which, ugh, is just awful. Of course critics of the Korean government, which is seeking to regulate the internet to prevent future attacks, say that the online bile isn't the root of the problem. Which is probably true in a reductionist "guns don't kill people, people kill people" kind of way. But in the actual world, the role of the internet in flesh-and-blood happenings is so vague and inhabits such a depressingly gray area of causality that maybe, I don't know, the internet is partly to blame—if by the sole virtue that we can't prove that it isn't to blame. Either way, I don't think we've quite evolved to weather personal attacks like this. The technology is moving a lot faster than, well, our souls are. Much has been made, over and over again, about the troubling viciousness of this modern web that we've woven, so it's hard to say anything new. Hell, Michael Arrington at TechCrunch has been expecting a Valleywag-related suicide for months now. But it still, every time something like this happens, makes us feel nauseous. That such a uniting thing—a free, open agora of ideas on its best days—can also be a conduit for what reduces down to sadistic cannibalism. Of, you know, the "e" varietal. (Or maybe this is just me trying to personally exercise some maudlin guilt over what I do, on this day when we celebrate what Columbus did which was, you know, to murder thousands of Native Americans. I went to Salem, MA this weekend and it was so weird to see fried dough stands and bouncy castles and all manner of other silliness that essentially exists because about 300 years ago, some 20 innocent women were murdered by an angry mob. America! And, um, Korea!)