Lee Jung-jae was named Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series at Monday night’s Emmy Awards for his role in the Netflix global show Squid Gameprefers likes Better yet, call SaulBob Odenkirk and InheritanceJeremy Strong and Brian Cox. In the process, he made history as the first Asian to win a lead actor Emmy.
As Seong Gi-hoon, a debt-ridden gambler driven into a deadly game of survival by a divorced father and a huge cash prize, Lee emerged as the film’s crazed star. Squid Game, which is still Netflix’s most-watched series of all time (even though it has had a storied career in Korea spanning decades, including Grand Bell and Baeksang awards). Lee is currently the most recognized Korean actor in the world, and his star will rise even further after starring in the film. Acolyte, upcoming Star Wars to show.
But if we’re going to use Lee to celebrate all that’s great and different about Korean television, we need to acknowledge all that he represents, including how male Korean stars are reaping the benefits of a bending industry, just like in the West. back to protect and preserve his image.
In 1999, Lee was arrested by the Gangnam Police for drunk driving and causing a collision with another driver, a 23-year-old woman. The amount of alcohol in his blood was 0.22 percent (in South Korea, this limit is 0.05 percent). Lee denied the charge, claiming his manager was driving. Three years later, he was charged with the same crime.
That same year, 1999, he and a friend drunkenly assaulted another man and were charged with assault. He was charged with assault again the following year after dragging and kicking a 22-year-old woman from a nightclub in Busan, causing injuries that required a two-week hospital stay.
Fast forward to 2013, here, in an interview with Vogue Korea, appeared to his friend and prominent stylist Woo Jong-wan shortly after Lee committed suicide. Before he died, Lee claimed, “I said [him], ‘You should stop being gay. Haven’t you been like this enough?’” He went on to describe Woo’s homosexuality as a “discomfort”. Quotations were later taken from the online versions of the interview.
Proponents argue that it was so long ago that it doesn’t matter. Indeed, we must acknowledge and encourage growth if we see But we don’t. In interviews, Lee has not contested the allegations or shared any information about the steps he has taken to rehabilitate himself; instead, they were swept under the rug. We also don’t know if this is the sum of Lee’s past. We can only judge what we see, and as you can probably tell from those missing quotes, what we see of Korean stars is largely controlled by the film and television industry, the media, and fans.
This is not entirely unique to Korea. In many ways, this is universal for today’s celebrities. But while in the West such reputation smoothing is often aimed at humanizing celebrities, in Korea it involves upholding an uncompromisingly unrealistic, aspirational ideal.
After all, when we recognize public figures as human beings, it is easier to attribute their mistakes to them. In Korea, red flags are carefully hidden under layers of branding that can’t be dislodged, at least if you’re a man.
Leeway Lee enjoyed these reports Compared to Johnny Depp. It’s the same kind of entrenched, manufactured image that allows Depp’s fans to completely dismiss or even sanction the overwhelming evidence of his abuse.
So Lee’s fans casually ignore reports of his attacks and homophobia. Who cares? they ask, more interested in the image they’ve helped build over the years. This kind of violence simply doesn’t go down with the Lee Jung-jae they believe they know, driven by the misogynistic tendencies that protect men in the film and television industries worldwide.
The same misogyny that insulated Lee from these reports means that men in Korea can get away with accusations of sexual harassment and assault, while rumors of abuse can derail Seo Ye-jin’s career or brand Song Ji wearing fake designer clothes. dishonest and kicked out of social media.
“The same misogyny that insulated Lee from these reports means that men in Korea can get away with accusations of sexual harassment and assault, while rumors of abuse can derail Seo Ye-jin’s career or brand Song Ji wearing fake designer clothes. dishonest and kicked out of social media.“
This same misogyny allows Depp to garner endorsements and keep acting gigs, while Amber Heard may never work in the industry again and other men use her to bully their accusers.
It’s easy for Western viewers to forget all of this when watching Korean television, to lose themselves in a culture that most of us know very little about. But if we’re going to engage with Korean television (and it’s incredible), we have to understand that what we’re seeing is a carefully constructed fiction of what Korea should look like. can should be considered as a defect was censored from the shows. Its stars are similarly insulated from ideas that run counter to Korean ideals—for example, one of Korea’s biggest stars may not be as pure as managers, assistants, and supervisors want him to appear.
I want people to fall in love with Korean TV – it’s a rewarding love affair – and cheer for the success of its stars in the global market. But we also need to understand that beneath the seemingly benign stories of men like Lee Jung-jae’s rise to global stardom can be as dark as it is in places like Hollywood.
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