Go to contents

[Opinion] Gossip Magazines

Posted October. 08, 2008 09:10,   


German lawyer Michael Scheele wrote “Rumor, an Unknown Monster” (Das Jüngste Gerücht) based on his suffering from groundless rumors. The book features defamation of character, bankruptcy, suicide and murder that were brought on by malicious rumors, smear campaigns and unfounded allegations. He said, “Rumors snowball when speculation or unconfirmed information is mixed with aggressive emotions such as prejudice, desire, fear and jealousy.”

Stock brokerages are filled with rumors. Since information is like money, people depend on data provided by a number of private gossip magazines. Conceived by former and incumbent civil servants, intelligence officials, stock workers or lawmakers’ aides for information sharing, the magazines are now regularly printed by companies for profit. Four to five such companies in Seoul’s Yeouido district reportedly publish almost 10 private gossip magazines priced at 300,000 to 500,000 won each.

Most information in the magazines comprises unconfirmed news on the presidential office, the political circle, conglomerates and entertainers. The rumors that linked actress Choi Jin-sil, who committed suicide last week, to loan sharks and that involving trot singer Na Hoon-a are said to have originated from these publications. Unsubstantiated rumors circulating outside major media often reflect distorted public desires and suppressed expectations, but the social ramifications of false rumors are enormous. One female singer had her advertising sponsorship contract canceled because of rumors that she contracted a disease due to a promiscuous lifestyle. Another female entertainer was rumored to have given birth to an illegitimate child. Indeed, a gossip magazine is a perfect tool for backbiting.

To respond to groundless rumors, psychologists suggest silence instead of public denial or lawsuits. An aggressive response could beget other rumors, so they say the best course of action against vicious rumors is to let them die down. Chinese actress Zhang Ziyi said in her autobiography that she weathered malicious rumors about her by believing in herself. She said her confidence in her morality and never harming others helped her beat the rumors. Korean entertainers are advised to follow in Zhang’s footsteps.

Editorial Writer Huh Mun-myeong (angelhuh@donga.com)