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[Op-Ed] A Rocker’s Praise for N. Korea’s Rocket

Posted April. 21, 2009 08:18,   


Rock star Shin Hae-chul introduced rap in Korea with his song “Jazz Café” in the early 1990s before hip-hop pioneer Seo Tae-ji appeared. When Shin, the lead vocalist of the group Next, disbanded his troupe in 1997, people said asked why he did so, saying recording of his breath would sell at least 300,000 copies. At a certain point, however, he began to play devil’s advocate and lost favor with the people (namely in an interview with The Dong-A Ilbo in March 2006). In other words, he was not asked to play devil’s advocate but volunteered to do so. Singer Lee Seung-chul told a TV program, “As people encouraged an ordinary boy to do so, he became a Joan of Arc.”

Shin is now at the center of controversy. On his homepage April 8, he wrote, “By exercising of the deserved sovereignty of the Democratic Republic of People of Korea (which obviously meant the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, or North Korea), I congratulate as a Korean the successful rocket firing in accordance with the global order.” The civic groups Right Korea and Fighters for a Free North Korea demanded his prosecution for violating Article 7 of the National Security Law – praise and encouragement. Shin sarcastically said on his homepage next day, “I was prosecuted. So scary.”

Shin also spent time in prison for smoking marijuana, and has argued for legalizing pot. That brought a flood of malicious comments against him on the Internet. When he appeared on an advertisement after criticizing corporal punishment and the Korean educational focus on college entrance, the Internet was flooded with blasts against him. He posted a photo of him giving the middle finger on his homepage, saying, “Is it a crime to have beliefs different from you?” Shin seems be addicted to malicious comments – feeling satisfied when he uses a sharp tongue and unsatisfied when a heated response does not come.

As ruling Grand National Party lawmaker Song Young-sun mentioned, it is unsure if Shin made his maligned comment out of heroism or simply to gain more attention as a celebrity, or simply without no serious thought whatsoever. Korean celebrities often draw attention by making political comments at home and abroad. But it is sad to see one of the country’s few intellectual artists who can describe his musical world with “words” mired in controversy over nothing related to music. Song said that if he celebrates North Korea’s successful launch of a rocket, he must live under North Korean leader Kim Jong Il. A mindless and acidic critic like Shin would be executed in the North if he acted the way he has.

Editorial Writer Kim Soon-deok (yuri@donga.com)