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[Op-Ed] Actress Should Admit Fault

Posted August. 12, 2009 08:37,   


“It is better to take cyanide than to import BSE-tainted meat,” said actress Kim Min-sun on her homepage May 1 last year. This posting catapulted her onto the national spotlight. She was not yet a star at the time despite making her screen debut in the 1999 movie “Memento Mori” and receiving an award from MBC. Despite her image as a tough, intellectual and sexy woman like Pocahontas, she remained a relative unknown for 10 years. When the MBC TV news magazine “PD Notebook” aired a program saying U.S. beef could cause mad cow disease in April last year, Kim made a quick response to the allegation. Internet users praised her on her homepage by saying she had common sense. Her movie “Portrait of a Beauty” was also a big hit in November last year.

The chairman of meat importer A-Meat is suing the MBC program’s producers and Kim for damaging his business and causing massive losses with their false information on American beef. Park Chang-kayo is seeking 300 million won (242,500 U.S. dollars) in damages. He said he expected MBC and Kim to issue a public apology when the program’s content was proven false, but their continued silence prompted him to take action. The Freedom Advancement Association demanded an apology from Kim, saying, “As a celebrity, she should try to address public misunderstanding of her erroneous comments.”

It is unclear why she abruptly made such a provocative comment (a Dong-A Ilbo reporter made several failed attempts to call her). One sure thing is that she used her comment to market herself and her movie. When the film was released, many entertainment media wrote stories such as, “Kim Min-sun beats mad cow disease scandal with ‘Portrait of a Beauty.’” Despite that the report on American beef turned out false, Kim has refused to retract or even comment on her statement. Her agency said, “The matter is a thing of the past, and we are puzzled over the lawsuit.”

In 2005, a scandal erupted over the leak of secret files on the private lives of Korean celebrities. An angry Kim told a news conference, “I was deprived of basic human rights as a celebrity because inaccurate information spread across the Internet.” Last year, she was filmed eating a hamburger in the U.S., but claimed the scene was shot before she made the cyanide comment. No rule bans a celebrity from delving into politics but a person must take responsibility for his or her actions if they hurt others. This is a matter of conscience not for just a celebrity, but for a human being.

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