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False Web Rumor Creates `Gangster Coed`

Posted January. 22, 2010 08:56,   


A story titled “I’m going to kill myself because I’m going crazy over this really unjust act” was posted on an Internet portal Dec. 24 last year. The man who wrote it claimed to be disabled.

He wrote about a woman whom he had a secret crush on. “She got her boyfriend, who is a member of an organized gang, beat me with bricks and burn me with cigarettes just because I liked her,” the man wrote.

“When I told her she shouldn’t do this, she made fun of my disability. She said, ‘You’re talking about the law? You’re only a student from a branch campus of (a university).’”

The Web posting named her university, major and even her surname. Since the story was considered disorganized and not credible, Internet users paid little attention to it. At the end of his post, however, the man wrote, “I will soon write a petition including her real name and spread it around (her university) and kill myself.”

Fifteen days later, a suicide was reported at the subway station near a university. A high school student, 18, jumped onto the path of a subway car to his death. His family said they do not know why he committed suicide.

Several media reports, however, erroneously said a man in his late 20s killed himself by jumping into the subway rail. After the release of the reports, Internet users connected the suicide to the Internet story, with some saying the disabled man was the one who committed suicide.

Since Jan. 9, the date of the suicide, online users have swarmed to read the Dec. 24 posting. Internet users made a link to the article on the suicide and reposted the original text that named her university, major, class and name.

This post saw more than 10,000 hits from Internet users. The incident prompted certain users to write replies like “My condolences to the man who killed himself” or “Let’s slaughter her.”

A misunderstanding by netizens and erroneous reports of the incident have resulted in the woman being labeled a murderer who led a poor man to kill himself.

The woman talked to The Dong-A Ilbo over the phone yesterday. “What the man posted was not true at all. The story was written by a man who began stalking me a year ago, and he is not dead,” she said.

Almost in tears, she said, “Since the online rumor that a disabled man killed himself because of me spread, my personal information – my university, major and even my family name – has been exposed to the public. I’m angry.”

She and her family, however, decided not to press charges after the alleged stalker’s family promised no more trouble.

In addition, the man who wrote the online story said on the Internet Jan. 12, “I’m still alive. I’m sorry for causing this commotion and will pay the price.”

Those who know the woman well said she is not the person described in the Dec. 24 posting, but this did not stop the rumor from spreading.

A classmate at her university said, “The man who wrote the story has put up the same post on the Internet since September last year. I told him don’t spread false rumors, but Internet users say they cannot confirm this because it happened outside the university. Or they say they must confirm by making his personal information public.”

Kim Moon-jo, a sociology professor of Korea University, said, “Rumors in the past were literally groundless stories and disappeared with time, but with the growth of the Internet, rumors have become destructive. Rumors that circulated a few years ago are stored and reappear after people forget about them.”