When it first came on the scene in late 2009, I chimed in with thunderous ambivalence:
Maybe I'm too jaded, but I find this site more disturbing than amusing. I'm referring to the content of the pictures, not the fact that someone made a blog about it (hell, it's a chronic problem in Seoul's "entertainment districts" and it's worth chronicling — chronicling the chronic heh heh). I see people passed out and I think of the dangers of alcohol poisoning. I see people staggering in or toward the street and I imagine they're about to become roadkill.At the time, my reservations about the site stemmed in part from my feeling that that the subjects in some of the photo were just one or two bad decisions away from death or a serious maiming, which made it not that funny to me.
But I had no idea at the time that BOK would inadvertently end up creating a race to the bottom of sorts, a competition to provide the most outrageous picture so far, which would eventually get upped by someone else. This brought the posers — meaning people posing with their subjects, not phonies — those who made funny faces or stood near or behind the passed-out subject in what were supposed to be amusing scenes. And then came the assaults. Those who apparently put things on the passed-out subject, who was now a victim.
These were posted and responded to with relish by some, but a lot of others started expressing reservations, including yours truly:
Though I did suggest last year that the site was somewhat amusing, I agree that a few of the posted pictures do cross the line (the Marmite assault, the simulated ass rape, and perhaps this one below). I also hadn't been aware that, despite the supposed sociological justification for the site (see the interview link), the owner had been deliberately avoiding posting pictures of blacked-out foreigners because, "when I was starting it out I wanted to establish the site as a mostly Korean phenomenon." A tad distorting, methinks, but okay, at least now he's got pics like those familiar to anyone whose college life included keggers, except it's outside.To his credit the BOK site owner has removed the first link just above and removed the most incriminating photos in the second link.
Frankly, it hadn't occurred to me last year that a string of such posts would encourage more and more outrageous behavior on the part of the picture taker. I would have thought that most of the shutterbugs would realize that legal considerations in the ROK over invasion of privacy might make it a tad imprudent to be making the happy face in such photos, much less the randier scenes.
Still, it caused quite an outcry. The Marmot called it one of the most poorly conceived blogs he's seen in his time.
And then the Korean media discovered it. That's usually where all hell breaks loose, but the response has been surprisingly calm. I mean, it's not like the amateur photogs were making and posting amateur porn or anything (see also here).
Let's face it: if you come to a new country and act like dip$hits, then you're going to piss off some of your guests. Naturally, there were some people among the Korean netizenry who were perturbed, and they responded angrily. A blog called "English teachers out" (ETO) was put up, received an angry response from anglophone K-bloggers, and then disappeared.
BOK's site owner himself responded, and I began to rethink my own public opinion on the matter. In response to BOK's protest that "there are blacked out foreigners on the site... there are less of them...because there are less of them in the country!":
That seems a tad disingenuous, since in the past you had been deliberately avoiding posting pictures of blacked-out foreigners because, "when I was starting it out I wanted to establish the site as a mostly Korean phenomenon."Still, I sympathized with the guy and his contributors being so viciously attacked. ETO in particular was ill-conceived on so many levels, but one reason in particular was that not all the foreigners in the pictures were English teachers, a group it seemed hell-bent on demonizing. Moreover, many English teachers were outspokenly opposed to the BOK site and (as if this needs clarifying) most English teachers never contributed pictures to the site!
ETO is now gone, but a new site has emerged on the horizon: Blackout Mirror. What is glaringly wrong about BOM is that it attempts to go after the foreigners posing in the pictures. The BOM site owner, a person going by the userid Bintz. It includes some of the more incriminating photos of the picture-taking foreigners, with an appeal for readers to identify the foreigners.
And this is why I was prompted — nay, compelled — to speak out.
Bintz is angry, but I wrote a simple appeal asking him to take down the site (in the comments section of a well-thought letter by regular Monster Island reader Schplook).
I wrote to Bintz to tell him I understand his anger and his annoyance. I myself have railed against the knee-jerk Korea-bashing that goes on in the Korea-related English blogs and in real life. I really hate it, and sometimes I'm tempted to throw up my hands and just say, "God, if you hate the country and the people so much, why do you stay here?!"
BUT, I told him, I think his response may not only be counterproductive, but may also hurt innocent people. The BOK site owner himself is almost certainly not in any of those pictures, so even if the goal is to get revenge, it's almost impossible.
Another very important thing that Bintz and other angry Korean netizens should consider is that some of the foreigners in the pictures may themselves be innocent victims. They may have been with friends who decided to take the picture and they had no idea someone would post the for-private-consumption picture online for all the world to see. Some might not realize how the badly the posing makes them look. This is especially true if the "blacked-out" person is someone they are friends or acquaintances with. To put it simply, we don't know the context of the photos nor the motivation for contributing them.
And just as BOK's pictures may violate photography-related privacy laws, BOM may also be violating Korean law by putting up "information" about someone (in the form of an image) with the intent to defame them. I'm no lawyer, but it seems this is serious business, for much the same reason BOK posting them may be.
More importantly, however, it is wrong to go after someone "in real life" for something they say or do online (especially if it is not illegal or causing harm to someone else, as is the case with some of BOM's reposted pictures). I have been attacked several times "in the real world" by people who simply did not like what I wrote (foreigners and Koreans both), people who tried to get me fired, get me kicked out of school, or otherwise disrupt my personal life.
It is wrong, plain and simple.
Angry netizens like Bintz should also realize that if they really cause damage to these idiots' livelihood, someone might turn around and do the same to them. That's the problem: The cycle of revenge for revenge never ends.
I urge Bintz to take down that site. Be the better man.