Graduate student Ms. Yang (27) is a big fan of idol star A. Ms. Yang claims that she recently had experiences where she would suddenly get extremely sad. The symptom has become so severe that it's causing difficulties in her daily life. She explained the reason behind her extreme sadness is idol A, who has been under fire for a controversy. Ms. Yang stated, "There are a variety (of malicious comments) from the ones saying A is ugly to the ones targeting A's parents. I get depressed when I think about A so I stopped listening to A's songs and reading articles about him."
Reports of depression similar to Ms. Yang have been quite common lately. According to the National Police Agency, cases involving cyber defamation from malicious comments tripled from 5,684 cases in 2012 to 14,908 cases in 2016. The severity of the malicious comments has also worsened.
Recently, a netizen left a shocking comment, stating, "The Incheon serial killer, please kill celebrity B, too."
Celebrities who get targeted with malicious comments suffer from mental stress and often end up receiving mental treatment. In worse cases, malicious comments can lead to suicidal desires.
Fans also experience similar symptoms from malicious comments targeting their favorite stars. One fan Cho (25) who's a member of an idol fan club stated, "It feels like my heart is ripping apart when I see a malicious comment. I feel like everyone is leaving mean comments and that's making me hate everyone."
Psychology Professor Kwak Geum Joo of Seoul University explained, "If one deeply falls in love with a celebrity, their distance with the star shortens (mentally). This unconscious dependence grows and makes one feel like the malicious comments targeting the star is directed towards them. When the celebrity of their fantasy gets criticized, their fantasy collapses and a fan falls into a deep sorrow."
Experts claim a stronger punishment is the only way that can stop malicious comments. Choi Jae Yong of Korea Social Media Agency stated, "Taking strong legal action against malicious commenters is the only way that can stop them. If not the celebrity, the fans or the agency needs to take action."
Currently, malicious commenters are punished with fines or penal servitude. A person who defames the character of another online with a malicious intent can be sentenced a maximum of 3 years of penal servitude or a maximum fine of 30,000,000 KRW (~ 26,362 USD). A person who spreads false information online can be sentenced maximum 7 years of penal servitude or a maximum fine of 50,000,000 KRW (~43,938 USD).