A total of 4,983 people staged a cyber protest against an online homemaking pundit Sunday morning, calling for an apology and compensation for her public deception.
They said 46-year-old Hyun Jin-heui, running one of the nation’s most visited blogs, had arranged sales of an electronic gadget that could harm people’s health and bagged a fortune in commission. The blog, blog.naver.com/jheui13, has more than 50 million accumulated hits under the ID babyrose.
According to the “victims,” Hyun induced 3,300 people to purchase 360,000 won ($305)-ozone sterilizers through her web site over the past 10 months. But the device turned out to use an excessive amount of ozone, which could make people sick, according to the Korean Agency for Technology and Standards. Nonetheless, the company refused to give refunds citing lack of scientific evidence.
The fury was directed at Hyun, who had bridged the deal.
Hyun, who claimed that group purchasing could bring down the price and benefit customers, confessed that she received 70,000 won per sale of the device as commission. She expressed regret but said the fee was conventional and that she had done nothing illegal.
“She tricked us into buying the product and has concealed the dirty deal. If she cannot take legal responsibility, we will seek for her to take the moral burden,” a member of an online community against Hyun, said.
|A blog run by Hyun Jin-heui, who is accused of arranging group purchases of poor quality products in exchange for huge commissions.|
The Babyrose incident exposed the dirty laundry of some professional bloggers as well as the extent of their power and responsibility.
In a survey of 513 Internet users by the Korea Press Foundation in 2008, online media, including blog posts, placed second in a credibility ranking after terrestrial TV broadcasters.
These bloggers do not just entertain readers. In a DMC Media survey of 1,650 people, 48.5 percent replied that their shopping patterns have been affected by their online pundits. Online Today Korea reported that power bloggers could create 10 times the promotional effect of conventional media advertisements.
Currently, there are about 700 “power bloggers” selected by the nation’s largest portal site Naver.com. Several hundred more are actively working at other sites, drawing tens of hundreds of daily visitors.
These bloggers have emerged as darlings of viral marketers, who target consumers preferring recommendations from “next-door housewives” over newspaper articles or advertisements. They are treated with freebies, samples and sometimes free trips and tours from companies hoping for a mention on the blog.
“Most of the bloggers appreciates the pure joy of being respected but many of them welcome business opportunities, too,” a viral marketer said.
Hyun appeared on a GS Home Shopping channel program to promote marinated meat. With her influence on overall industries, she wrote several cookbooks and appealed to become Martha Stewart of Korea by publishing monthly magazine on homemaking.
The breakdown of Hyun’s enterprise is having a domino effect in the industry.
Moon Sung-sil, another power blogger with 90,000 daily visitors, admitted Saturday that she had received 4-5 percent of the sale of products as commission.
“Some I have received more and some less. But I have paid my tax. I have nothing to be ashamed of,” she said. But she has cancelled all upcoming co-purchasing events and shut down several sections of her blog. Several other similar online communities ceased commercial events over the weekend.
People say it’s time society comes up with ways to hold bloggers to their responsibilities as much as any other online businessmen.
U.S. authorities last year threatened to fine bloggers $11,000 for not clarifying corporate sponsorship in articles endorsing or commenting about products.
“With their growing power, bloggers should think of ways to be responsible about their articles and deeds before any others,” Prof. Kang Mi-eun of Sookmyung Women’s University was quoted as saying to a local paper.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com)
파워블로거 못 믿겠네...공동구매로 2억원 챙겨
인터넷 포털업체 네이버의 한 파워 블로거가 안전성 논란이 있는 상품을 공동구매하고 이 과정에서 거액의 수수료를 받은 것이 알려지면서 온라인에서 파워 블로거의 직ㆍ간접적인 상품판매를 관리, 규제해야 한다는 목소리가 높아지고 있다.
1일 관련업계에 따르면 네이버 파워 블로거로 회원이 130만명에 이르는 H씨(닉네임 베비로즈)는 지난해 하반기부터 수차례에 걸쳐 자신의 블로그에서 채소와 과일에서 농약 등의 성분을 제거해주는 다기능 살균 세척기의 공동구매를 진행했다.
공동구매는 다수 소비자가 제품을 구입하면 가격을 시중보다 저렴하게 살 수 있는 물품구매 방식으로, 이 제품의 경우 시중에서 판매되는 같은 회사의 비슷한 모델보다 저렴한 36만원에 모두 3000여대가 판매됐다.
문제는 공동구매 후 지식경제부 기술표준원이 실시한 오존 발생 전기용품에 대한 안전성 조사에서 공교롭게도 이 제품에서 국제기준(0.1ppm 이하)을 초과한 오존이 발생하면서 불거졌다.
표준원은 이 제품에 대한 자발적인 리콜을 권고했고, 구매자들은 부작용을 호소하면서 H씨와 해당 업체에 전액 환불을 요구했다. 하지만 양측 모두 난색을 표하면서 제품의 환불 요구가 포털업체의 관리 책임으로까지 번졌다.
이 과정에서 H씨가 대당 7만원씩 모두 2억여원의 수수료를 받기로 한 것이 알려졌다. 더군다나 그는 네이버가 선정한 파워 블로거였기 때문에 네이버의 관리 책임이 제기된 것이다.
네이버의 경우 한 해 선정되는 파워 블로거의 수가 700여명에 이른다. 그리고 이들 상당수가 공동구매 형식으로 상행위를 하고 있는 실정이다.
네이버 측은 “법적으로 허용돼 있는데 온라인 사업자가 함부로 블로거의 권한을 제재할 수도 없는 노릇”이라며 “수수료를 받았다는 사실을 확인할 수 있는 방법도 없어 한계가 있다”고 말했다.
네이버 측은 현 단계에서는 당사자에게 적극적으로 해결에 나설 것을 권고하고, 내년 파워 블로거 선정 심사에서 이런 부분을 반영할 방침이다.