The nation’s most popular podcast’s hosts have come under fire for encouraging their fans to make racy actions to save one of its imprisoned colleagues.
Several female supporters took pictures of themselves dressed in bikinis with a slogan written on their breasts, saying “let’s save Chung Bong-ju,” and posted them on a website created to rally support for a drive to free the former Democratic Party lawmaker. Feminists and opponents are demanding the show hosts apologize and drop the plan.
Chung was imprisoned for spreading false information about President Lee Myung-bak during his presidential campaign.
The dispute ignited last Saturday when Gong Ji-young, a noted novelist and supporter of “Naneun Ggomsuda,” one of the most downloaded political podcasts, wrote on her Twitter account urging the show hosts apologize for encouraging the “bikini campaign.”
“The bikini protest is obnoxious and I demand an apology,” she said, accusing the progressive panelists of giving into chauvinistic behavior.
“Despite ongoing outcries from female victims of sexual assaults and harassments, the male-oriented society gave the assaulters leniency based on their prejudice that women must have created the opportunity. The bikini shots may have been a groundbreaking idea to draw public attention to the issue, but it was wrong,” she said.
She was referring to the “encouragement” and “cheers” the panelists sent to the female fans who uploaded their bikini shots. In the pictures posted on a website dedicated to Chung, the women revealed their breasts with slogans such as “My heart is bursting with anger for Chung,” or “Free Chung Bong-ju.” Chung was put behind bars on Dec. 26 for disseminating slanderous false information against then president candidate Lee. The panelists as well as liberals and progressive members defined his conviction as politically motivated and have been holding campaigns to free him. As of Wednesday, more than 300,000 people vowed to participate, including people who took the rather-racy pictures.
Last Monday, Kim Yong-min, the program director, announced in the latest episode of the show that “Chung had been taking pills to dampen his libido. Girls, you are free to send your bikini photos now.”
Ju Jin-woo, another panelist, posted a photo on his Twitter account showing him writing a message to Chung saying “I really like the ‘breast photos.’ Don’t get too aroused!”
But many people said the panelists have gotten carried away.
Chin Joong-kwon, a progressive political critic, slammed the campaign.
“Women have their free will to show their breast shots but we must be alert to the way we consume it,” he said.
An online community of Ewha Womans University alumni was bustling with denunciation on Wednesday.
“I guess the panelists wanted to brag about their political influence. But in reality it was a sexual harassment,” they said.
But some appreciated their efforts.
“Women posted the pictures because they wanted to. They enjoyed people’s response. They will become embarrassed when people try to condemn them,” Lee Joo-hyun, a 35-year-old man told a local daily.
The conservative Chosun Ilbo newspaper reproached feminists for keeping low-key over the incident. It pointed out that out of about 210 women’s rights groups in the country, only two have publicly criticized the show’s presenters.
“Maybe the feminists were reluctant because they are in the same progressive circles and any criticisms could be regarded as an internal strife,” it wrote.
It quoted a feminism magazine editor saying, “People have mixed feelings about the show.”
The panelists have yet made any comments in regards to the dispute.
By Bae Ji-sook