Female supporters posted pictures of themselves in bikinis with “let’s save Chung Bong-ju” written across their breasts on a website that demands the former Democratic Party lawmaker be freed.
Feminists and other opponents are demanding the show hosts apologize and drop the campaign.
Chung was imprisoned for spreading false information about President Lee Myung-bak during his presidential campaign.
Gong Ji-young, a novelist and supporter of podcast “Naneun Ggomsuda,” wrote Saturday on Twitter to urge the hosts apologize for encouraging the “bikini campaign.”
“The bikini protest is obnoxious and I demand an apology,” she said, accusing the progressive panelists of chauvinism.
“Despite ongoing outcries from female victims of sexual assault and harassment, 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.
|A picture from a website of a campaign to free Chung Bong-ju|
She was referring to the “encouragement” and “cheers” the panelists sent to the female fans who uploaded their bikini shots.
The panelists as well as liberals and progressive members argue that Chung’s conviction as politically motivated and have been campaigning to free him.
As of Wednesday, more than 300,000 people vowed to participate, including people who took the controversial pictures.
Last Monday, Kim Yong-min, the program director, announced on the show that the women posting photos should not worry because “Chung has been taking pills to dampen his libido.”
Ju Jin-woo, a panelist on the show, 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 got 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 joined the denouncements on Wednesday.
“I guess the panelists wanted to brag about their political influence. But in reality it was 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 the editor of a feminist magazine as saying that “People have mixed feelings about the show.”
The panelists have not yet made any comments in regards to the dispute.
By Bae Ji-sook (email@example.com)