K-pop girl group Crayon Pop on Wednesday denied rumors that its members were involved with “Ilbe (Daily Best),” in an apparent attempt to avoid backlash that is rooted in the public’s widespread discontent toward the controversial website.
Chrome Entertainment, Crayon Pop’s agency, said via press release that the group’s members did not participate in any activities concerning Ilbe, a humor-centered community website well known for its members’ far-right political viewpoints.
In June, members of Crayon Pop were accused of using “nomunomu” (mispronunciation of a Korean word meaning “very, very”) and “jjeolttugi (crippled),” two slang words used by Ilbe members to denigrate former liberal presidents Roh Moo-hyun and Kim Dae-jung, respectively.
“There is no reason for them (Crayon Pop) to use the word ‘nomunomu’ for political reasons. They did not even know the word was used to disparage Roh, because they do not access the Ilbe website at all,” the agency said.
Chrome Entertainment said it was “taken aback” by people accusing Crayon Pop members of using the word “jjeolttugi” to speak ill of Kim. It apologized, however, for using the word that can be offensive to those who are physically challenged.
The agency also said it apologizes for a Twitter comment that was seen as a jab to its critics. The comment was a Chinese proverb that can be translated as “Buddha only sees Buddha. A pig only sees a pig.”
The incident is expected to hinder the recent success of Crayon Pop, boosted by the girls’ comic concept and catchy tunes.
While the incident appeared to be a simple gaffe by young singers, its repercussions were enormous.
Online shopping mall Auction temporarily withdrew its advertisement that featured Crayon Pop, after many of its members left the website en masse. Shoppers who left Auction reportedly expressed complaints to the website for signing Crayon Pop to promote it.
Crayon Pop was also to participate in the opening ceremony of FC Seoul soccer team’s home game next Wednesday, but the club cancelled the group’s appearance after a firestorm of criticism from the public.
The series of severe reactions is presumed to be attributed to many South Korean’s less-than-friendly sentiment toward Ilbe. While first launched as a user-edited humor website, Ilbe has been dominated by users with extreme right-wing viewpoints.
Many of its popular posts are ones that belittle political or opinion leaders from the liberal bloc.
It also uses its own vocabulary that is insulting to key progressive figures and people from the Jeolla provinces, a traditionally left-wing stronghold.
Among the best-known “Ilbe vocabulary” is the word “hong-eo (skate ray),” used to describe people from Jeolla. The exact origin of this usage is unclear but according to the Maeil Business newspaper, it was to refer to the smell of the rotting corpses of those killed during the 1980 democratization movement in Gwangju.
Earlier in the year, Ilbe caught the public eye after some of its members claimed that the democratization movement was an anti-South Korean riot incited by the North Korean military.
Besides posts that fuel ideological and regional division, its members are notorious for blurting out racist jokes and comments.
Child singer Hwang Min-woo, better known as “Little Psy” from Psy’s “Gangnam Style” music” video, recently fell prey to vicious verbal attacks by Ilbe members. In May, Hwang’s representatives filed a formal complaint to the police against eight users of Ilbe who insulted the 7-year-old singer for having a Vietnamese mother.
Because of widespread unease toward Ilbe, celebrities suspected of regularly visiting the website also became subject to criticism.
In May, K-pop group Secret’s member Jeon Hyosung was bashed by many fans after she said on a radio show, “Our group respects individuality. We do not democratize.” Contrary to its original meaning, the word “democratization” is used by Ilbe users to mean oppression of one’s opinion.
Jeon later apologized for the inappropriate remarks and said her comments were not derived from Ilbe. Several universities, however, cancelled Secret’s appearance at their festivals, citing “complaints from students.”
By Yoon Min-sik