The Korea Herald

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VIP patron of internet celebrity dies; family presses charges for fraud

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : March 25, 2024 - 16:38

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A South Korean internet celebrity has recently been accused of fraud by the bereaved family of a South Korean man who died last year after spending large sums of money in support of the celebrity.

The deceased, whose body was found inside his car in May last year, had been a VIP patron of the female's celebrity's online show, spending as much as 50 million won ($37,000) a day in sponsorships. An investigation found that his donations were largely made via borrowing, as he was around 150 million won in debt at the time of his death.

The bereaved family of the man filed charges against the celebrity, accusing her of conning viewers for unlawful profit. The internet personality told local media that she was "sorry about his death, but the sponsorship was his own choice. Nobody coerced him to do it."

Internet broadcasting in South Korea is a fast-growing industry, spanning across platforms that include YouTube, Afreeca and recently Chzzk, operated under Naver. It is common for hosts of online shows to receive donations from viewers, sometimes in exchange for certain tasks or reactions during the broadcast.

The celebrity in question was a host on South Korea-based platform Afreeca, which allows users to buy star balloons to be donated to the livestreamer. The streamer is later paid out by the platform for the balloons.

Last November, the platform announced that it recorded 87.9 billion won in revenue for the third quarter, with the top-earning host making 3.4 billion won in monthly profit.

But with the growth of internet broadcasting, there has also been controversy over parasocial fans going overboard in spending to support the online personalities.

In 2021, a man in his 30s spent over 22 million won on a streamer on Afreeca, but was banned from the show for typing profanity. He later murdered the host's mother after she refused to let him meet her daughter, and took his own life after the crime.