Well, I live in Korea, but this is news to me. Maybe I just haven’t been keeping up on my Korea-related blogs. In fact, that’s probably why I haven’t heard about Dog Poop Girl.
This is one of those inconsiderate idiots I rant about from time to time, the kind of person who walks around as if nobody else in the world even exists. She took her dog onto the subway and when I crapped on the floor, she didn’t make a move to clean it up; instead, she apparently acted as if nothing was amiss.
Annoyed passengers gawked, and someone took a picture of this disgrace a camera-phone and uploaded it to the net asking if anyone recognized her. Of course, someone did, and posted her name, and the insults began.
Now, up to this point, I am totally unsympathetic to her. Honestly, it’d be better if someone had told her off in person; but the way Korea works, you cannot do that: people don’t get told off in public, unless they’re really monstrously nasty. So I can understand why someone would have exasperatedly gone and taken the picture and posted it. This allows a mass number of people to chastise the Dog Poop Girl instead of one having to do it alone on that subway train, and be “different”. As Lime pointed out to me once again, “different” can have such a bad connotation in Korean that being called “unique” can annoy or even disturb a child.
But what followed, it’s a bit scary. People didn’t just ask for her name, they asked for more. Information about her family, her address, her life. They didn’t stop with public ridicule. They revelled in the public destruction of her reputation. Here’s where I begin to wonder if it might be a bit much. I mean, I don’t know: there are people I know whom I think deserve this kind of treatment, believe me, and you know, being as inconsiderate as she was, maybe this girl is one of those people.
Or maybe she was downright mortified at her dog’s mishap and, lacking a packet of tissues, she just acted as if she hadn’t noticed. People have told me stories of events like this, where they have faked conditions of ignorance because of their absolute mortification — recently, one student told a story in class about how she faked passing out on a train, and kept faking it till a nice man took her to a hospital and a nurse was about to inject her with something.
I don’t know. The Netizens don’t know. Only Dog Poop Girl knows. What scares me is that these are the same netizens who a year ago voted in favor of nationalist nanny-state censorship in the form of the Ministry of Internet Communications. There’s a reason that the title of the book Extraordinary Popular Delusions And The Madness Of Crowds brings a smirk to the face of the educated person: it’s because we know that, yeah, crowds can be popularly deluded and downright mad. Given the degree of the reaction, and the degree of shame this girl has accrued — she’s apparently dropped out of school, though, depending on the University she was attending, that might be good for her and her family — I have to say the backlash was unfortunately too severe.
But I’m not with those who think such backlashes are inherently bad. One of the main complaints foreigners in Korea make is that tons of people act in inconsiderate ways. When they express that complaint to Koreans, they privately commiserate, and often share their own similar frustration. A means of shaming those who behave badly isn’t such a bad thing in a society where so many people act without consideration of others, and I cannot imagine that, on a social scale, the outcome would be all negative, but rather, if it were to successfully shame enough people to a reasonable degree, it might achieve some more consideration in public; but what’s needed is some kind of limitation on the degree of damage that can be done. Someone shouldn’t be shamed into quitting work or school for being a minor jerk like Dog Poop Girl. On the other hand, teachers caught on video beating students in class should get more than a slap on the wrist — they should be unable to ever work in their field again, and I think they deserve some commensurate jail time, too.
The problem is, how to guage the right degree of humiliation? And how to organize damage control? Hm. Perhaps a set of classes of offense needs to be outlined, and the appropriate degree of humiliation to be doled out? I’m not sure it’s viable, but… this is an interesting look at the kinds of conceptual problems looming out there in our societies’ futures.