Tuesday, November 24, 2015

The Lee Jung Hee Hoax

Dear Korean,

I am curious about your thought on the Lee Jung Hee scandal that happened earlier this year, since it is so bizarre and apparently trending in the various social media. Could you please share some words about the scandal?


TK really, really did not want to get into this one, but it was simply ridiculous how many of you asked this question. So let's go.

The Lee Jung Hee scandal began with a sensational allegation made on a website late June this year. The full version of of the allegations is available in English here. The short version of the allegation is this:  
A woman named Lee Jung Hee, who is in her 40s and has two teenage sons, claimed that she and her sons have been subject to decades of sexual abuse at the hand of her husband. Lee was forced to marry her husband, who was a pastor, in her 20s, after having been raped by him and got pregnant. Since then, Lee's husband forced her into prostitution for 20 years, during which she was forced to partake in orgies while being drugged. Her sons were also forced into the orgies after they became older. All told, Lee was raped by "around 1,000 people" for 20 years, and her sons "around 300 people." The orgies were filmed, and the participants of the orgies sold the videos and shared the profit.
Lee finally escaped in 2014 and called the police on her husband, but there was minimal investigation as the participants of the orgies were politically and socially powerful men. Instead, the police committed one of Lee's sons to a mental institution, where he developed psychosis.
This story started going around the Internet in Korea, because it had all the sensational elements--a twisted mixture of sex, power, religion, denial of justice. Lee and her sons repeatedly made their case on the Internet, writing more testimonials and filming Youtube interviews. Eventually, the story was translated into various languages. The #helpleejunghee hashtag campaign began; there was (and is) a Facebook page also. A change.org petition garnered more than 37,000 signatures

Lee Jung Hee and her two sons, from their Youtube interview

As we know now, this was all a hoax. The monstrous former husband, who was supposedly blocking the police investigation because he was so well-connected with powerful people, was no more than an old pizza delivery man living in a crappy studio apartment. Lee led to the journalists to a rural village, claiming that her perpetrators lived there--not just one or two of the perpetrators, but according to Lee, the whole village was a sex colony that raped her and her sons. (But why would these allegedly rich and powerful men who assaulted her and her sons live in a crappy rural village?) The police did investigate the former husband when Lee initially claimed sexual assault to the police. After four months of investigation, the police did not find any nefarious orgy picture or video, nor did they find any sign of drug use from the former husband.

The real story was simpler and made much more sense. Lee and the former husband were indeed married, and were in the process of divorce. The former husband did beat Lee and the children, which resulted in a favorable divorce for Lee. It was when the husband appealed the decision by the divorce court that Lee began claiming sexual assault. Her story fell apart as soon as the more serious Korean media began their investigation. Earlier this month, Lee was arrested on the charges of malicious litigation and child abuse; Lee's children were separated from their mother and were placed in protective services.

TK stayed away from this story from the beginning for a simple reason: it smelled funny. The story did not make any sense internally. Who would pay to have sex with one woman and two young boys, along with a bunch of other men? Maybe that could happen once or twice, but over 20 years? Really? Who would even pay to watch the video of that happening? Have you even seen what kind of porn is available on the Internet nowadays? But because very unlikely things do happen in real life, TK was willing to let the story play out, and see what the more serious people would have to say about this topic. And as soon as the media scrutiny came in, the story crumbled entirely.

The lesson from the hoax is an enduring one: Internet justice campaign is for gullible idiots. Tens of thousands of people bought into this transparent bullshit because . . .  well, I don't know why. I don't know why people feel compelled to put their name down on something without knowing what is going on. I don't know why people put their name down on something while having no way to know what is going on. (This applies especially to non-Korean people who cannot access regular Korean media.) I don't know why people think putting their name down on some corner of the Internet helps in any way.

The Lee Jung Hee scandal shows once more that this kind slacktivist campaign is no more than a cheap moral masturbation, a blind dog wandering aimlessly and biting anything that gets in the way. The only way to make your sense of justice meaningful is to think critically, and act. Do not just get indignant at bad things, but actually study them, so that you grow the ability to discern what is really a bad thing, and what is a caricature of a bad thing. When you are reasonably confident that bad things are happening, take action instead of talking. Invest your time, put in your money, give your expertise. Protest in the streets, serve the needy, sue the powerful. Much of the world's problems would be no more if people did these things as often as they signed another meaningless Internet petition.

Got a question or a comment for the Korean? Email away at askakorean@gmail.com.


  1. Yes indeed. The story didn't pass the smell test. Not that it wasn't "possible". Almost anything is "possible". Truth often is stranger than fiction. Also, damned good advice.

  2. Back in the 1980s, there was an eruption of sexual abuse allegations in preschools (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Day-care_sex-abuse_hysteria). Around the same time, there were also numerous "scandals" of families forcing children into Satanic rituals. These revolved mostly around interrogation of small children and the "recovery" of memories, both of which are easily manipulated by the questioner and of doubtful value for veracity. The real witch hunts are these allegations that ruin the lives of everyone involved. The Lee Jung Hee case smelled the same even from thousands of miles away. Thanks for putting this to rest.

  3. Great article, but please, proofread it once again.

    "Lee and her sons made their case repeatedly made their case on the Internet" and "Lee and the former husband was indeed married, and was in the process of divorce."

    Things like these ruin your otherwise excellent article.
    Keep up the good job and thank you always for being a reliable non-sensationalist source of knowledge in the media.

  4. thanks for this. i was one of those ignorant ppl who fell into this hoax last year -.-''


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