Pann, selective translations and woman-bashing: IU is not an evil fox and Korea does not hate her

When the news broke that former ‘Nation’s Little Sister’ IU was dating the 11 years older popular indie singer Jang Kiha (of Jang Kiha and the Faces) earlier this week, it seemed almost inevitable that there would be some kind of backlash.

A singer for a long time sold on an wide-eyed image of girlish innocence announcing a relationship with a significantly older musician from the more permissive and free-spirited indie scene – it was prime material for months of cruel online mockery.

Because everyone needs more Jang Kiha in their lives

And yet… nothing. Perhaps it was the initial scandal with Super Junior’s Eunhyuk three years ago – salacious enough to make the public accept that this young woman may have a love life but still tame enough not to destroy her career – that helped cushion the blow. Or maybe it was the respect Jang Kiha has gained as an important figure in the Korean indie scene that made the public more open to him being the boyfriend of one of the country’s favourite singers. Either way, it seemed IU would avoid the months of mean comments and speculations her peer Sulli received for a relationship with a similar age gap – albeit under different circumstances.

But just as I had begun to celebrate this apparent growth, someone on Pann (because, of course) decided it was high time the world see IU for the evil lying bitch she really is with a list of the 4 victims of IU’s fox antics. The list consisted Eunhyuk (naturally), Kim Tae-woo, 2PM’s Wooyoung and Simon D with a number of transgressions which were mostly untrue, difficult to corroborate and open to interpretation.

I have neither the time nor inclination to fully investigate and I’m sure IU is not a saint but it’s also very clear the author of this post had their own agenda and the truth will almost inevitably lie somewhere in between (but probably much closer to IU’s side).

The bigger issue is the need to bring this up straight after the news of her longterm relationship was generally well received as if it is unacceptable for her to be happy. Even when it seems that Korean netizens as a whole have grown to the point of accepting a woman in her twenties in a relationship, there’s still an echo chamber on Pann where the extreme outlier opinion can gain traction.

And if you look at the numbers it really is an echo chamber. The percentage of Pann website visitors that actually actively engage is pretty small. This latest post on IU’s apparent failure to apologise sufficiently to Eunhyuk has over 100 thousand views but only has just over 1000 upvotes. That’s just one percent of readers and higher than many other Pann posts.

There is no legitimate justification for these posts attempting to drag IU through the mud. She made one mistake 3 years ago and spent a long time dealing with it. Eunhyuk also had to deal with it and it wasn’t his fault. They’ve both largely recovered. But there is a loud and crazy segment of internet commenters who genuinely seem to think that IU’s career must be destroyed for her apparent sins.

But his career wasn’t destroyed so why should hers be?

People like IU because she is talented, attractive and appears to be hard working. Crazy internet ramblings will not stop that when public sentiment is broadly in her favour.

But when these posts are selectively translated – favouring opinionated Pann over more positive and therefore less interesting Naver News or forever ignored Daum News – the perception of Korean audience reactions on the issue becomes skewed.  Netizen Buzz for example has translated more Pann and Nate News articles than any others and only negative ones – ignoring, for example, a fairly popular post about all the nice things celebrities and industry people have said about her.

In turn, this then seems to influence comments left in English with the extreme sentiments gaining more traction. The comments on Netizen Buzz’s version of the ‘IU is a lying fox’ Pann seemed to descend into a fun game of ‘Let’s all count the various ways women are awful’. It included all your favourite entrants like those untrustworthy “girls who look sweet but have the short hair cuts”, those women with too many male friends and several baffling digressions into the love life of Taylor Swift.

The irony of course is that the commenters were only reinforcing the flawed argument many expressed in the thread that “a woman is a woman’s worst enemy”. This is blatantly not true. A woman could be another woman’s worst enemy. As could a man. Terrible people exist of all genders. (Or, you know, a woman could not have a “worst enemy” because we’re not all comic book superheroes and/or teenagers.) But the way it becomes closer to reality is for women and girls to believe it and become bent on exposing those “evil bitches”.

Most importantly, be aware that what you read on the internet in English is not the full story. Often it’s the craziest comments that are translated while the perfectly reasonable opinions are left to flounder in untranslated obscurity. And all the evidence shows the vast majority of internet users do not regularly post their opinions on public forums which makes Pann posts even less representative.

Korea, broadly speaking, did not hate IU before this and doesn’t hate her now. For once, a young female idol has mostly escaped the witch hunt that so often follows any action that could be vaguely controversial.

That’s a good thing. Please don’t ruin it.

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  • hellostranger


    I feel bad for eunhyuk fans because his name got dragged through the comments for completely unrelated iu/jang kiha dating news, but the ensuing witch hunt and backlash of “how dare iu be happily dating when she ruined my oppa’s life” was flabbergasting.

  • Joy Mendoza

    I love your insights about these!I usually always go to Netizenbuzz to read some stuffs but after i figure out that they are so biased against IU i stop going to that site and i swear i will never go to that site again for the rest of my life! between this scary fan girls of Eunhyuk made me hate Eunhyuk and the the rest of SJ even if they don’t do anything bad ,i apologized for that but I’m human what their fans do to IU is a reflection of them!sorry about my rant!

    • Tara (Beyond Hallyu)

      I doubt it’s Netizenbuzz themselves who are biased against IU as they only translate popular K-netizen comments, but I understand why you might get fed up with those. I also hope IU has an awesome comeback. :)

  • riaa

    before i read your article , i think IU really hated right now in korea, feel bad for her. Because i found many article in english who said bad thing :(

    • Tara (Beyond Hallyu)

      I admit I was a bit worried too because of English-language articles, but as Lizzie pointed out here IU’s situation is far from what those articles make it out to be. Don’t worry and enjoy IU’s music ~