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Korean Rapper, Stanford Alum, Cyberbullied
July 22, 2011 4:04 AM   Subscribe

The Persecution of Daniel Lee: Korean rapper was a victim of an online smear campaign that said he didn't go to Stanford. But it gets worse...

But with fame came trouble. Internet bullies and trolls claimed that he was lying about having gone to Stanford. Moreover, the bullies began bullying Stanford's registrar, people associated with the English Department, and any friend or family of Dan's that was brave enough to speak out. Lawsuits started being thrown back and forth.

Dan Lee, AKA Tablo, wasn't your average Stanford student. Coming from a Canadian upbringing (he moved there at age 8, finishing in under 4 years with both an BA and an MA in English, he received awards and wrote a novel.

During his time at Stanford in the '90s, he also became a rapper. While dabbling in music isn't uncommon during ones undergrad years, for Dan it turned into huge fame, as his indie hip hop group Epik High became one of the most popular in Korea.

Dan, a new father, began receiving death threats and has gone into a sort of shell shock.

Eventually, a 60 Minutes-esque news show went to Palo Alto with Dan to talk to the registrar and go on a campus tour, and Dan's name has been cleared. At a cabinet meeting, Korean President Lee Myung-bak stated that what happened to Lee was a "witch hunt that should never happen again."

It turns out that the primary cyberbully is a Eung Kim, a 57-year-old Korean-American businessman living in Chicago. Legal consequences pending.

While this is a great long read, I highly recommend watching some of their music videos. The videos and music are creative and enjoyable. I'm not a fan, but after reading this article, I searched for these and was impressed.
posted by k8t (53 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Tablo's wife? Yoo Ji Tae, the girl from Old Boy (who's since had plastic surgery that has left her not as distinctive or interesting looking, and somewhat depressed about it).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:35 AM on July 22, 2011


That a conspiracy theory about a rapper's academic credentials would take hold, be widely discussed, and trash his career is pretty astounding. It must have as much to do with his citizenship. I realize that other cultures have different values and concerns that I do, but it just seems so fantastic that there must be a bunch of colluding issues.

For example, when it came out that Professor Griff bought his Ph.D from a Balkan diploma mill, I shrugged. I didn't even care when the Washington Post revealed that Dr. Dre was actually a chiropractor and not an MD.
posted by Mayor Curley at 4:35 AM on July 22, 2011 [46 favorites]


57? That's embarrassing.
posted by thelonius at 4:36 AM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


It seems mothers were also smearing Tablo: Mothers in Korea worshipped him. He was a role model for every child in Korea at that time.

That's so not hardcore.
posted by chavenet at 4:41 AM on July 22, 2011


Maybe those mothers were very hardcore.
posted by GenjiandProust at 4:47 AM on July 22, 2011 [8 favorites]


I don't know what the legal issue is here. This looks like your basic open-and-shut defamation case. The fact that Kim lives in Chicago does make suing him in Korea problematic, but there's no reason Lee can't hire some firm in Chicago to file suit there.
posted by valkyryn at 4:47 AM on July 22, 2011


Rap in Korea is the antithesis of hardcore.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 4:48 AM on July 22, 2011


Mothers in Korea worshipped him.

That's so not hardcore.

Editing error, that was supposed to read "muthas".
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 4:53 AM on July 22, 2011 [9 favorites]


This is frightening and I'm a bit outraged on Lee's behalf. The fact that they seemed to believe the Stanford Registrar was also part of a conspiracy shows how much crazy there was in the accusations.

Its easy to pin it on this one guy in Chicago but the group seems to have had 200k members with hundreds of emails being sent off to anyone periperally involved in this. Crazy that draws a following like that is the most terrifying type of crazy.
posted by vacapinta at 4:53 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


The background here in Korea, for what it's worth, is a long and agonizing series of revelations over the last decade or so of Korean celebrities, academics and oligarchs who have been outed as fabricating their 'American University credentials'.

This newfound natural skepticism here -- healthy and freshly-minted as a result of all the revelations of lying from the upper crust -- has wrongly captured in its net a few people (apparenly including this guy) who actually did acquire the (WARNING: OPINION) worthless but prestigious qualifications they claimed to have earned.

That's a bad thing, but the general trend of average Koreans being increasingly skeptical of what the Rich And Powerful People tell them? That's new, and fucking great.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 4:53 AM on July 22, 2011 [12 favorites]


Increasingly skeptical? Seems like they dialed it up to 11 rather quickly (At least in this case)
posted by ShutterBun at 4:56 AM on July 22, 2011


Tablo's wife? Yoo Ji Tae

The article says that his wife is Kang Hye Jung. Are Kang Hye Jung and Yoo Ji Tae the same person?
posted by spicynuts at 5:02 AM on July 22, 2011


And this is why lieing is one of the malovent acts a person can can ever commit against society. Even when the liar's falsehoods are exposed, it undermines the the truthfulness of all the honest people.
posted by KingEdRa at 5:05 AM on July 22, 2011


Seems like they dialed it up to 11 rather quickly

Korean folks always dial it up to 11. That's what they do, and that's why I love them, god bless 'em. And when it's the Daehan Minguk internet-brigades all fired up? Step back and guard your eyes from the utterly uninformed but emotionally excited teenpower keyboard cadres! The /b/tards fucking wish they had that kind of impact.

[Enough. I've lived in Korea for 15 years and I decided a few years ago that much as I want to, and end up doing too often, it ain't my job to explain Korea to the world at large. Like there's a chance I could in random related threads, anyway. Buy the book that I'll probably never end up writing, I guess, if I eventually end up writing it.]
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 5:17 AM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


That's a bad thing, but the general trend of average Koreans being increasingly skeptical of what the Rich And Powerful People tell them? That's new, and fucking great.
I don't know anything about Korea, but from what you've said, it actually strikes me as a little worrisome. Aren't they just going from automatically trusting authority, because they have no tools to evaluate authority's truth claims, to automatically distrusting authority, because they still don't have the tools to evaluate truth claims? That seems like a potential recipe for disaster, because people who distrust authority and can't evaluate evidence are liable to buy into conspiracy theories with bigger implications than this one.
posted by craichead at 5:17 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


I totally thought this was a Tiger Mom parody from some wannabe Onion site. "Korean rapper's secret shame: only graduated cum laude." The actual article is even crazier than that would have been. The poor guy.
posted by No-sword at 5:19 AM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


That seems like a potential recipe for disaster, because people who distrust authority and can't evaluate evidence are liable to buy into conspiracy theories with bigger implications than this one.

Meh.

That describes pretty much half of the people in the US. Half of the voters, anyway. You only have to worry when it describes more than half of the politicians.
posted by aramaic at 5:46 AM on July 22, 2011


Doctors of Rock: 10 musicians with a PhD.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:58 AM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Now I see that the host for the whole business is Naver. American internet conglomerates are not that popular in South Korea. You will still use a Samsung computer with Windows and goddamn IE 6(still in near universal usage) but you will usually go to a site like Naver or Daum as a homepage and for your searching. These are search sites, but they are also portals, in the old, Yahoo sense. In that sense the South Korean internet is astoundingly centralized, because unlike Yahoo, Naver and I believe Daum and all the other, littler competitors host much of the content too, and are the focus of what often ends up being a gigantic Korean national intranet. Never mind the language barrier, which basically also demarcates a national intranet. So I can imagine a gigantic level of virality that something that outrageous, also with the sort of emotion that college admission and selection engenders in Koreans, could achieve, and thousands and thousands of people could have significant emotions on the topic for legitimate reasons, at least to them.

The emotion that college admissions and selection engenders in Koreans: we expedite the traffic on the one day that national university entrance exams are held to make sure kids get there on time. You will have studied for this test from 2 to 14(!) years, in school and in hagwon. Insane level of security on the test. If you were hoping for a good score and get a bad one, instead of going to a worse college you sometimes delay for a year, studying. Suicide rates spike. Now imagine that people were lying to skip this hell and claim better credentials from America. Even if you were decades away from this, would you not be a little angry?

And on the specific grievance that man had against the rapper: customization of education really is lacking in basically all of the national universities, which is to say any university you can get social status from. People do not skip grades. You will do your credits, in order, etc. A big problem with Korean education, of course, but also a big problem of a lot of other university systems.

From that point, which may have been a misunderstanding(may- the false accuser was living in America, too) comes a madhouse, a hothouse reflecting on itself, growing stronger and stronger and something damn close to those Chinese internet lynch mobs. Perhaps close to a 4chan lynch mob, though I dare say they are more willing to act in meatspace. This is a failure, at least, of the old Utopian vision of the Internet, bitter dregs of the old dreams of peaceful connections.
posted by curuinor at 5:58 AM on July 22, 2011 [4 favorites]


Aren't they just going from automatically trusting authority... to automatically distrusting authority

So these Koreans, they grow younger?
posted by quonsar II: smock fishpants and the temple of foon at 5:58 AM on July 22, 2011


Just to clear the air, I did not literally attend the school of hard knocks, OK?
posted by FelliniBlank at 6:02 AM on July 22, 2011


Grant anonymity to a lot of envious people with status anxiety and this is what you get. Potential violence optional. In America we reserve such treatment for black presidents.
posted by homerica at 6:13 AM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]


Most of the people criticizing "Korea" and "Koreans" in this thread as a giant amorphous mass have recently lost control of their nation to a group of people who believe their President was secretly born in Nigeria.
posted by Shepherd at 6:29 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Most of the people criticizing "Korea" and "Koreans" in this thread as a giant amorphous mass

What? Where?
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:37 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Dear Korea: u r doing it rong.
posted by 1adam12 at 6:41 AM on July 22, 2011


(happy to help)
posted by 1adam12 at 6:42 AM on July 22, 2011


http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_west-coast_rapper_conspiracy_theories: posted by rh at 7:11 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


That describes pretty much half of the people in the US.
Right. That's my point exactly.
posted by craichead at 7:11 AM on July 22, 2011


Tablo's wife? Yoo Ji Tae

The article says that his wife is Kang Hye Jung. Are Kang Hye Jung and Yoo Ji Tae the same person?


Not only are they not the same person, they're not even the same gender.
posted by Panjandrum at 7:25 AM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Interesting that exams are so anxiety-fraught in Korea. Been reading some Chinese history lately, and often the person at the root of a social rebellion is a "failed degree candidate", or "failed to pass the examinations". It's become a bit of an in-joke.
posted by benito.strauss at 7:42 AM on July 22, 2011


Gee, turns out Internet mob justice can be a bad thing. Who woulda thunk it? (See also: Metafilter's forays into debunking, which mostly seem reasonable and responsible but are not different in kind.)
posted by Nelson at 8:44 AM on July 22, 2011


spicynuts: "Tablo's wife? Yoo Ji Tae

The article says that his wife is Kang Hye Jung. Are Kang Hye Jung and Yoo Ji Tae the same person?
"

Heh - no. I couldn't remember the woman, so I googled the name Yoo Ji-Tae, and was like, wait... Yoo Ji-Tai was the bad dude in the movie. Not a woman. So... different person.
posted by symbioid at 9:07 AM on July 22, 2011


Aren't they just going from automatically trusting authority... to automatically distrusting authority

I guess 57-year-old businessmen are the new anti-authority figures, eh? Must be something they picked up from American Tea Partiers.
posted by oneswellfoop at 9:37 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Doctors of Rock: 10 musicians with a PhD.

Dave Aguilar, the lead singer of the Chocolate Watch Band, was a professor of astronomy after he left the band.
posted by jonp72 at 10:25 AM on July 22, 2011


Ashton Kutcher, who follows Lee on Twitter, chimed in. "Time to kill the evil eye on this guy," he tweeted.
posted by iamck at 10:36 AM on July 22, 2011


Hip-hop as a career choice. Empathy fades.

I really wanted my first comment on MeFi to be nicer...
posted by pistolswing at 10:39 AM on July 22, 2011


I just don't get it, he studied well and became a famous person, why do so many people want discredit him for what he has achieved...or is this about his carrer choice.
posted by clavdivs at 12:55 PM on July 22, 2011


This story might have broken some kind of record in terms of WTFs.

- Korean rapper is esteemed by Korean mothers
- Koreans actually give a shit about a rapper's alma mater
- possibility that the guy is lying about his alma mater sends people into a rage
- Korean president actually commenting on this
- head of smear campaign is a business man who is almost 60

This is beyond the Onion.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:32 PM on July 22, 2011 [2 favorites]


Hip-hop as a career choice. Empathy fades.

Oh. Uh. Snap? Maybe second comment aim for 'smarter' and maybe my empathy for aimlessly smug will pink right up...
posted by moneyjane at 1:32 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


Oh, I've actually met a couple of Korean American guys who felt becoming popstar in Korea was actually a viable career path. I don't think the barrier to entry is all that high. At least several years ago, it seemed like if you could sing and dance and looked acceptably cute, you might have a chance at a contract.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:34 PM on July 22, 2011


[i]Hip-hop as a career choice. Empathy fades.[/i]

Wow the willing ignorance of R&B/Hip Hop as a legit artistic expression on Metafilter is really getting on my freaking nerves.
posted by LilSoulBrother85 at 1:41 PM on July 22, 2011 [7 favorites]


So is my lack of HTML tags. *sigh*
posted by LilSoulBrother85 at 1:42 PM on July 22, 2011


The emotion that college admissions and selection engenders in Koreans: we expedite the traffic on the one day that national university entrance exams are held to make sure kids get there on time. You will have studied for this test from 2 to 14(!) years, in school and in hagwon. Insane level of security on the test. If you were hoping for a good score and get a bad one, instead of going to a worse college you sometimes delay for a year, studying. Suicide rates spike. Now imagine that people were lying to skip this hell and claim better credentials from America. Even if you were decades away from this, would you not be a little angry?

I feel like several Koreans assume the U.S. system is like the Korean one. Yeah, it's competitive in the U.S., but there are a lot of "other factors" involved with going to college and college admissions that don't make it the holy grail that it is in Korea. In the U.S., it's more like a trophy here, a sweet cash prize, with some valuable connections; over in Korea it's like you won the NFL, the Olympics, the World Cup, AND the American Idol all at once. I was taken aback a couple of years ago when a couple of Koreans I met were ooohing and aaahing over the degrees my friends and I held. I didn't have the heart to tell them we weren't exactly raking in the cash, and one of us was unemployed.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 1:44 PM on July 22, 2011


Wow the willing ignorance of R&B/Hip Hop as a legit artistic expression on Metafilter is really getting on my freaking nerves.

Really? Because for me, MetaFilter is my best source of intelligent informed hip-hop fans, and there have been several threads that directed me to good songs and given me insight into others.
posted by benito.strauss at 4:02 PM on July 22, 2011


If you ever apply for a job in South Korea that requires academic credentials, guess what? Your transcript from a uni registrar are worthless. You need them, but you also need your fucking diploma. That's right, take it down off the wall or re-order one, because the whole point of having registrars and using transcripts is negated here.

Korea is lovely in many ways, but absolutely backwards in others.
posted by bardic at 6:00 PM on July 22, 2011


A Korean friend of mine sent me this, It seems to me that in Korea being an antifan of one celebrity is just as popular trend as being a devoted fan of another. Why?, by way of further explanation of events such as these.
posted by meehawl at 6:35 PM on July 22, 2011


What an awful story. Epik High are quite good. I haven't followed them for a couple of years, but I still get a few of their songs stuck in my head randomly out of nowhere. Let me recommend Fan and Flow.
posted by Kattullus at 8:05 PM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]


This is why Katullus is awesome: Not only is he a native Icelander, he's a fully integrated Rhode Islander, and he knows Korean Rap well enough to pick out two sterling examples of the artist in question.

No, really, it's very, very good rap. Unfortunately, inside the US, it will be stuffed into the backpack, alongside anything else that isn't crime fantasy, conspicuous consumption or blatant sexism.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:45 PM on July 22, 2011


Heh heh heh... well, I have a friend who's big into Asian pop music of all stripes and she hipped me to Epik High. But thank you.
posted by Kattullus at 7:18 AM on July 23, 2011


At least several years ago, it seemed like if you could sing and dance and looked acceptably cute, you might have a chance at a contract.

Nah, that's not even remotely true.
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:18 PM on July 23, 2011


Nah, that's not even remotely true.

Well given that I knew a couple of people who were seriously considering the possibility, I thought it was worth mentioning.

Maybe it's like someone seriously saying, "I'm gonna win the lotto next year?" Perhaps those guys had delusions of grandeur that I never fathomed.
posted by The ____ of Justice at 5:44 PM on July 25, 2011


Confidence is a good thing, in moderation. ;-)
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 6:14 PM on July 25, 2011


you know, I actually did lurk around Stanford for a few months, without taking a single class, much less getting a degree, back in 1989 (yeah, I know). Enhancing my status in society was one thing I wanted from this, of course. And ....it worked.

I ended up with a part-time job at the student coffee-shop, and a library card. I had JUST graduated college, and was young enough to fit in, or this would never have worked.
posted by thelonius at 6:33 PM on July 26, 2011


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