Here’s something I’ve been noticing in my cultural research of South Korea:

It seems that they have much higher expectations of their celebrities. I may even go so far as saying they may be a little over-expectant, though I think that expecting too much from celebrities is better than the near-negative volume of expectations we have for ours. Though even with that there are limits.

I’ve come across two instances of their celebrities being treated… well, one appropriately, and the other, in my opinion, far too harshly.

The first is a fellow whose music I’ve grown to really enjoy over the last few weeks, MC Mong (Shin Dong-Hyun).

What I gather is that his dentist had to remove two teeth a few years ago effectively removing him from having to serve his two years of compulsory military service as is their custom. The dentist had come out and said that MC Mong had paid him to remove the tooth which, of course, is highly illegal.

Well, after four other dentists who had previously treated MC Mong came forward and said that the allegations were false, the original one changed his statement saying that the two teeth he had removed were irreparable and necessitated removal and that the police had told him to intensify his report so they could score an arrest on nearly false grounds.

Well, with all said and done they had no proof that he had purposely avoided national service, but that there certainly was a delay that was unacceptably inexplicable and he was sentenced to 6 months in prison, one year of probation and 120 hours of community service.

This might seem harsh to some of you, but it’s no less then what would happen to a Regular Joe in the same position and that’s the point.

The other guy is from the Pop group, 2PM, and his name is Jay Park (Park Jae-Beom). Less my style than MC Mong, yet still notable in this discussion.

His case is a bit more… extreme…

He grew up in Seattle, Washington and moved to South Korea to be a Pop star in 2005 when he was 18 and, like any teenager in a highly differing culture, he was missing the US and made some comments to a friend back in Washington expressing intense, childish displeasure with his current situation.

Well, jump forward four years to 2009… Someone hacked his MySpace, found the emails and sent them to the South Korean media who, of course, misinterpreted and mistranslated them so that they seemed WAY worse than they were. All this sparked intense controversy and he was essentially exiled from the country by his fans and found himself back in Seattle again. His record contract was terminated as well.

Luckily, his band mates and many of their core fan base remained loyal throughout the entire process. When people eventually realized the media’s mistake they were apologetic and Mr. Park has since been welcomed back to South Korea. Even with this, however, the entire thing seems a little outlandish, especially when you take into consideration that at one point there was a petition going around for Mr. Park to kill himself that got, I believe, around 3000 signatures… Ridiculous.

And, after all of this, then you take into account the way we treat our celebrities… You have situations like Lindsay Lohan who commits crime after crime over and over while remaining relatively unpunished

Also, there’s Quinton “Rampage” Jackson whose reckless driving in 2008 resulted in multiple hits-and-runs, one of which cause the still birth of a child and all he got was 200 hours community service. Even though most of the charges were dismissed, he was still only looking at 3 years in prison for reckless driving and a $25,000 civil case for the stillbirth.

The only celebrity that has been properly charged lately, that I know of, is Wesley Snipes. He got three years in prison for 3 accounts of tax evasion which is the typical charge for the crime.

Now, here’s the question… is it better to expect too much from your celebrities even though their job is simply to sing and dance like overpaid monkeys or to expect next to nothing from them and capitalize on their failures as a prime source of “entertainment”? Or are they two sides of the same coin? What do you think?

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