South Korean Human Rights Monitor


[Opinion] Kim Yuna Exposed: The Right to Privacy

Julie Min March 21, 2014

Do you know where the term ‘Paparazzi’ came from?  This familiar term that many people use nowadays has aroused Korean society recently with Kim Yuna’s relationships.

The singular form is paparazzo and it derives from a press photographer in a movie, La Dolce Vita made by Italian director Federico Fellini. The photographer’s name was based on an Italian word, papataceo which is a description for an annoying buzzing sound coming from a mosquito.”

What if the buzzing mosquito turns into a poisonous insect? Buzzing can be easily shooed away, but a poisonous sting can be deathly. Paparazzi can also be deadly to some celebrities. The recently released movie Diana is about Princess Diana, who died in car accident on the run from paparazzi. This raises the question, are a couple of pictures worth invading someone’s privacy to the point they are always on the run resorting to placing themselves in danger?

Along these lines there has been a rising concern regarding the paparazzi and their violation of privacy of Korea’s famous figure skater Kim Yuna. Kim was recently were spotted by paparazzi on a date with a national team hockey player which was made public and rumors of her romance is spreading like wildfire.

The press that exclusively reported Kim Yuna’s relations hired over ten photographers to follow her daily life for six months beginning in the summer of 2013. The media proudly emphasized that “We did not pursue her every day for fear of being caught and Kim Yuna becoming aware of the camera. We also temporally stopped the covering as the Olympics came.” It also had self-established standards of covering:

–          No photos inside the house.
–          Only take photos outside, where it is public.
–          Affairs are not covered.
–          Underage idols are not covered.

But the unwritten rule is to cover ‘only’ top stars. The media thinks as long as top stars enjoy great income from publicity and special status with passionate interest from fans, it is justifiable for them to let the fans know about what they are crazily curious about: private life.

But, is it? Is it truly justifiable that six months of over ten photographers prying into one person’s private life, taking photos, and recording personal romance took place, all in the name of ‘reporting’?

The media should keep in mind that Kim Yuna is clearly not a media celebrity like film stars or musicians. She does not enjoy wealth and high status because of the fans. She was recognized due to her skill in figure skating which she developed and polished over many years. It is true that she has been loved worldwide, received great support, and earned millions of dollars by advertisements. But it is her own effort and inconceivable hard work that raised her to such a position.

Rather, it is the media and the paparazzi that is trying to take advantage of her fame and profit from spreading the personal information. Doesn’t it sound shameless and even absurd to earn money by violating other’s private life?

Paparazzi should never be approved. We should not overlook the negative social consequences that occur when the public allows such form of reporting and the press makes a habit of hiring paparazzi. In a society where violation of privacy is officially approved, everyone can lose their rights to privacy. Then, inspection of civilian by any power or authority will also be allowed.

If you think a celebrity or public figure is the exception to that rule, you should realize it is never a right idea. No one has a right to know about the private lives of others. That also applies even to Kim Yuna, whom the entire nation knows. Kim Yuna has taken recently a firm stance by responding legally against the media and SNS users who initially reported her private life and spread the photographs. Hopefully she will fight to the end and help improve the general social awareness about paparazzi and privacy violation in the future.




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