News of the secret marriage and divorce between actress Lee Ji-ah and music legend Seo Tai-ji has generated an explosive reaction from the public, with malicious online chatter mainly targeting Lee and her family.
The scandal revealed that Lee had concealed her real name and age, not to mention her marital status, and unconfirmed reports about her and her family are being posted on numerous portal sites, blogs and Twitter.
On lee-zia.com and seojinyo.com, which is the Korean acronym for "Demanding Truth from Seo Tai-ji," countless speculative messages are being posted. Both sites have attracted online ads from fashion shops and cosmetic surgery clinics. A number of spoofs of Lee, Seo, and actor Jung Woo-sung, Lee's current boyfriend who reportedly knew nothing about Lee's story, have also appeared online.
Lee's agency KeyEast in a press release on Saturday urged the press to refrain from dragging Lee’s family and friends into their reports since they are "irrelevant to the event and non-celebrities who lead normal lives. Intense public scrutiny and speculative reports have put them in an unbearably painful situation."
Hwang Sang-min, a professor of psychology at Yonsei University, said divulging personal information about people close to Lee "has less to do with truth-seeking and more with wanting to generate more gossip." And Song Jong-gil, a mass media professor at Kyonggi University, said, "The privacy of stars needs to be respected to a certain extent even though they're public figures. But the public, perhaps swayed by intense feelings of betrayal and shock, are digging out every detail about Lee and Seo as well as their acquaintances and families to punish them."