The Online Lynching of South Korean Rap Superstar Tablo

SEOUL ~ The information superhighway that crisscrosses this nation of nearly 50 million is largely responsible for its rapid economic growth since the ’90s. But there’s also a frightening downside. While it’s true that South Korea’s advanced network infrastructure give its citizens access to news and information that improves their lives, also cruising along the matrix are hate-filled defamation, petty-jealousies, gossip and downright lies.

Consider the ordeal Korean rap superstar Tablo (nee Daniel Lee) has been living through the past three years or so since  rumors of him dodging military service and falsifying his Stanford University records threatened to destroy his burgeoning musical career and leave him a social pariah. Even the truth and documentation could not stem the tide of hatred, even death threats, flowing to him via anonymous blogs and other social media. “It’s like I’m living in a Kafka novel,” Lee said.

Writer Joshua Davis journals Lee’s rise, fall and resurrection “The Stalking of Korean Hip Hop Superstar Daniel Lee” in this month’s WIRED magazine. Davis breaks down the labyrinth of lies and innuendo that forced Tablo into the life a virtual hermit. Add to Kafka, a turn on the Biblical story of Cain and Abel as an envious cousin’s role  in sparking the online hatefest emerges as does the sheer weirdness of  how a 56-year-old Korean American man living in Chicago continued his attacks on the rapper even after Stanford University officials confirmed Lee had in fact graduated with both undergraduate and master’s degrees in English in the top 15% of his class.

Although at the height of online defamation campaign against him, it looked like the rapper was done, Tablo/Lee has apparently survived. Last Fall, he released a comeback CD “Fever’s End” that Korean critics said proved his talent went far beyond his PR. Here’s Tablo commentary on the genesis of that album, ironically, distributed via the video-sharing social media site, YouTube, which had served as a vehicle for slick anti-Tablo attack vids.