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Sex, edgy content sells in 1-person online media

By Yoon Min-sik

  • Published : Oct 9, 2017 - 16:28
  • Updated : Oct 9, 2017 - 16:28

“The one with the smallest buttocks has to drink, based on a viewer vote,” says a man. Along with two other men and three women, he dances and shows off his behind in front of a camera as part of an internet broadcast.

The drinking game is followed by the group hosting a variety of risque games and conversations without any editing of profanity or sexual content.

The show by BJ -- broadcasting jockey -- Chulgoo is part of a growing fad of “makjang” entertainment, a Korean slang term for things deemed to have gone “too far.”

The term has added meaning when used in the context of largely unregulated internet broadcasting. These shows are popular for their raucous entertainment value, but often test the limits of their platform operators’ -- and the public’s -- tolerance with their tendency to go beyond South Korea’s broadcasting norms.



On TV and radio, content that features sexual games, drinking and the use of expletives is subject to regulation by the Korean Communications Standards Commission, which can review content in advance. But this is not possible with live internet platforms.

Authorities can make suggestions to remove certain content, but the final decisions on what to put on their websites and how to restrict access to minors are mostly left to the platform operators.

Chulgoo, who has 727 million accumulated views on Korean live broadcasting platform Afreeca TV and over half a million subscribers on YouTube, is no stranger to online controversy -- he received fierce criticism this year for describing the May 18 Democratic Uprising as a riot.

Although such videos seem obnoxious and pointless, they have clear objectives -- getting as many views and as much money as possible.

Afreeca TV channels make money from viewer donations, but broadcast jockeys such as Chulgoo make more money by re-uploading their content to YouTube. According to the Multi Channel Network Association, the estimated revenue per YouTube view is 1.2 won.

Some internet broadcasting content has gone so far as to make violent, misogynistic threats.

In August, an anonymous female YouTuber God Gun-bae touched a nerve among male viewers with derogatory comments about men. Shin Tae-il, who is famous for his pranks on unsuspecting pedestrians, especially elementary school children, revealed a picture of a woman who he claimed was the female broadcaster -- illegal in itself without her permission or good cause -- and said he would kill her, as well as issued threats of sexual violence.

Fellow YouTuber Kim Yun-tae followed up with a video, showing a picture of what he claimed was her house and said he would murder her. The video claimed to show Kim seeking her out, though it is unclear if it really was her house that he was targeting. Police intervened in his hunt, and Kim was fined 50,000 won ($44) for “creating an atmosphere of insecurity” -- a misdemeanor.

The incident served as a reminder of how pranks on the web can spiral into crimes.


K-pop stars are frequent subjects of sexual comments on YouTube channels, including IU who vowed legal action against a YouTuber for sexual harassment.

The videos of the murder threat against YouTuber God Gun-bae and harassment of IU have been removed from YouTube -- although copies keep reappearing -- but often offensive content is propagated, unchecked.

YouTube’s guidelines warn against nudity, content that is sexual, graphic or violent, as well as harmful and dangerous content. Hateful content, threats, spam, misleading metadata and scams are also prohibited. Violators can have their videos removed and even have their accounts deleted.

While nudity is strictly regulated, it is rare for YouTube videos to be removed for offensive language. While Shin’s postings of his pranks have been removed from YouTube, the majority of content on Chulgoo’s YouTube channel remains intact, fused with curse words, drinking games and sexual jokes. The Chulgoo videos are age rated on Afreeca TV.

Even when an account is blocked, a YouTuber can simply create new accounts. While God Gun-bae’s account was removed in August after she was revealed to have uttered inappropriate comments, she quickly made an account in a similar name to continue broadcasting.

Despite the growing influence of one-person online media, internet broadcasting is not regulated as TV, radio or other forms of broadcasting. It is regulated by the operators of the platform: It is not the government but Google that is essentially in charge of banning, rating or allowing content on YouTube.

The law does stipulate that the Korea Communications Standards Commission can review and regulate content that has already been produced, but this has only been practiced in a handful of cases, partly due to staff limitations.

According to Rep. Kim Sung-tae of the main opposition Liberty Korea Party, government authorities penalized only 126 cases between January 2015 and June 2016. During the same period, Afreeca TV issued penalties in 934,014 cases.

As for content on foreign-based services like YouTube, the KCSC does not have the power to forcibly impose penalties.

During last year’s parliamentary audit, the government revealed plans to request a revision to the law so that internet broadcasting platforms that knowingly allow sexual or violent content may be fined up to 20 million won. But the plan was never put into action.

In August, Rep. Bak Maeng-woo of the Liberty Korea Party proposed a revision to the law to mandate registration of internet broadcasters and require them to remove or block content that is prohibited by the law.

The proposed revision, however, faces several obstacles, including the ongoing debate about whether the government should be allowed to regulate content by an individual YouTuber.

By Yoon Min-sik (minsikyoon@heraldcorp.com)