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Wonho: The first step towards a more humane industry?

The humanization of idols is becoming increasingly necessary. After a real witch hunt, Wonho has the opportunity to speak to the public.

It was with joy that on Saturday (14) fans of Monsta X received the news that Wonho was acquitted of the accusations made to him in October, about the illegal use of marijuana. Believers of the innocence of the idol who left Monsta X on October 31, fans have since created projects, protests and trended hashtags for the company Starship Entertainment, responsible for the group, to take some protective measure regarding its artist.

This Saturday, however, the company, in addition to declaring an end to investigations declaring Wonho’s – Lee Hoseok – innocence, also said it was the one who provided him with lawyers and support for the procedure.

Accused without evidence in mid-October, Wonho received a flurry of attacks from netizens – mostly Koreans – about how his past behavior was wrong and he deserved to be excluded from the media and forgotten. Even with his departure, the group continued to receive attacks, needing to close the promotions of the new album in advance, writing letters of apology and following the agenda discreetly.

But what makes the public to believe accusations without evidence? Jung Da Eun, Wonho‘s ex-roommate, with whom he shared housing and part of his youth, has been arrested for the use of narcotics before, tried numerous times to escape from anonymity but without success, and lived in oblivion of a sub-celebrity from Internet. Meanwhile, Han Seo Hee, another of the accusers, is already known for having the backing of parents on TV networks and in court, got involved with numerous idols and was the one behind the Big Bang‘s T.O.P drug use charges and more recently B.I‘s – Kim Hanbin – from iKon, the latter resulting in the expulsion of the member. It was also she who cried out about being Jonghyun‘s (Shinee) girlfriend on the day he died, and also about being best friends with Goo Hara, also after her death.

Taking into account their background, neither Da Eun nor Seo Hee have the credibility to accuse anyone without evidence. So why did they have greater public support? Why didn’t Wonho have a chance to defend himself and explain himself?

The culture of perfection that surrounds Korean society is nothing new for anyone. There are standards that are followed so that the citizen can fit in, be seen well and thus lead a peaceful life. You need to have a good job, a good companion (preferably from the opposite gender), look good (nice clothes, weight within standards, flawless skin), behave and not think too much outside the box. When a person fits these standards, these requirements of society, there is not much to worry about.
The problem comes when someone deviates from this pattern.

Wonho himself spoke of this in an interview he gave Dispatch – the same media outlet that did not hesitate to destroy his reputation and career – in February. He talked about what his life was like with his family as a child, they all lived in the same apartment and how his grandmother used the room, his parents, his brother and he slept together in the living room. “At that time I didn’t know it was poverty,” he says, saying he was not well regarded at school. “Sometimes my friends teased me by saying I’m dirty, sometimes bullied me just because they felt bored. My friends didn’t like me at all. In fact, there are many more memories I don’t want to remember. In short, I was alienated by my friends.”

He says that things inside the house were also not the best, he lived under his parents’ constant fights over, making him feel suffocated and spend more time on the streets. Still, he doesn’t use his past as an excuse for his actions. “Yes, that’s right. I acknowledge my past. I was too stupid. I have tried my best not to live like that again. I only think about the members, the group and my fans.”

Lee Hoseok – Wonho – in interview for Dispatch

Becoming an idol was the decision he made when he realized that his life was going nowhere. At that time he had already met Da Eun, and was under probation for a robbery his friends committed. Seeing that it was not what he wanted, he left his troubled adolescence behind, and decided to create for himself the life he was expected to have.

If the pressure for perfection in an ordinary citizen is already huge, when it comes to a public figure who needs to exceed expectations every day, this need to see the ideal biotype on stage is extreme. The idol – considered by the industry as just a product – should sell itself as the ideal type for anyone in everything: a special talent, impeccable clothes, hot body, perfect skin, perfect makeup. The idol breathes for the fan, works to offer the fan a good performance, wakes up and sleeps thinking about the fan.

The idol is perfect.

But perfection does not exist and at the end of the day, that person is just a human being.

Society expects from these young people something impossible, detachment from their humanity to create in those who admire them an illusion, to sell and sell and sell a utopia that will never be achieved. Sell products, win musical shows, win trophies, sign hundreds of albums and bequeath concert halls always showing that they are the ideal boyfriends: that they love you unconditionally, that they do everything you ask, that they dress up just for you, that they sing for you, who signs your album and recognizes you on all fansigns, who doesn’t drink, who doesn’t smoke, who doesn’t cheat. But to what extent is this illusion entertainment?

To what extent does society take this as the persona of an artist? And when does a scratch on that image becomes a reason for public humiliation?

And with what right does a society that has never been understanding thinks it can judge and exclude?

“Actually, this is the first time I feel such warmth. So, I don’t want to let everyone down. I just want to do the things that the fans like. I want to repay that love. But…” Wonho says when he remembers the fans. According to him, the members of Monsta X and Monbebe were his biggest concern, he left the group so that they would no longer be attacked. In a likely attempt to redeem himself for unsubstantiated attacks, Dispatch asks him to talk about the fans, who currently have the vehicle as one of their declared enemies. “Even now, I can’t forget the fans.” He says, “On the contrary, I am just so regretful. I feel regret, I should have done a little better. I do this interview with one reason only, which is to apologize to everyone.”

At the beginning of the interview, Lee HoseokWonho – says that he would like Dispatch to publish it when he was acquitted. There is no “if”, it is “when”, the ever existing certainty with him that he was never guilty, never used drugs.

For five months, fans have been fighting on his behalf, never forgetting to place support hashtags among the most tweeted. During all these months countless advertisements were created in key points of cities around the world, showing anyone who wanted to see the inability to forget someone who always made a point of putting fans first.

It is probably the first time that such a mobilization has taken place inside and outside Korea, where finally a “scratch” on the impeccably polished surface of the idol’s perfection facade made no difference.

It is the first time that an entire fandom has come together to accept the human being.

The human being who suffered bullying, who had a difficult life in the midst of poverty, who made mistakes, who decided to change and changed and never hid it. The human being who could be any of us, and who was metaphorically stoned by people who often hide much more rotten skeletons in the closet.

Wonho being acquitted, having received constant support from his company, is a historic act in itself, and can be the first step towards a necessary change in the industry.

The Dispatch interview can be found here. It was held in February, but posted this week.


Written by Lun Rezende


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