Can A “Blind Item” Be Considered Defamation If The Idol’s Name Isn’t Mentioned? K-Pop Lawyers Explain All
Has your favorite idol ever been attacked with a “blind item”? Even when a malicious rumor doesn’t address your bias by name, commenters often go out of their way to make it obvious that they’re the target. But will omitting names actually protect them from a lawsuit? Two veteran K-Pop lawyers are here to explain all.
Ko Seung Woo and Jeong Chong Myeong are two of the most experienced lawyers in the industry, working on cases for Wanna One members, Kim Soo Hyun, Seo Ye Ji, and more. This week, the pair sat down with AYO on YouTube to explain everything fans have always wanted to know about malicious comments.
In particular, one AYO viewer wanted to know the legality of “blind items”. A blind item is a story, report, or claim that gives all the details of a story except the name of the person involved. These stories were originally invented way back in the late 1800s for blackmail purposes.
While blind items don’t mention idols by name, they do typically include multiple identifying points that strongly hint towards the accusee in question. Red Velvet Irene‘s recent controversy, for example, started with a blind item on Instagram which included the hashtags #Monster and #Psycho—the names of two Red Velvet songs. Following this, multiple allegations surfaced in relation to the incident, referring to Irene as someone famous for her pretty face.
Ko Seung Woo explained that even if the blind item doesn’t name names, if you can tell who it’s about from the other details given, it can be considered a “specified” comment. This opens the commenter to the possibility of a defamation lawsuit if the blind claims are untrue.
Another example of a recent blind item was the accusation of sexual harassment against former Stray Kids member Kim Woojin. The netizen who posted their story told readers they were referring to a “Big 3” idol whose name began with “Woo”. Woojin’s company later disputed the claims and announced they’d be taking legal action.
Alongside song names and descriptors, Ko went on to say nicknames (both positive and cruel) can be another specification found in blind items.
For example, let’s say lawyer Jeong Chong Myeong is an idol and you say… “Fat Chong”, “Fat Chong Myeong”, “Fat Myeongy”—you can specify it with words like these.
— Ko Seung Woo
Regardless of the whether a name is mentioned, the end result is clear: make false accusations against a specific idol, and you run the risk of getting sued.