A BIZARRE trend is taking place in the South Korean media: just aboutanyone can go online and become a Broadcasting Jockey (BJ) to perform his or her talents. Some show off their eating or gaming skills, some dance and sing, and others simply talk, just like television hosts. Meanwhile, the audience can freely chat and ask instantaneous questions to the BJs on live. Besides, fans can shoot star balloons* for the BJs. As a result, BJ has become a popular job, promising both fame and money. However, BJ-ing voyeurism is heading towards the wrong direction as young BJs are subject to downright slander from the audience.
Many children these days start BJ-ing out of curiosity; they seek attention from people and dream of becoming famous among their classmates. In an interview conducted by HankookIlbo, Kim, a 5th grade elementary student expressed, “after watching a gaming BJ’s broadcasting show and looking at how many people were praising him, I decided to become a BJ myself.” Simply dreaming of becoming a BJ is not a problem at all. However, the main problem is that once young people start BJ-ing, not only are they exposed to explicit online content, but theyalso become vulnerable to harsh criticism and harassmentfrom anonymous viewers.
A few months ago, a teenage girl was showing off her dancing skills on AfreecaTV**. Soon,some membersof the audience started to demand more lascivious acts. They made sexually humiliating comments, such as “show us your belly”, “take off your clothes”, and “I’ll shoot you 500 star balloons if you show us your bra”. Because online broadcasts do not have age limits and language regulations, children are easily exposed to lewd comments and excessive demands from anonymous viewers. According to Lee Soon-hyung (Prof., Dept. of Child & Family Studies, Seoul National Univ.), “it is dangerous for teenagers to directly communicate with strangers through the Internet.” Exposure to harsh criticism, curses, and other insulting verbal attacks leads to emotional trauma as well as long-lasting mental harm to young BJs. It can also lower their self-esteem and damage their ability to build trust with other people.
Althoughmost broadcasting channels only impose temporary suspensions on BJs who broadcast inappropriate and explicit shows, in the case of online assaults on young BJs, the main fault lies withthose anonymous viewerswho make lewd comments and undue criticism. Unfortunately, there are no strict measures in place that punish these viewers. Thus, the media must take responsibility to create a clean social platform in which everybody can safely watch or broadcast shows. So far, there have been measures to filter inappropriate language against children in chat rooms. However, since the viewers’ anonymity is guaranteed and the broadcasts are aired live, filtering lewd language is not an easy task. Thus, broadcast channels must regularly keep an eye on young BJs as well as their viewers to monitorwhether they are using abusive language. Suspensions from accessing the broadcasting site must not only be imposed on BJs but also viewers who make inappropriate comments. These viewers should at first be warned that their inappropriate actions will carry consequences, and if they continue to use coarse language, then their accounts must be suspended. Most important, onlinebroadcasting channels must be aware of their important task to protect young BJs. If online broadcasting channels cannot effectively monitor inappropriate content, then BJ-ing culture will only become more notorious and also hazardous to its young and sometimes naïve participants. The well-being of these young people must be protected online.
*Star balloons: A voluntary cyber payment to BJs by viewers or fans through chat rooms; 10 star balloons cost ₩1,100, and the BJs can exchange them to real money after collecting 1,000 balloons from the audience. The broadcasting site takes 30-40% of the commission, while the BJs take the rest.
**AfreecaTV: Abbreviation of Any Free Broadcasting TV. It is a popular South Korean media platform in which anyonecan stream live broadcasts for free.