Seo Ye-Ji was already a familiar face in K-drama before 2020’s It’s Okay Not To Be Okay became a hit. But shortly after the drama’s success, scandals and controversies immediately put a stop to the 31-year-old actress’ rising fame. Months after she stayed away from the spotlight, rumours of a comeback drama popped up (ironically titled Eve’s Scandal from tVN). As expected, K-drama fans have mixed opinions about whether or not to support her and the project. The question is, should you?
Before we weigh in on the issue, here’s a recap of what’s what.
It all started in April this year when Seo Ye-Ji’s agency started commenting on resurfaced rumours that the actress was being overly controlling of her then-boyfriend Kim Jung-Hyun. The actress allegedly demanded that her boyfriend should refrain from filming any romantic scenes with co-star Seohyun, a member of idol group Girls’ Generation during the filming of 2018 drama, Time. She was also (reportedly) very particular about who he interacts with to that point that she monitors his phone’s contacts. To comply with Ye-Ji's requests, Jung-Hyun asked for many script rewrites, leading to the actor’s eventual departure from the project and hiatus from the industry. He came back to the small screen in 2019’s Crash Landing On You.
Seo Ye-Ji’s agency claimed that Kim Jung-Hyun also demanded the same from Seo Ye-Ji during the time that they were dating and had written off the issue as a typical lover’s quarrel. Kim Jung-Hyun issued his own statement on the matter, apologising for his personal life affecting his professional commitments. However, he did not address the issues surrounding Seo Ye-Ji’s alleged manipulative behaviour.
Following these chain of events, other scandals resurfaced about the actress. Multiple accounts of bullying during her school years popped up, which initially traces back as early as 2013 during Seo Ye-Ji’s debut. Her agency denied the allegations.
Inconsistencies about her educational background were also put into the spotlight. In 2014, Seo Ye-Ji said she studied in Spain because of her dream to become a news anchor. She even detailed her experiences. However, in 2017, the actress refuted her own statement, saying she’s never been to a university in Spain nor did she aspire to be a news anchor. Yikes!
What netizens are saying
It seems like there’s a divide between South Korean netizens and international K-drama fans when it comes to the news of Seo Ye-Ji’s rumoured return to the small screen.
Local viewers expressed distaste over the casting rumours, questioning why tVN was giving the actress offers amid the controversies. Overseas fans, on the other hand, rejoiced at her comeback, treating her allegations as mere trials the actress overcame with the casting offer. Of course, there are also those who say that her professional work should be treated separately from her personal issues.
why should i care about seo ye ji’s behaviour? like obviously i hope she treats people well but she’s not my friend and her personality has nothing to do with her acting skills so i definitely want to see her in a new project— jojo 🍂 | stereotype (@kngneul) September 7, 2021
Should you support Seo Ye-Ji’s comeback?
Showing support for a controversial artist is complicated. On one hand, much like one netizen pointed out, someone’s professional work — especially when it’s exemplary — makes us reconsider because talent and hard work must be given credit. However, one’s values and behaviour, more so when they’re in a field admired by many, must also be put into the equation.
The biggest issue when it comes to East Asian celebrities is we rarely see their direct say on such matters. Of course, their agencies are in a better position to represent them especially when it comes to controversies of this scale. However, the lack of a direct and personal approach from the involved parties make it hard for us to discern the sincerity behind the denial or the remorse towards a certain allegation. There’s a sense of distance and vagueness that leaves us as viewers unable to piece the puzzle together fully. This is unlike the cases of Western celebrities and influencers where they get to issue statements over and over, enough for their fanbase to discern the truth and make a judgement from there.
Refocusing on Seo Ye-Ji, it’s undeniable that she is a promising actress. Her previous works proved that she’s not your cookie-cutter personality, playing roles that go beyond romcoms even during her earlier years. However, allegedly being controlling and manipulative, to the point that it’s affecting her partner’s career, is also another issue. That said, no double standard should be applied to both men and women when it comes to being abusive partners.
This makes the issue tricky, considering Kim Jung-Hyun’s statement did not clear Seo Ye-Ji’s name nor proved the allegations to be 100% true. This, again, leaves everyone to speculate on the matter.
Then there’s the multiple accounts of bullying, as well as the inconsistencies in her statements regarding her educational background. Celebrities are held to a certain standard because they tend to be models of inspiration and aspiration to their fans. While people can change and grow out of their old ways and habits, hearing them actually express their thoughts on the matter changes the narrative even by a little bit. A mere denial from one’s agency, sadly, doesn’t suffice. The things in question are not as simple as a dating rumour, after all.
Then comes professionalism. Out of all these allegations, why are producers and casting directors still willing to work with Seo Ye-Ji? South Korea’s entertainment industry is known for its heavy (and sometimes harsh) take on celebrities dogged by scandals and controversies. This makes it surprising that Seo Ye-Ji is making her comeback within just mere months after her own string of issues popped up. That’s another thing to consider, don’t you think?
At the end of the day, whether Seo Ye-Ji’s comeback drama is really happening or not — and whether it’s worth the support — is still up to each and every viewer’s interpretation. The bigger takeaway from all of this is that celebrities are also people who must be made accountable for their actions if and when necessary. That is a power that we bear as the ultimate consumers of their works.
(Cover photo from: @goldmedalist_official)