UPDATE: A website has posted photos of the Bedlam Bar where the film was allegedly shot. See comparison shots here. (H/T to commenter.)
SEOUL, South Korea – According to surfacing reports, the brutal and at times highly disturbing video of two Western expats verbally and physically abusing a seemingly unsuspecting Korean girl in a bar is possibly just an edited clip from a video made in 2011 by a former Seoul film student with two western expats and a Korean female acting out the scene.
The 78-second video in question depicts a young Korean woman being verbally and physically abused by two white males at a nightclub in Itaewon, resulting in negative press coverage in at least 17 major Korean news outlets, and thousands of comments from netizens degrading foreigners in Korea. Though the majority of the negative comments were initially from Koreans, there has been a growing number of bitter criticism by embarrassed expats themselves who live their daily lives around the country.
The video first appeared June 8 on YouTube, but was quickly removed following a policy prohibiting content designed to harass, bully or threaten. It resurfaced July 8, according to a report by journalist Max Fisher, who broke the story internationally for the WorldViews section of the Washington Post.
The Korea Herald first to claim it was a ‘staged’ video
According to John Power writing in the Korea Herald late Tuesday, the whole thing was staged. According to the story, two of those involved in the filming have separately contacted The Korea Herald claiming that the video was edited and was in fact part of a series of short horror films shot in 2011.
The Herald went on to say that one of the actors who, like his counterpart agreed to speak on the condition of anonymity, provided the Herald with a screenshot of a chat conversation showing the alleged director, a former film student in Seoul admitting that the whole thing was part of a film project.
According to the statement, the director said the video was uploaded, but then eventually taken down. He added that he was unsure how it resurfaced again.
I can see the video is re-edited and cut many scenes. I’m in (sic) page with you in announcing that the video was fake, he wrote.
The director was quoted as additionally suggesting that the woman in the video be interviewed to clear the story. One of the male characters in the film added that he had no idea the film would be used in such a manner.
The alleged director was contacted by The Korea Herald but had not responded by press time, the paper said.
More Evidence of Hoax Surfaces
The popular English blog Gusts of Popular Feeling also received comments from a user who claims to have been one of the men in the controversial video.
A commenter named thelastknownsurvivor, however, disputed the authenticity of the video and the WaPo report and the ensuing scandal that has erupted, calling the whole video a hoax.
According to a post on Gusts, he states:
This is a video made in Bedlam bar in Itaewon in January 2011. All the people were paid actors / actresses. The director is Korean and wanted to get famous for doing some edgy viral videos. This is one of them. He tried to release this over 2 years ago and nothing happened all the websites took it down for its graphic content. I know all this because I am one of the men in this video. I do not condone the actions that I did. But this was a paid acting job no one was hurt. The actress was wearing fake gums to make her teeth look bad and everyone left the shoot smiling and shaking hands.
I have passed on this webpage to the director asking him to come forward. It is up to him if he wants to reveal himself. 2 and a half years ago he wanted this kind of fame I do not know if it will do his current career any good.
The Bedlam bar, according to seoul.angloinfo.com, is a hookah bar located in Itaewon, across from the Hamilton Hotel, and not a nightclub which the WaPo originally described as the location.
The Washington Post was the first major American media outlet to pick up on the story, along with the UK’s Daily Mail. The Post’s Max Fisher, who broke the story in the States, has since Tweeted: Yes, I have talked to the guy who claims the South Korean video was staged. I asked him for evidence. None yet.
Popular Korea watcher and blogger Robert Koehler concurs: Well, we don’t have that much yet, either. We’ll soon find out, I guess.
Many still have doubts that it was staged
In reaction to the Herald story a commenter from Ireland wrote:
‘I watched the video three times, he isn’t acting. If they were acting, why would they hide their identities for the newspaper article? And surely anyone with any sort (of) questioning mind would be highly suspicious of their story.’