tablo vs. netizens: the battle over an academic record

I've been hearing about this "controversy" for a while, and initially dismissed it as foolishness... but the situation has gotten kind of crazy.

Daniel Seon Woong Lee, better known in Korea as recording artist Tablo of rap group Epik High, graduated from Stanford with two English degrees -- a bachelor's in 2001 and a master's in 2002. No big deal right?

The controversy stems from an internet campaign that has called Lee's academic credentials into question, and has gone as far as threatening him and his family. Vocal netizens, for some reason, are questioning the validity of his Stanford degrees: Korean pop star battles attacks on Stanford record.
The campaign to discredit Lee's degrees exploded. One of the largest antagonists, the netizen group "We Urge Tablo to Tell the Truth," formed in May and now has more than 131,000 members, according to Korean journalist So-young Sung. The allegations range widely - that Lee has exaggerated his grade point average and that he claims he was best friends with Reese Witherspoon when she attended Stanford, for example.

"The Internet rumor was that my entire Stanford experience and all of my credentials are fraudulent," Lee wrote in an e-mail to The Daily. "Over time, this allegation spawned many others - that my entire family is a fraud, that I've stolen and lived someone else's identity, et cetera–and has escalated to the point where my entire existence is being questioned. Some of the allegations are even based on fabrications of what I've said or done... it's all very confusing."

Black said verifying a person's degree from the University is not an unusual practice, but he has never seen a case this severe. Black released a copy of Lee's transcript, and when that did not prove satisfactory, he wrote a letter vouching for Lee's attendance and graduation. Recently, Black allowed camera crews to film him printing a degree to show that none of the process is fraudulent.

"I've tried to put all the resources that are permissible into this," Black said, "because only I can officially attest to his completion."
Korean internet fans, by the way, are crazy. All the energy in this "campaign" seems to have gone far beyond any valid effort to get at the truth, and has simply devolved into an exercise in completing discrediting and harassing a public figure. And based on what I've seen, Korean netizens seem to be really good at that.

What baffles me is why everyone seems to care so much about this one musician's school creds. It's one thing to call someone's academic record into question... it's another thing entirely to launch a campaign -- 131,000 members strong -- basically dedicated to taking someone's life apart, one allegation at a time. I just can't wrap my head around it.

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