I’m sure almost all of you reading this have by now heard about the sad passing of 22 year old EunB (Go Eun Bi) from k-pop girl group Ladies Code. Here she is in the great “Hate You” MV which has got to be one of the most visually astounding k-pop videos ever, as well as one of 2013’s best songs.
Looking around at various posts on the Internet, I can see that the incident of EunB’s passing obviously affected many people quite deeply. My heart does go out to all of you who are feeling shook by the loss. My emotions on it are somewhat different to this though, however perhaps I can still help all you readers who are mourning by shining some light into the darkness, as well as giving voice to people who might not be reacting in the typical white-listed-by-society ways but still may wish to read about this incident in a way that they can relate to, in a way that is humourous AND educational AND sympathetic. If you’re the ultra-sensitive type there may be better web pages for you out there than this one so feel free to not read further. For the rest of you, read on.
Firstly, a bit of context for you readers. Let’s make one thing clear straight away: although my posts do have humour I don’t take death lightly. I’ve had plenty of experience with people in my own life that I care about dying, including both of my parents due to medical reasons, plus an old partner and several of my friends and acquaintances, mostly suicides. Bom’s “You And I” video makes me tear up every time I watch it because that’s basically the story of my old relationship with the genders reversed. I knew my partner wanted to die long before she did anything proactively about it, and I’d do my best to find new and interesting things to entertain her and motivate her to keep herself looking forward to living the next day instead of thinking of ways to off herself, which is exactly what Bom’s character does in that video for her partner. Getting the phone call from my own partner’s mother after she found the body, less than 24 hours after I had last seen her, now that shit seriously fucked me up. I put my phone on silent after that call, and it’s still on silent now – ten years later.
That’s precisely why hearing about Ladies Code’s EunB dying in a car accident didn’t affect me all that much. I felt sad and reflective for a few hours, and maybe a little more paranoid than usual about cycling for the next day or two – and that was all I had. Hearing about friends and family dying, yes that shit shakes me. Some celebrity in another country who made some music that I liked dying on the other hand, well yes of course it’s sad and I’d definitely prefer it if she was still alive for multiple reasons but I’m not exactly going to cry a river of tears over the death of someone I’ve never even met. Who would you be more sad about, your own mother dying, or the mother of a stranger dying? If you are thinking “equally”, then you’re lying – it’s a fact that people’s mothers die every minute of every day so how come you’re not crying every single day of your life over some stranger somewhere. The grief of another mother dying around the world every few seconds would be too much for people to handle, so people’s brains naturally prioritise grief for the people who mean the most to them – it doesn’t mean they’re heartless, it’s just a natural way for your brain to cope without being overloaded with sadness 24/7. It’s a phenomenon known as “Dunbar’s Number” or the “Monkeysphere” which gives people the ability to maintain this emotional distance from strangers – human brains can only biologically hold so much “care factor” for the fate of others in them at one time. Therefore as we didn’t have any kind of personal relationship, EunB was simply just outside the zone of people who I care deeply about. If some of these idols start returning my 50 calls and texts per day this could change, but for now they’re all still strangers to me, unfortunately.
Society throws a lot of guilt and shame onto people who don’t react in the prescribed socially acceptable ways to tragedy, and this creates even more problems because those people then feel not only confused emotions that they may not understand (because they’re so unexpected) but also guilt and shame at not feeling the way everybody around them is saying that they are feeling. This is why I feel it’s important for me to state my feelings on it in this preamble – maybe others who reacted in a similar fashion can relate and understand why they feel the way they do without also feeling guilty. I think it’s okay to have different emotions to others about a situation, and to express them, as long as you’re not stepping on anyone’s toes in the process.
If anything, rather than feeling sad, the situation with Ladies Code pisses me off. Just because I’m not openly weeping or sentimental about it doesn’t mean that I don’t give a shit, and in fact I think it sucks that lives sometimes are lost so wastefully for no good reason, the thought makes me angry if anything. Whenever someone dies, I think it’s natural for people to have a lot of questions, and mine is – who the fuck killed her? I’m personally not a fan of sentimentality in tragedy, it doesn’t comfort me, I’m a fan of answers, and that’s what I look for when a tragedy occurs. I want to know what happened, why, who did it, and what can be done about it for the future to prevent it happening again. So let’s check the facts and line up some suspects to see who the likely culprit is, because I want to know who is responsible for this shit…. don’t you?
- Ladies Code, along with some entourage, were driving from a scheduled appearance to their dorms
- A rear wheel came off the van they were driving, the vehicle spun several times and hit a guard rail
- Airbags did not deploy and seatbelts were not worn, also excessive speed on a wet road may have been a factor
- EunB was thrown from the vehicle and died at the scene or shortly afterward, she did not make it to hospital alive
Suspect #1 – Hyundai
Grand starex cars have 2 point seat belts and we can’t even tighten them. If a grand starex car flips and you’re sitting at the back of the front seat, it’ll be extremely critical. The ones that are exported overseas have 3 point seat belts. The domestic cars with 2 point seat belts were also a big reason of the death
That grand starex is said to be the trashiest work of the brand. Years ago, university students were in the same kind of car and it flipped a bit on grass. The roof of the car ripped hard and 6 students died. The car is a definition of a weapon resulted by using cheap materials. It should never be ridden by celebrities or children. If it gets into an accident, it totally destroys itself. If it was a starcraft van, it would’ve been different. They might’ve been seriously injured but they wouldn’t have died or get into a critical condition. This is very unfortunate. Seeing how an innocent person can face a sudden death, it darkens my feelings. I have nothing to say. I can only pray for the dead and hope for the injured ones. Never buy the starex. It’s a total trash that can’t even be exported
There’s a reason celebrities ride vans.. there are more safety features that prevent big accidents. TVXQ and Wanted got into similar accidents but TVXQ was riding a van and got injuries while the Wanted member died because he was riding a Starex.
How true are these claims? I couldn’t dig up any solid dirt apart from what netizens were saying but I did note that the vehicle’s (supposedly) safer European-market cousin only gets a 3/5 crash test rating, and that’s with crash test dummies in 3-point belts and rear child safety seats. It’s true that car companies can sometimes be cunts, and Hyundai certainly wouldn’t be the only culprit there. If you haven’t seen the film Fight Club, go and see it straight away (you might need to be over 18 in some countries, so just tell your parents that Kpopalypse says it’s okay to watch), not just because it’s a great movie, but specifically for this scene:
The Fight Club “recall” scene is probably based on the case of the 1971 Ford Pinto. The Pinto had a little design fault which was causing the vehicles to explode in flames in rear-end collisions and cremate the occupants inside – surely worthy of a recall, right? Not according to Ford who calculated that recalling the vehicles to fix the problem would cost more than just continually paying out settlement claims to relatives of the deceased… so Ford just said “fuck it, so what if some people die, let’s save the money”… and if you think that car companies these days have left that kind of mentality back in the 1970s, think again.
So it’s entirely within the realms of possibility (although certainly not confirmed #legallycoveringmyass) that the Grand Starex may be recall-worthy and have regular airbag/structural faults but the company just doesn’t care. Maybe it could have better safety features – even some of the exported versions of the Grand Starex don’t have rear 3-point seat belts, but on the other hand what kind of seat belt is in the thing is surely irrelevant if you’re not wearing one anyway. Sure, the airbags on the vehicle EunB was traveling in didn’t deploy, but airbags are near-useless on their own anyway, they’re a supplemental system designed to work in conjunction with seatbelts. However why would the company make the Korean version of the Grand Starex with decent seat belts if almost nobody in Korea even wears them, which brings us to…
Suspect #2 – Korean road manners
It’s no fucking secret that Koreans seem to drive with a massive disregard for their own and others’ road safety (not that there aren’t even worse countries for this, of course). Several YouTubers have noticed that Koreans have a somewhat sketchy relationship with road rules, and there’s tons of video evidence out there, but let’s not just take their word for it, here’s some quotes from some friends of mine who have lived in the country off and on for a year or two doing that ubiquitous westerner-in-Korea occupation, English-language teaching:
The bus drivers are insane, they’ll floor it as soon as people get on the bus, they won’t wait for you to sit down, even if you’re an old lady or on crutches or a walker if you don’t grab onto something straight away you’ll just go flying and nobody even cares. I helped someone up who was knocked over by the bus driver and she looked at me weirdly, she seemed really surprised that someone was helping her, you can tell that it doesn’t happen often.
People in cars often won’t stop for you as a pedestrian even if there are pedestrian signals and it’s at a pedestrian crossing and you have right of way, so you just have to wait for your moment and then go for it and walk out into traffic and hope for the best. At first I was scared to cross the street at all. I’d add hundreds of metres to my walking journey and use the subway as often as I could to avoid crossing a street. [when asked “but what if there was no choice”] Eventually I worked out that I could just find some other people who seemed to know what they was doing and whenever they walked across, I’d try to keep up with them, because cars seemed more likely to stop for a bigger group of people, if you’re just one person the drivers will almost always bully you out. There were always lots of people crossing roads so it wasn’t a problem to find people to do this, but even in a big group I never felt really safe and drivers would still cut in front of you. I basically spent my entire time in Korea living in fear whenever I was within 100 metres of a road.
Nobody wear seatbelts over there, I never saw anybody else wear them besides me and other English teachers from abroad that I was traveling with. I was in a van with some Koreans and the first thing I did was put on my seatbelt, and the others all looked at me like I was an idiot. I stared back like “fuck you, you can go through the windshield if you want”. Of course I had to hunt around for 20 seconds to even find the fucking seatbelt because nobody had used it for so long that it had slipped in the gap between the seat cushions and was hanging down the back of the seat somewhere. Of course, they didn’t wait for me to do this, they just started driving anyway.
Perhaps this has something to do with the quicker development of driving culture in Asian countries compared to the west, I’ll leave it for someone else to write a huge-ass essay on that part. All I know is that scary Korean driving is a thing that exists and I wouldn’t have believed all the Internet stories myself if these stories weren’t backed up by literally every single person I know who is in Korea, has been to Korea, or is in a relationship with someone Korean.
So we’ve got a (possibly) shitty van, (possibly) being utilised with minimal regard for driver and passenger safety. Now imagine combining this with the pressure of:
Suspect #3 – The k-pop industry
The craziness of idol schedules is old news. However it’s not just idols who are overworked and pushed to breaking point, road managers driving their artists around on non-stop engagements may be functioning on little sleep, which is a very effective killer on the roads, even with relatively safe vehicles. Idols can at least get a nap on the road sometimes.
Check out this recent itinerary for a j-pop idol with three scheduled appointments on it, which is pretty full. Now imagine that instead of three appointments per day, these idols have up to twelve, and someone has to drive them to and from all of those and stay awake during all of it. That’s your road manager’s job. Your options as a road manager in this scenario are, at best:
- Tag-team driving with someone else and sleep in shifts (for startup labels already in debt and on skeleton staff this ain’t gonna happen)
- Lots of drugs for the driver (dangerously common in any transport industry and one of the reasons why the music business keeps drug dealers a phone call away)
- Deal with it (or find work elsewhere)
Not very good options, but whoever is your boss is pushing you hard because they had to loan millions of dollars just to get the nugu group you’re driving around to this point in their careers where they’re a wanted commodity, and everything is riding on them…. and they’re riding with you. Combine this with the harsh competition for limited gigging opportunities and it’s easy to see the ticking time-bomb nature of this scenario. But why is it this way? Maybe it’s got something to do with:
Suspect #4 – Korean culture
An anecdote from someone who is married to a Korean and has been to the country several times:
If you’re a westerner in Korea with a group of good Korean friends, and you want to go out with them and have a good time, don’t even bother bringing any money with you – you won’t need it. You’ll be able to eat like a king and get as drunk as you want, your friends will happily pay for everything, and not only that, they’ll always look out for you, they will make sure that you don’t get into any trouble even if you’re acting like a bit of a drunken dickhead. You’ll be treated like royalty and you could honestly never possibly meet a nicer group of people.
However, Koreans will treat you like shit if they don’t know you. They’ll push in front of you in lines, they’ll cut you off in traffic, and if you’re a stranger and start talking to someone you’ve never met at a bus stop you’ll be stared at as if you just tried to pull down your pants and take a shit in front of them. They just don’t give a fuck about you if you’re a stranger. This all changes once you’ve been formally introduced though, as soon as you’ve been introduced by a mutual friend to a Korean all of a sudden you’ll find that they’re incredibly sweet and nice people.
When thinking about this, everything else falls into place. Perhaps what we’re seeing is a more extreme example of the “Monkeysphere” stuff I was on about earlier – maybe if you live in a very populous country (like an Asian one) the quantity of people around you means that it’s harder to give a fuck about each individual that you see, so you have to shut more of other people out and be a bit more me-first just in order to function. (It could also be the reason why citizens of population-dense New York have a reputation for being ruder than other Americans, just to give an example of how this theory plays out outside of Asia.) Therefore, Hyundai makes a car with minimal safety features on the cheap because who is going to be driving it – just some stranger, certainly someone outside the “Monkeysphere”. Everybody drives in a very pushy “me-first” kind of way because everybody else on the road is also a stranger to them, they’re on the outside of that “care zone”. Clienete of k-pop groups push CEOs to push artist managers to push road managers to push idols because the distance between one end of the chain and the other ensures that the opposite ends are still on “stranger level”. My theory is that the above culmination of factors creates a perfect storm of elements which make it inevitable that k-pop idols will disproportionately die on the roads, and the most truly shocking thing for me about the EunB incident is not that it happened, but how it hasn’t happened more often. I’ve always worried about exactly this type of thing happening, and now it has, so I hope that things change for everyone’s sake.
Don’t ask about how the not wearing seatbelts thing fits into all this though, I still haven’t figured out that part of the puzzle, so it’s entirely possible that my theory is full of shit. It’s just a theory after all, but I think it’s important to at least think about these things, because without people willing to really think deeply about the problem, how is anyone ever going to arrive at a solution? For what it’s worth I think it’s great that idols are now starting to speak up and encourage seatbelt use, but it really sucks that someone had to die for this to happen, it should have happened a long time before now. Even though Korea has about five times the road fatalies of western countries, current seatbelt use among back-seat passengers in cars in Korea is at roughly 6% despite it being illegal to not wear a rear seatbelt, and I can’t count the amount of selcas I’ve seen of k-pop idols sitting in cars doing various shenanigans while not wearing seatbelts. Some seatbelt education is certainly needed (or maybe even enforcing some laws, perish the thought), but it also seems to me to be the easiest part of the problem to tackle, I wonder if much else will ever change unless the country undergoes a massive cultural shift… and cultures are notoriously resistant to change.
But maybe this is all thinking too deeply for some people and perhaps they’d rather just:
Suspect #5 – [insert any female you don’t happen to like here]
…blame it on a woman, because they’re lame fangirls with insecurities a mile long. It’s worked for almost every single other k-pop controversy ever, so why not this one too? Start by grabbing a 20-sided dice of the type used for Dungeons & Dragons and other such pen-and-paper roleplay games (and if you’re even worthless enough to be thinking that this is a good idea you’re probably a nerd who wants to escape your miserable reality any way you can so there’s no doubt that you already have one of these):
Now roll your number, and consult this list of trendy-to-hate people to find out who you should blame! Weak strawman reasons to hate them also included below just in case you can’t think of any.
- Minah (is cute, is dating someone, good enough reasons to hate)
- Hyeri (screwed that Tony guy, who is like, so gross, that you totally don’t have a secret crush on)
- Dani (14 years old and already more successful than you)
- Kemy (hates Bom for attention)
- Bom (plastic druggie, should be in jail)
- Sulli (lazy cao ni ma)
- Jiyeon (cyclopean threat to your oppas)
- Eunjung (probably fucking Amber your lesbo girl crush)
- Hyomin (how hot is she, also an iljin or whatever, you read about it on the Internet so it must be true)
- Nana (looks like a supermodel, it’s not fair, also was rude once or something, fucking bitch)
- Hong Jin Young (is hot and probably stealing any of you oppas with cougar fantasies)
- Anyone in Sistar (iljin whores, also manipulated the chart, who knows what else they’re capable of)
- Eunji (dangled oranges out of a car window once, how unsafe)
- Naeun (in the same group as Eunji, probably watched her do it and cheered her on)
- Hyosung (ilbe bug, also underwear-flaunting oppa-stealer, no proof just means she hasn’t been caught yet)
- Taeyeon (how dare she steal your EXO man away)
- Hyuna (complete whorebag)
- Yura (no reason but just including her name here to shut up the crybaby Yura fans on my ask.fm)
- Sojin (looks snobby, she must think she’s the female president, just like the song says)
- Park Geun Hye (actual female president, looks even snobbier)
There there, a bit of irrational hatred of somebody you’ve never even met over something you read on some lame gossip site and “confirmed” on some other lame gossip site will make everything better. You dumbass.
The EunB incident is tragic, but I hope (perhaps in vain) that some good comes out of it in the form of driving reform and also reform of the culture of the industry. I also believe that for all the insensitivity of the timing of his Tweets, Taewoon is right – the time to appreciate, pay attention to and reward people is when they’re still here, not after they leave. We’ll all die one day, so make the most of your own life and the lives of the people you care about while you’re able to do so.
Ladies Code can have the final word. RIP EunB.
EDIT: RIP also RiSe (Kwon Rise) who passed away shortly after this post was written, after extensive surgery to attempt to save her life. She was 23 years old.