What happened with BigBang T.O.P?
T.O.P was indicted for smoking marijuana. Afterwards, he was suspended of military service and he will respond legally for his illegal actions. Depend on the justice decision, he will be reenlisted or discharged of the military service. However, after being suspended of his activities as police officer, the singer was founded unconscious and rushed to hospital.
According to the doctors, T.O.P is unconsciousness and “We came to the decision that the patient’s condition would require coordination by the departments of neurology and mental health services, […] Once the patient’s condition improves, we will continue his treatment with the department of mental health services.”
Korean position about drug (specially, marijuana)
South Korea has a very rigid law about drugs and drugs are a cultural taboo. Since 1976, Korea enacted the Cannabis Control Act, which criminalised the possession and use of cannabis.
According to the newspaper Chosun Ilbo, the numbers of investment bankers arrested for drug offences has increased from 4 in 2010 to 18 in 2015; ‘salarymen’ from 115 to 514; and students from 92 to 139. Drug addiction appears to transcend class, gender, profession and income levels. Also, the level is raising.
A Korea Times article of 2014 noted that despite risks of a prison sentence of up to five years or a fine of up to 50 million won ($48,000), cannabis could be easily bought in South Korea by contacting dealers on the internet. Its journalist noted that according to dealers, cannabis sold for US$30-50 per gram.
However, according to Yonhap News, 11,916 people were arrested in 2015 for drug-related crimes; 9,624 of them were psychotropic substance users or dealers. (Only about 1,100 arrests were for cannabis derivatives.) In short, nowadays, Cannabis is accessible but it is not so common as other psychotropic substances between Koreans.
For Cho Byung-in, a senior research fellow at the Korean Institute of Criminology, the reason for South Korean have a low rate of drug issues is duet to more cultural (the social punishment) than the strong drug policy.
On the other hand, “Lee Tae-kyung, a doctor at the Department of Mental Hygiene at Seoul National Hospital, said that the scale of drug abuse here may have reached the point where criminal justice solutions are no longer effective”, according to Korea News.
The doctor also said something very interesting: “Most drug abusers do not have insight into their mental illness ― substance abuse or substance dependence. However, some drug abusers want medical and psychiatric treatment voluntarily. But they are afraid of exposing their identity to the authorities … although all the medical records would be kept secret.”
Mr. Lee of Seoul National Hospital also said that a societal change must happen in perceptions of drug addiction: “People need to change the way they regard those with drug addictions,” said Lee. “People think that drug addiction is just phenomena by which a chemical makes a pharmacological effect in our body.” However, addiction is a psychiatric disease, which has a variety of symptoms […]”.
Other countries experience about drug (specially, marijuana)
Experiences in other countries has shown that the war on drugs, using the violence and the strong law punishment, is not the best option. To minimise the problems related with the drugs, the experts insist that the treatment (physical and mental) associated with social reintegration of the users is the best way.
As a newspaper explained that “Portugal decriminalized the use of all drugs in 2001. Weed, cocaine, heroin, you name it — Portugal decided to treat possession and use of small quantities of these drugs as a public health issue, not a criminal one. The drugs were still illegal, of course. But now getting caught with them meant a small fine and maybe a referral to a treatment program — not jail time and a criminal record.”
Here, it’s necessary to consider a significant difference: Legalisation, in contrast to decriminalisation, involves the enactment of laws that allow and provide for the state regulation of the production, sale, and use of drugs.
Other countries, as Spain and Italy ceased imposing criminal sanctions for possession of small quantities of any psychoactive substances decades ago.
About the weed, same countries consider marijuana as legal for the individual consumption, and other countries also permit the individual cultivation, as Chile in South America. Uruguay permit both and have controlled the sell by the state. [Just to give some example of different treatment for the same problem].
For experts, the “war on drugs” is a failure as project to stop the drug addiction and traffic. The Guardian, an English newspaper, wrote that “Despite all the money and effort poured into the so-called “war on drugs”, the inexorable spread of drugs and the accompanying damage is powerful testament to failure. What we are doing is not only very expensive and misdirected activity, but actively counterproductive and harmful.” The New York Times agreed that the war on drugs turned out to be a complete failure. Drugs continue to stream, they killed many people and jails are overflowing.
In the mentioned case of Portugal, the country decriminalized drug possession for personal use and created a system for drug treatment and social reintegration. This line of action follows what the researcher has proved: the drug problems should be treated primarily as a public health concern rather than crime. We can’t forget that the guarantee of privacy in the treatment is a relevant aspect of the strategy to convince the user to accept the help.
The decriminalization helps to separate the consumption and consumer from the traffic and drug dealer. This difference is important to treat the problem and make more effective the solutions to drug addiction and illegal market of drugs.
Germany is other country which faced the drug issues by treating the user, giving therapeutic solution to the user instead of using the policies force and legal punishment.
Back to BigBang T.O.P
T.O.P is part of a very privileged social and professional group. This can make more difficult to feel, at first moment, empathy for his case. As artist, he should be perfect, therefore the fans love him.
In similar cases, when the users are homeless or are part of a vulnerable social group, the “social conscience” can appears, but here this aspect fails.
As artist, TOP is separated from this group. He appears as part of a privileged group, whose members should be untouchable by this kind of “bad experiences” and, as a famous person, he shouldn’t be fallen as an imperfect “angel”. As a fallen angel, he didn’t receive redemption but just criticism.
Any of these reaction involves true human empathy. These are all a kind of mercantile relation: you give admiration expecting to receive perfection.
Could he have done recreational use of weed or have seen marijuana a symbol of rebel behaviour? Of course, he could. [However, I think that marijuana is a drug which should be legalised by all states, considering all studies and statistics recommending it. Other studies appointed that legal drugs have much more negative impact on society, as cigarettes and alcohol.]
Living in a South American country, where the recreational use of weed is decriminalised, I don’t feel myself capable of criticise his attitude, because for me it is a legal behaviour. However, I understand the impact of it over South Koreans fans, because it’s an illegal behaviour in their country; but, for me, “to be a fan” include admiration, not a commercial version of love which is exchange for an illusory image of perfection. So, it’s not surprising that, before his hospitalisation, the fans are surprised, shocked and scandalised [a minority was sad].
I think that the fans saw T.O.P only as an artist, forgetting the human being behind the camera, clothes and makeup. They just realised the man behind the idol when he was hospitalised.
He showed his pain abusing of prescript pills (such irony!).
When this happened, some critics of yesterday reminded the human being T.O.P and they started publicising their late support for him. It was a late response because the results of social and media pressure upon T.O.P, because of smoking weed charges, had had a very sad result.
Now, let’s observe that, as commented, marijuana is legalised in some countries. Fact that, at least, shows us the questioning of this substance as illegal drug. There is a lot of information about how much the use of drugs (including the marijuana) is associated with emotional issues. This is even more known that the entertainment industry is very stressful. T.O.P is serving the army, we all know about the difficulty of this period in the experience of Korean males. So, why the fans, instead of shelter their idols, decided to attack him reinforcing the social punishment made by media?
In my opinion, instead of criticising, the fans should have asked about what was wrong with him and shown their support before. There is a rational reason for it to be the best option, if just their “admiration” for him wasn’t reason enough for being more sympathetic.
As I commented, the rational reason is: studies have shown that problematic uses of illegal drug have connection with mental health and socialisation troubles. His abuse of sleeping pills just made public in a very tragic way the existence of a severe problem behind the weed consumption [which wasn’t a problem itself, if it had been just a recreational use of weed – of course, his actions show that it wasn’t the case, he was really feeling unhealthy in some way for his personal reasons].
When the public wasted time judging him, we should have discussed about the other side of the coin: the negative side effect of fame, the power of the social media and the cultural prejudice which prevent us of being more sympathy toward the others and offering them real help. He will not be the first or the last famous people to use drugs and face a critical health problem because of drugs added to social pressure.
- What is wrong with the entertainment business?
- What is wrong with our models of social admiration or execration?
- Which model of doing business and entertainment are you financing?
- Do we want a entertainment which hurt the idols and provoke hate reaction in the fans?
In my opinion, we are losing the opportunity to think about the media impact on our lives, the mental health and our cultural issues. Also, we are losing the opportunity to questioning the model of law punishment for drug users. We are losing the opportunity to look other social groups who face drug problems because the entertainment media make invisible other kind of problems.
For me, the more impacting fact is that in all comments I feel that we are losing the opportunity to look at him as a human being. [The only exception was some comments and discussion about it on Soompi.com comments and some Instagram profiles.]
Let me emphasise one last point: the artist, rich or other privileged group are not better than other groups of human beings, neither the problems are more relevant. I’m writing about T.O.P because his case is a public case, which many people are engaged with, and we should use it to rethink about general problems behind this specific case. In other moment, we can discuss other factors related with the drug subject. Here, my intention was discussing what questions the news about T.O.P can suggest for us.