Sunday, November 3, 2019

#135. 공사치다 -- Blindsided by love (feat. Ellin of Crayon Pop)

How time flies! 2019 marks the seventh-year anniversary of the debut of the K-pop girl group Crayon Pop, well-known by its one mega-hit song "Bar Bar Bar."

This unfortunate group must have felt incredible pressure to continue to entertain with their gimmicks after the amazing success of "Bar Bar Bar," but never overcame it. All things considered, it wasn't just the creative barrier that got them; the group's promotional activities were hindered by their youngest member (aged 25 at the time) So Yul (소율) taking a leave from Crayon Pop due to anxiety disorders...

Except that it turned out that she didn't actually have an anxiety disorder. She had gotten pregnant from a relationship with Moon Heejoon (문희준) of H.O.T., one of the most popular Kpop group from the 90s (aged 38 at the time). And one day, without consulting her management company or the other members of Crayon Pop, she announced her engagement and the upcoming wedding.

The couple.
As I understand it, this threw the Crayon Pop fandom into chaos. Not only was So Yul the youngest member, their princess was pregnant, and getting married to a much older guy who had a reputation for being sleazy! Moon had just been slammed by his own fans for having scheduled way too many concerts (from which most of the revenue goes to Moon himself), and encouraging his fans (mostly in their 30s now) to not only attend his concert, but to attend ALL the concerts. The fans complained
"문희준은 우리를 ATM기계로 알아." (Moon Heejoon thinks that we're ATM machines, from which he can withdraw money whenever he pleases).
Even though he had completed his military service and had essentially earned the right to never be criticized (까방권), this was too much, and he was under much fire. The couple's fandom was further disintegrated as the couple insisted that they were not expecting a child; a lie that revealed itself in less than nine months.

Anyway, due to these unfortunate events, Crayon Pop's future looked bleak. And the other members of Crayon Pop were left to fend for themselves. The most successful out of the remaining members is currently Ellin (엘린), who found her true calling in the live streaming world. She debuted as the BJ (Broadcasting Jockey; I know it sounds weird, but this particular American slang has not hit Korea yet) of Afreeca, where the BJs live-stream whatever you please, and if that also pleases the audience, then the audience rewards the BJ by sending them "별풍선" (star balloons, approximately 10 cents per balloon) in the chat window.

Ellin shared everything about herself on Afreeca, from her meals to her makeup tips, as well as behind stories about K-entertainment industry. This is how a typical livestream looked like for Ellin.

Already having a lot of name recognition as a member of Crayon Pop, and having stories about the K-entertainment industry that an average person couldn't access previously, her channel gained popularity quickly. It also helped that her fans gifted her with many 별풍선s; she quickly got her name into the list of BJs with the most number of star balloons, and that further aided in her growth.


Afreeca actually does not have a great reputation among the Koreans; while it has its fanbase, many Koreans also believe that sending cash real-time is grotesque and vulgar. For example, many BJs would perform a certain reaction to a certain number of 별풍선s given to them by a single user -- so, in a way, you could manipulate the BJ into doing certain actions for a small amount of money, and this did not sit well with the general public.

For example, in this video, the viewers of BJ 양팡's live streaming kept gifting her with star balloons, so she had to continue to react to them for an hour straight!

So, in a sense, Afreeca is the ultimate capitalist world, where money reigns supreme. And if one of the viewers who contributed way above the other viewers, the BJ became more and more dependent on that one viewer, because if the BJ displeased the viewer, the BJ risked losing a large portion of their income, which was often in the six-figures, or even in the millions each month. And the top viewer got to feel like they "owned" the BJ; the BJ would normally start contacting the top viewers outside of their livestream, and get to know them personally. I mean, if someone is giving you millions of dollars each year, they'd want something in return, right?


This is where Ellin's trouble started. She also had a top viewer, who had gifted her approximately $1 million USD over the past year. As per the usual unspoken rule of Afreeca, she and this viewer (called 뭉크뭉, as that was his online handle; I have no idea what that means) started contacting each other regularly outside of the livestream.

Here are some samples of the Kakaotalk messages that they sent between themselves (yellow: 뭉크뭉, white: Ellin)
Here are some of their sample chats on Kakaotalk:

1. Ellin: (Sends a photo of her ripped jeans) Can you sew up my jeans please?
   뭉크뭉: Do you want me to buy you some clothes?
    Ellin: Some pants please...

2. Ellin: I want to ask you something
    뭉크뭉: Okay
    Ellin: I'm trying to dye my hair. Should I do chocolate brown, or blue black?

3. 뭉크뭉: Wow, what's up? (ed: she must have done something unexpected)
     Ellin: (Sends a photo of her legs and the belly of her dog) I just woke up

4. 뭉크뭉: Why don't you come by a Friday morning flight?
     Ellin: Just one day? Are you kidding? Let's just go to Gapyeong instead and have a really fun day.
     Ellin: We can do zipline (heart emoticon)

5. 뭉크뭉: My heart and my head are saying different things. We should both just die together.
     Ellin: Is this some mid-life crisis? Let's die together, we're like needle and thread!

6. Ellin: (Sends a year-old video)
    뭉크뭉: Wow, I must have loved you a lot a year ago.
     Ellin: It's only been a year between us, have you already changed?

Given these messages, it seems that 뭉크뭉 (perhaps reasonably so) thought that Ellin would be interested in a romantic relationship with him. So, in late October, he asked Ellin out formally (although I imagine they were spending tons of time together, and talking to each other every day by then), telling her that he wanted to talk about their future together. Ellin responded by saying that she only saw him as a close friend, and that she had no idea that 뭉크뭉 thought of her in that way.

뭉크뭉 felt that Ellin should have drawn the line somewhere if she didn't see him in a romantic light; he asserted that no man would casually spend $1M USD on a woman that he wasn't romantically attracted to, and that she should have said something earlier. And even if she hadn't, he would have felt better about her if she were more honest, saying that she liked the money. He really didn't like that she played dumb.

So he decided to go public. He asserted that all of their mutual friends saw them as a couple; that she asked him to walk her home and pick her up on multiple occasions; and that she introduced him to her family including her mother and her aunt.

While some people expressed disgust that he tried to quite literally buy a woman with money, yet many others thought that 뭉크뭉 fell into a well-crafted scam by Ellin. And they talked about the situation like this:
"엘린이 공사친거네." (Ellin did some construction work.)
It isn't completely clear to me what the etymology of the slang "공사치다" is; an extensive Google search didn't point me to anything particularly conclusive, but I think that it must come from the standard Korean word for "construction," because in order to scam someone big-time like this, you have to carefully build lies upon lies, much like building a skyscraper. If you were simply trying to hit on someone (usually with the intention of being in a non-serious relationship), then you can say:
"나 저 여자한테 작업걸어볼까?" (Should I try some construction work on her?)
where if you were working on a construction site, then you are doing a "작업." A "작업" is the day-to-day activity on a construction site, and the entire purpose of the construction site is the "공사."

So "공사치다" is like making a larger-scale move on someone with an intention that is not 100% honest; it means that someone (usually a woman, but not necessarily) gave someone else (a 호구, really) an illusion of being interested in them, in order to get things out of the person.

Another way to describe the situation in Korean slang is to call the woman a "꽃뱀 (flower snake)" (and if the scammer is a man, then you can call the man "선수", quite literally a "player".) As you can see, the flower snake is quite beautiful, but it is poisonous.

Another source claims that the word "공사" comes as an abbreviation of the phrase "들여 기치다" (Spend a lot of effort in scamming someone), which also seems to make sense! Although no one is sure of the etymology of this word that only came into being a few short years ago, I think all the Koreans can agree on the meaning of this word.

In any case, the Ellin scandal is still unfolding, and although it's just a livestream, the Korean entertainment news outlets are treating it as a front-page news; Ellin did another livestream a few hours ago from the time of this writing trying to present her side of the story, but the general consensus is that her explanations seemed either fabricated or unconvincing. 뭉크뭉 also expressed outrage at her explanations, and promised to tell "the whole story (whatever that is!)" in a few days. I suppose for a general viewer, this situation is:
"팝콘각이네" (The situation seems to be setting itself up for some popcorns.)


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