Terrace House Star Hana Kimura Could Not Escape Cyberbullying

Terrace House Star Hana Kimura Could Not Escape Cyberbullying
Photo Credit: HANA

What you need to know

Terrace House star Hana Kimura, 22, committed suicide on May 23. Like many reality show stars, her reputation may have been smeared by what South Koreans have dubbed “devil’s editing,” leading to an outpouring of abusive comments.

Hana Kimura, 22, a cast member of Terrace House and a Japanese professional wrestler, took her own life on May 23. Netflix, the producer of the reality show, has announced that it will suspend the production and streaming of future episodes. 

Kimura bid farewell to her cat in an Instagram post that read: “I love you. Live a long life. I’m sorry.” Her social media posts suggested that she had been receiving close to a hundred hateful messages and comments every day. 

Prior to her death, Kimura reportedly tweeted about how she felt hurt by the messages and that she no longer wanted to live. It was too late when the police reached her apartment in Tokyo. Fans are blaming her death on cyberbullying, #RIPHanaKimura is trending on Twitter with people decrying online harassment. 

Netflix Screenshot

Terrace House’s rise in popularity 

Since 2015, Netflix’s Terrace House has charmed international viewers with its reportedly unscripted setup, showing six strangers exploring personal growth, dating, and friendships in a beautiful house. Sometimes described as “boring” and “anti-climatic,” Terrace House became a global hit as an alternative to the much more dramatic American reality shows. 

Terrace House selects its cast for compatibility, good looks, and a certain glamourous professional life. Illustrators, musicians, fitness coaches, swimsuit models, have all starred on the show. The production team uses hidden cameras for a fly on the wall approach to filming, documenting the psychological changes in the Terrace House residents. Participants can freely choose to leave or stay at any time. 

Japan’s reality TV series often like to showcase the more friendly, heartwarming stories, amplified by commentators who either give support or joke about the scenes. Terrace House takes on a similar format, featuring panelists who analyze the actions and speeches of the house members.

As ordinary as the plot seems, there have been secretive scenes of romance and drama that were deliberately removed by the editors. Terrace House claims to have no script, but the “character design” is obvious. In other words, the show relies on what South Koreans dubbed “devil’s editing” to decide what labels to slap onto the members and what personality traits to magnify. These editorial decisions, often challenging society’s moral standards, are meant to create talking points and heat up discussions.

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What happened to Kimura during the season? 

Kimura, the daughter of a famous Japanese wrestler Kyoko Kimura, captured attention upon her entry to the house with her pink hair and straightforward personality. She said she joined Terrace House to “experience a beautiful romance” and that she didn’t have that many opportunities to date in her day-to-day life.

She had a blunt on-screen personality, often getting into arguments with other housemates. The show often emphasized her jealousy, and hateful comments like “go kill yourself,” “ugly,” and “disgusting” started appearing on her social media pages. 

After Netflix aired the Terrace House episode of Kimura slapping a male member for ruining her expensive wrestling outfit, the online attacks poured in.

Many of the online harassers have reportedly deleted their comments and accounts out of fear of legal repercussions after the news of Kimura’s death. 

Photo Credit: Netflix

Rampant online bullying in South Korea

The incident has drawn comparisons to the South Korean stars Sulli and Goo Hara, who both committed suicide last year precipitated by online bullying. The suicides inspired calls for legislation on measures to prevent trolling and online harassment. 

The 25-year-old Sulli received relentless online abuse for reasons like leaving the girl group f(x), dating a musician 14 years her senior, promoting going braless, among others. Her bold actions and words went against the norms of a conservative society that maintains double standards on how men and women should act in public, which brought about the onslaught of trolling in her online discussion forums.

“Doesn’t anyone have a pure heart to embrace people who are suffering? Entertainers like me do not have it easy. Our private life is subject to close scrutiny. The pain we deal with can’t even be expressed to our close friends and family,” Goo wrote. “Before posting a nasty comment online, could you first reflect on the kind of person you are?” 

Goo, 28 at her death, was Sulli’s close friend. She took her own life only six weeks after bidding farewell to Sulli. Trolls accused her of profiting off of suing her ex-boyfriend for physical assault and blackmailing her with sex tapes. 

The South Korean government passed a law in 2007 to require real-name registration on chatrooms and forums in an attempt to curb malicious comments. But it was ruled unconstitutional in 2012 as it infringed freedom of speech.

Not every celebrity lets online bullies slide. Song Hye-kyo, for instance, sued 41 internet users for defamatory claims about her “sponsored relationship” with a politician. The court fined 24 of the accused. 

Photo Credit: AP / TPG Images
K-pop star Sulli was found dead at her home south of Seoul on October 14, 2019. 

Japan’s government considers countermeasures against cyberbullying

After Kimura’s death, Japanese government officials are calling for legislation similar to what South Korea had enacted in 2007. Sanae Takaichi, Japan's Minister of Internal Affairs and Communication, said he would speed up revising an existing law to address cyberbullying. 

“It's necessary to properly implement procedures to disclose information on senders in order to curb online abuses and rescue victims,” Takaichi said at a press conference. 

Critics say such a law will be ineffective in curbing cyberbullying, and it could restrict freedom of speech. 

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TNL Editor: Daphne K. Lee, Nicholas Haggerty (@thenewslensintl)

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