Wednesday, July 24, 2013

A conversation with 'lastknownsurvivor' about the 'Facebook video'

[Update]

John Power at the Korea Herald, Max Fisher at the Washington Post and Robert Koehler at the Marmot's Hole have seen alternate takes of the video provided by the director and have written that it appears to have been staged.

[Original Post]

As Scott Burgeson explained at the Marmot's Hole, last night he and I met a 29-year-old citizen of a European Union nation claiming to be one of the two male actors in the 'Facebook video' I first looked at here, (and followed up on here, here, and here), and who, posting as 'lastknownsurvivor,' first called the authenticity of the video into question when it was covered in a blog post at the Washington Post on July 15. As Scott, wrote, we both "have full knowledge of this individual’s identity and real name, which was visually verified by his South Korean Alien Registration Card[.]" Scott referred to this individual as "Mr. P," so for the sake of consistency I will too.

Here is what he told us about how he came to participate in the making of the video (most of the direct quotes are from follow-up emails):

In late January or early February of 2011, Mr. P's coworker told him that a friend of hers was looking for two foreigners to act in a video he was making, and that they would pay 100,000 won to each of the participants. He agreed to take part and asked his roommate, a North American, to join him. The video was being made by two Korean men who, as he was told, were in university at the time. As Mr. P told me via email, "There was one man who had more input than the other. I always thought he was in charge." That person is 'the director' who has been interviewed by the Korea Herald, and he will be referred to as 'the director' from now on (the other man will be referred to as his 'assistant'). Since the director and his assistant didn't speak English well, they also needed an interpreter, and another coworker of Mr. P's, a Korean woman, was paid to do this.

On the night of the shoot, a week night, the two actors and the interpreter met two Korean men, the director and his assistant, and a Korean woman who would be acting in the video at a coffee shop in Itaewon to discuss the project. The director and his assistant hoped to make a series of video shorts with a horror-comedy theme to release online, which they hoped would go viral and then they could step up and claim credit and get their names known. The concept of the particular video they were shooting, as Mr. P understood it, was to poke fun at plastic surgery by having a woman criticized for her teeth, which they thought an odd idea and the source of the comedy.

They then went to Bedlam, where the Koreans told the management that they would be shooting a video and asked not to be disturbed. They sat in the back booth, and were some distance away from the few other customers there, who occasionally looked back wondering what was going on.

The director had an idea of what he wanted to shoot, but had no script. From the beginning, he wanted one of the actors to hold the director's iPhone and shoot the video ("He wanted it to feel like it was real"), and he wanted the other, onscreen actor to stick his finger up the girl's nose and then pull her lips back to reveal her teeth. The teeth were fake, and were the "centerpiece" of the shooting ("I remember they had a special box for them").

Upon arriving at the bar, the director bought everyone a round a beers, and then set a bottle of tequila on the table. While his roommate (who was filming) only had a shot or two, Mr. P and the actress did shots between takes and joked around via the interpreter (as the actress didn't speak English). Since they did seven takes over two hours, she was quite drunk by the time they shot the last take. With every take the original concept evolved, with the director telling him, via the interpreter, that he wanted more anger in his performance. Mr. P asked if he should swear, and the director told him yes. As for the overwrought description in the Washington Post that "he shoves his finger, now smeared with snot, into the back of her throat," Mr. P said that wasn't the case at all, and in between each take the actress blew her nose.

At the end of the shoot, the two actors were paid 100,000 won each, while the interpreter was paid 50,000 won. The director, the assistant, and the actress left, and Mr. P and the woman parted on good terms, with him telling her, "Good job," to which she smiled and said, "Bye!"

During the shooting, Mr. P's roommate, when holding the iPhone, was conscious of the fact that things could possibly go wrong if the video went viral and tried to mostly shoot him from behind. His roommate also thought to get the director's Facebook contact so that they could remain in touch. Asked if he thought the director tricked them, Mr. P said he didn't think so. The performance changed with each take, taking its final shape in the seventh take.

Mr. P thought that, due to the language he was using, the video would be pulled down if it was ever posted on the internet, and said, "I genuinely believed it would never amount to anything," a belief he now concedes was "naive."

In his words, "I'm disappointed about what's happened, but I'm not sad about it because this was just an acting piece. I was doing an acting job – there was no 'sexual harassment' involved while shooting the video, and no one was hurt."

His roommate left Korea soon afterward, and he didn't think about the video again until August 2012, when a Korean friend of his contacted him and told him a video with him in it had been posted on the internet. "He remembered me talking about making this video and he also recognized my voice from the video."

The video was posted on Ilbe on August 18, 2012 with the title  '(유투브 영상 추가) 아까 그 김치녀 자막 만듬' - or '(Youtube video supplement) Subtitles made for that Kimchi Girl from awhile ago.' This rather strongly suggests that the video had previously been posted at Ilbe without subtitles, and the person posting, "ellenk," writes that it's hard to hear the English but that he made approximate subtitles. He also says that the truth about Kimchi girls who fool around with native speaking instructors absolutely must be made known, and suggests to readers they spread it wherever they like and that they leave links to the video when they post comments.

The Ilbe post also contains a link to this mediafire page, where you can download the video file "원어민 강사의 실태.avi," or "The truth about native speaking [English] instructors." This is the video in its current 78-second, subtitled form.

According to a Facebook conversation between the director and Mr. P, the director uploaded the videos to several sites including Youtube but they were deleted within a few months and he "completely forgot about" them. From the Ilbe page, it's clear the current clip was uploaded to Youtube in August 2012, but was removed thereafter (though the mediafire link remained active). On June 8 of this year, as dissected in the comments here, it was uploaded to Youtube and posted at several SLR camera sites which appear to be related, and which seem to allow for automatic, simultaneous cross posting between the sites. It was removed from Youtube again and then posted on the Moodclip Facebook page (its tagline is "What emotions do you want to feel?"), where it finally hit the Korean language news and foreign blogs (before being deleted), leading to the Washington Post article, which led to the video going global.

As Scott wrote today,
Mr. P's motivation in speaking to us is simple: In the past week, since Max Fisher's story was first published, he's been under great personal strain and, moreover, is worried that he could lose his job here in Korea and even be deported, which is a legitimate concern in our view considering that his profile appears in the video, his voice in it has already been recognized by friends, and his name could soon be leaked and made public by either members of the media or Facebook users. As he told us, "My head's been messed up this past week. I've been walking into work worrying I'm going to get sacked. I'm just really fed up with this."
Last week Mr. P sent a private message to Max Fisher on Facebook which was ignored, and a Twitter exchange between the two has been mysteriously deleted; here's a screenshot of his response to Fisher last week which now cannot be viewed on Fisher's Twitter feed:


As for the authenticity of the claims that it was staged, five people have come forward (or been contacted, in the director's case) and have been featured in three Korea Herald articles. Mr. P has sent me screenshots of various conversations with most of the people involved, including his former roommate, the woman who introduced him to the director, and the director himself.

Due to the director's rather open Facebook page, it's not difficult to confirm his identity. The screenshots of Mr. P's conversations with the director - in which he admits responsibility for the video - showed the director's profile photo. Mr. P gave me the address of the director's Facebook page, which you don't have be a 'friend' to view, and which has the same profile photo. It also has the director's educational background and current job listed, which are both related to film making. In addition to this, a search for his name on the internet turns up a Korean news article from 2012 about a film by him which 'at first seems like a documentary' that was included in a Korean film festival last year, and the article features several photos of him which match the Facebook profile.

While I don't have permission to post screenshots of Facebook conversations with many of the people above, the two foreign actors, Mr. P and his former roommate, who for sake of convenience I'll call 'Mr. A,' have given permission to post their Facebook conversations going back to August of 2012 (click to enlarge):








As the last message mentions, Mr. P contacted the director providing four links to news stories from around the world about the clip and pleaded with him to come forward. The director replied by saying he didn't know what else he could do, that he'd admitted he'd made the video to the Korea Herald and that Korean media had reported that the video was 'just fiction' (the Kyunghyang Sinmun ran an article titled "Controversy over the authenticity of the video of white men molesting a Korean woman in a club" and Chosun.com posted one titled "'The video of a drunk Korean woman being molested and toyed with was choreographed'"). He did speak to the Korea Herald again, as noted in yesterday's article:
"The main theme of the film is about the few socially isolated people, depicting each one's dreadful -- sad or painful -- reminiscences. And their memories come as flashbacks -- as a scene - during the film. The video scene was one of the flashbacks and it was a memory of what a person had experienced in the club, and they wish for it to be forgotten."

The filmmaker said the full film came to around 15 minutes and featured others actors besides those in the viral clip. He added that he had no remaining footage of the film because it was filmed as part of a casual filmmaking group that regularly made low-fi videos. He repeatedly declined to reveal the identities of anyone else involved in the film. He also said that he had been contacted by the woman in the video in anger after it went viral but that she had subsequently changed her number and fallen out of contact.
Between what Mr. P told Scott and I, the screenshots I saw and the ones provided above, the content of the Korea Herald articles, and the video itself, I leave it to the reader to decide whether the video was staged or not.

15 comments:

King Baeksu said...

Here's a tweet from Max Fisher's Twitter feed from an hour ago:

"This is what I'm doing with my day now http://bit.ly/13PzMpd"

Lol.

King Baeksu said...

Let me try that again:

http://t.co/rOtlBKY1mj

Which leads to:

https://vine.co/v/bJqjVjdqMQ7

Ben said...

Impressively, Fisher has responded by twitter:

@benkwagner thanks for your messages. I'm in touch with the relevant parties and will update if and when I have something to report.
7:00 PM - 24 Jul 2013


King Baeksu said...

Not so impressive, Ben. "...if and when I have something to report" sounds like yet more weasel words to me, which Fisher seems to specialize in.

Five different sources have spoken to the media claiming that the video was staged. They all claim to be directly associated with the project, and their identities have been confirmed by John Power of The Herald. Matt and I have also verified the identity of the main Western actor in the video, and were told the real names of the other participants, which we corroborated via their Facebook accounts. These are not "anonymous" sources, as some have been claiming elsewhere.

And yet Fisher still maintains that there is nothing additional to report, hence the "if and when" qualification.

In other words, what he's really hoping for is that he can drag his feet just enough longer to let the story die down completely, so that by the time he finally posts a follow-up, no one will even care or listen.

And you wonder why people don't trust the MSM these days.

Ben said...

I think Fisher will actually publish something. Apparently the director has now located some "proof" in the form of cuts from the film which he's sending to WaPo. Here's a message from the director that LKS just posted at Marmot's Hole:

"I’m sorry but still I don’t want to use my name in public I got the prove that can proof video is fake. The prove is the NG cuts of the film. And I’ll send the cuts to WP and Herald. That’s all I can do now.."

Ben said...

If a story does run I hope the WaPo can find someone local to track down the woman and persuade her she's safe to tell her story.

King Baeksu said...

"I think Fisher will actually publish something."

What a great job Fisher has. He can just sit back at his home or office and watch funny doggie videos until someone literally hands him information on a silver platter.

Interviewing real-world sources? Actually trying to do a little digging? What does that mean?

Ben said...

It does seem like a great job. And that dog is adorable.

Geoju said...

Hold on here.. The way this was described was that there were screenshots of conversations between the guys and the directors, not just between the two guys.

King Baeksu said...

Geoju, I have personally seen conversations between Mr. P and the director on Facebook -- live on the Web, I might add -- so that exists, too. Unless Mr P was sophisticated enough to set up a mirror Facebook site with the same URL and create an entire fake Web site, I'd say what I saw was legit. Do you really think he or someone else would set up and build an entire Web site just to cover their tracks? I can tell you from personal experience that building Web sites is not exactly the easiest thing to do and can be quite costly. Still skeptical?

Geoju said...

I'm just saying that in this day and age, we can fake a facebook conversation, we can fake an account, etc. We have alleged actors, alleged directors, alleged staff, but in all this, where is the girl herself?

King Baeksu said...

"I'm just saying that in this day and age, we can fake a facebook conversation, we can fake an account..."

Dude, I saw his Facebook account live on the Web going back to August 14th 2012. Saw as in with my own eyes, not just screenshots. Can you explain to me how he might have faked that?

This was a rather minor incident on the larger scheme of things. Would they really have gone to so much trouble to cover their tracks?

Ben said...

Conclusively staged as per KH and WaPo:

http://www.koreaherald.com/view.php?ud=20130725001042

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/worldviews/wp/2013/07/25/controversial-video-of-western-men-harassing-a-korean-woman-appears-to-have-been-staged/

Geoju said...

http://pann.news.nate.com/info/254783176 this might be worth a translation and post here..

matt said...

Thanks for that link, Geoju - I'm not sure if I'll have time to do it anytime soon, though.