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Scandals are costly to the social and professional lives of politicians. It seems like whenever there's news about celebrity relationships in South Korea, the comment section of the news is flooded with public conspiracy theories about major political events, such as government corruption.

For her Capstone project at NYU Abu Dhabi, Keeryung Kim, who's from Seoul and majored in Social Research and Public Policy, wanted to find out if this is a coincidence. Is celebrity gossip released in tandem with political scandals in South Korea?

Why choose this topic?

There's a widespread media conspiracy theory in South Korea: people think the news is being manipulated. There are so many theories and also doubts, but few explanations. Although generally people believe that conspiracy theories cannot be proven, I wanted to take a step forward and test whether what so many people believe in South Korea corresponds with what is actually happening.

Where did the data come from?

I analyzed nine months of news headlines on a popular search engine in South Korea using both linear correlation and time series analysis of gossip and scandals.

Is celebrity gossip timed in South Korea to cover up political scandal?

My research indicates yes, there is more celebrity news on days where there are political scandals. I think the results provide substantial support for the media conspiracy theory.

quote

There is more celebrity news on days where there are political scandals. I think the results provide substantial support for the media conspiracy theory.

By Keeryung Kim, Class of 2016

What does this mean?

It's important in two levels. First, it shows the existence of media bias, indicating that media in South Korea is not independent of political pressure. My research further suggests that citizens are getting limited political information, which can affect decision-making. I think it's also important in the broader academic world. Past studies have looked at how politicians strategically time political events, but no study, to the best of my knowledge, has looked at strategic timing of non-political events, like celebrity breakups.