A few years ago, I was living with my brother and his wife, and it was difficult for me and my sister-in-law to connect. She was born and raised in the Chinese province of Sichuan, living in its biggest city, Chengdu, right up until the prior year when she and my brother moved to the US to live with his dad. She spoke English decently, but there was a vast cultural divide: What food we liked, the type of things we thought were funny, and numerous other small social cues.
But there was something else, too, a certain kind of glumness that never seemed to leave her. She was a well-educated accountant and translator, but never seemed to have the energy to do much of, well, anything in the way of job searching. Coming home from work I would often find her still in bed, shopping on her laptop, never changing out of pajamas. In fact, she rarely left the bedroom except to let their dog outside or get some food; she didn’t even eat that much beyond basic soup and vegetables. One night, she took the dog out and sat on the porch as dusk turned to night, staring blankly at the sky for almost two hours without ever getting up to turn on the porch light.
As she sat there in the darkness, it was then that I began to worry that something was seriously wrong.
I would later find out that the reason she and my brother had decided to get away from his dad was because of the psychological abuse that she was put through during the year they had lived with him. In order to come back home to America, the sizeable debt that my brother and his wife had in China was partially paid for by his dad, which he used as a Sword of Damocles over their lives. If he was going to pay for her to come to America and live in his house, he demanded that she adapt, which meant no speaking Mandarin, no cooking Chinese food, and finding a job fast, regardless of her English skills. She was also expected to clean the house and cook, but only pre-approved, non-Chinese meals. Otherwise, there was an implicit threat that he would cut off support and leave them on their own with nothing. Being stripped of her cultural identity and taken away from any sort of family she had ever known in order to essentially be a prisoner in someone’s house was a serious blow to her already shaky mental health. She and my brother would eventually go back to China, fearing that staying here would further her trauma.
The reason I am telling you this story is because I would like anyone reading this to understand that for me, abuse in any form is no laughing matter. I have been a personal witness to the mental and physical toll that abuse can have on someone, so if I can, I’d like to expose abusers in any of the things that I engage in and make sure that they never are in a position to hurt someone again. I have a special contempt for abusers who continue to harm their victim long after the fact and attempt to control the narrative about their abuse, without any care for the damage they continue to cause.
With respect to Samuel Coleridge, the case of Seon-woo “Infiltration” Lee has become an albatross around my neck. For those unfamiliar, Lee, a former Evolution world champion and highly popular member of the fighting game community, physically assaulted his wife in 2017, and once the information was revealed in late 2018 by an anonymous Reddit poster, Lee was dropped by his sponsor, Panda Global, and he voluntarily removed himself from competition in the 2019 Capcom Pro Tour. Lee did not attend another big tournament for roughly a year before he returned to the international stage by winning the Samurai Shodown tournament at Evolution 2019 to thunderous applause, including a fawning tweet from the tournament itself. He plans to begin competing regularly again in 2020, starting with Evo Japan in January.
The collective shrug from the majority of the front-facing FGC authorities and pundits on the matter has been greatly disheartening. It has very nearly become taboo as a subject, and I would imagine that Lee will begin competing again with little commentary on the matter beyond the stream chat spamming misogynist memes and some chatter on Twitter. I feel like I have yelled about this for almost a year straight, and no matter how many large threads are shared on Twitter that detail the latest information, with translations and links to the original stories, I will hear most people refer to Lee as someone who was unfairly judged by the court of public opinion, “cancelled” for having done something that he did not. It makes me sick to my stomach.
But, like I said in my last post, I think I have been taking the wrong approach. A conversation with someone who has helped me in this endeavor brought forth a valid critique: perhaps I am too interested in insulting naysayers rather than educating folks about this information and why it is important. Indeed, there has been enough twists and turns in this story that M. Night Shyamalan’s head would spin trying to grapple with it. So, in the spirit of the previous blog entry, I’d like to look at some of the most common defenses for Lee’s innocence and the FGC’s lack of response, and debunk them with the information that I have. I know that not everyone who reads this will take it in good faith, but I hope those that are on the fence do, because I don’t think this can wait any longer; with Lee’s return to regular competition imminent, I think the community needs to understand why this kind of behavior cannot go unchecked, unquestioned, or unheard.
- “Infiltration was found innocent!”
This is just a blatant misunderstanding of the situation, but an increasingly understandable conclusion to reach based on what the most public information about it will tell you. One of the biggest issues with trying to inform people about this situation has been the investigation summary report put out by Panda Global, Lee’s former sponsor who took it upon themselves to thoroughly investigate the allegations against Lee, and ultimately cut ties after they turned out to be true.
So why, then, would people believe that Lee was innocent?
PG doesn’t get a lot of scrutiny when discussing this case, but I think it’s high time that they should. While their lengthy investigation went above and beyond what any run-of-the-mill e-Sports organization would do when seriously looking into the behavior of one of its players, the fact remains that this was a gaming organization cosplaying as arbiters of justice. As such, their goal, in the end, was not to find the real truth, but present the information they obtained in a way that would exonerate them of any wrongdoing while also not trying to make a judgement on any of the people involved in the case. As with most centrist points of view, it ends up favoring the person with more power in the situation, which in this case was Lee, and strongly centered his narrative over that of the person he had been tormenting for the past year.
Here is Panda Global’s description of what happened between Infiltration and his ex-wife (will hereby be referred to as Ms. X), taken from their investigation summary:
Perhaps you can see the issue. The way the summary is set up is “Allegation vs Truth,” as the original leak of this information included many erroneous claims that were very easily debunked. Unfortunately, it puts forth the impression that the information on the left is the lie, and the truth is on the right. In this context, “Player assaulted his wife” can be read as exaggerated, and “an altercation” as more accurate. This leads to an arrest where Lee “did not contest the claims” only because of a “police recommendation in order to avoid a lengthy legal battle,” and it notes that Lee did not have legal counsel at the time. Lastly, PG does manage to throw out that they did not actually look at a police report that would have contained the factual information as reported by the arresting officers.
So right away, there is a noticeable shying away from the term “assault,” and the document goes out of its way to mention that the only reasons Lee didn’t contest his arrest was due to a trust in the police that he could avoid a long court battle and not having a lawyer on retainer. It is totally within reason to read that as Lee not being able to contest trumped up charges on the advice of law enforcement.
But is that the truth? Hardly. Let’s look at Lee’s interpretation of that night, taken from a translation of an interview he did with gaming outlet IGN Korea back in September. Translation lifted from a post on the Reddit forum r/Kappa:
Lee doesn’t deny that he was physical with her, although he writes it off as self-defense. He asserts that because he is stronger than her physically as a man, his repeated attempts to defend himself left her injured and him without much damage.
Finally, let’s see what Ms. X had to say in her interview with the Korean Economic Daily, a renowned South Korean newspaper, in October. The translation is a little rough, but it paints a vivid picture:
Basically, Ms. X asserts that Lee dragged her around the living room and strangled her, threatening to kill her. She describes the assault as being like “torture.” Apparently the dragging was so bad that her clothes were ripped, and the paramedics who arrived to help her had to cover her up before they could help her. Notice too, that Ms. X notes that Lee had claimed paramedics came to look at her after the police were called in his IGN interview. Nowhere in the PG summary does it mention paramedics arriving to tend to Ms. X.
Even if we were playing who-would-you-believe, neither of the parties involved deny that there was a physical fight that got very heated. That right there shuts the argument that nothing happened down hard, although the ultimate proof is right there in the PG report:
Lee was charged and convicted of violence, which is akin to misdemeanor battery here in the US, and paid a fine for it. Simple as that. The crime was not invented out of thin air, both of the parties have given on-the-record statements admitting that there was a fight, and neither deny that only Ms. X had to be checked on by paramedics. These are the facts.
- “Infiltration didn’t beat his wife, she wasn’t actually hurt that bad!”
This has far less merit than the previous argument, but it’s worth discussing because it’s repeated very often and highlights a clear problem with PG’s investigation summary. It’s worth noting that domestic violence should never be waved off just because one person isn’t “hurt” by the arbitrary standards that you may put upon them in order to justify not caring. But even with that shallow line of thinking, this is demonstrably false.
When the original leak happened, there were pieces of a transcript, taken from a recording the night in which the assault happened, floating about the internet. These leaks were (and still are) substantially harmful to the victim, so I won’t post them, but there were some choice quotes that I think are worth remembering:
- Lee: “Crawl. Crawl. Crawl.”
- Lee: “It’s your life on the line [if] you keep provoking me.”
- Lee: “I’ll make it so just the sight of me will make you wet yourself.”
- Lee: “You want it bent until your bones get broken?”
- Lee: “Hey calm down first.” Ms. X: “Why the fuck should I calm down you crazy fuck.” Lee: “That wasn’t a suggestion you bitch it’s a threat. A command.”
- Ms. X: “Stop choking me. It hurts. It really hurts.”
These transcripts, which describe a violent, dangerous assault, were met with the appropriate shock and horror. Were they to be legitimate, it would paint Lee as not only someone who abused his wife, but someone who seemed to revel in the power he held over her, making her plead for her life.
The reality is that these transcripts are legitimate. However, PG, in what can only be an attempt to be as centrist as possible, confirmed this in a very confusing way. From their investigation summary:
Right at the top on their “facts” side, we see “The excerpts are from an authentic certified document.” Again, that confirms the legitimacy of the transcripts that many people saw. However, PG does mention that “They were presented out of order,” and were missing “informative elements of the interaction.”
This is where it gets twisted. By having PG note that the source of their fight was because Lee wanted a divorce and that they threatened to call the police on each other, along with Lee’s statement that he can’t be arrested for assault if he wasn’t violent, doubt is cast, intentionally or not, on the legitimacy of the assault.
Worse, many people seem to take the “out of order” blurb and extrapolate into the leaked transcripts being untrue, which is not what the document is saying. The statement was meant to say that the scanned images weren’t collated; instead of pages 16, 17, and 18, we got 16, 19, and 24. I can understand why one could find that unfair for Lee if he’s presented in the worst possible way (this was probably intended by the leakers), but that does not change the content of the documents. PG even notes near the bottom that Lee’s lawyers had a 15-minute audio file, and “The transcript and audio file were confirmed to be the same.”
Lee himself does not dispute that the transcripts are fake, just that he feels he was unfairly characterized. He even admits to using the harsh language seen in the transcript and “attacking” her. Again from IGN Korea:
But where I think PG really did a disservice is in the last two paragraphs. First, the statement that “The contents of the document and corresponding audio are consistent with a domestic dispute” is a wildly neutral statement that in no way reflects what we now know to be the truth. Again, I can only surmise that the intent was to not come down too hard on Lee, so they intentionally avoided using the term “domestic assault,” “assault,” and any other language that would imply harmful intent on the part of Lee.
Lastly, the final paragraph discusses the physical damage to Ms. X, which is obtained via a note from the hospital that treated her. Described as “bruising and an injury to the wrist,” Ms. X required no hospitalization, which is frequently used by dishonest actors to frame the assault as “not that bad.” Regardless, the real damage follows, where PG makes a distinction to note that the brief Doctor’s note given to them did not describe every detail about the injuries, and no photographic evidence was “submitted to court.”
That phrasing got many would-be legal experts to claim that because there was no evidence in a court of law, there was no telling if Lee was guilty or not. It is important to note that there was no trial, and lawyers did not argue for or against this ruling in court, as confirmed a few screenshots up by PG. There was no evidence to argue, because that wasn’t necessary; according to the Korean Economic Daily, in an article discussing Lee’s false statements about his case, he appeared before a judge and recieved a sentence upon review of his confession from a police interrogation transcript. From a translation on r/Kappa:
Even if there was no photographic evidence submitted, there is no doubt that Ms. X had injuries consistent with domestic assault. Ms. X even suggests that PG and Lee downplayed the extent of her injuries. From the Korean Economic Daily again, still a rough translation:
This is stating that there were bruises along her whole body and inflammation in the wrist, which is a condition known as tendonitis in which the tendons in one’s wrists are torn due to a sudden or repetitive injury. Obviously there was physical harm done to Ms. X, and no one involved denies that a level of physical violence was reached.
- “He only had to a pay fine, and even the cops even told him it wasn’t that bad!/Infiltration was framed!”
This is where the most egregious of Lee’s lies comes to fruition. Recall again that Lee stated to PG, who included it in their investigation summary, that he did not contest the charges against him on advice of the police who arrested him:
Lee further confirmed this to IGN Korea:
However, Lee further went on to say that he felt threatened into confessing, and that he only did so because the police told him exactly what his fine would be and that, in a bizarre turn, his criminal conviction would be legally stricken from his record in a few years. Also from IGN Korea:
While this certainly would help paint Lee in a more sympathetic light, the reality is that these were lies. It started with Ms. X in her interview with the Korean Economic Daily, where she hinted that the Korean police were thinking about bringing charges against Lee for libel. Again from the Korean Economic Daily:
This was followed up on in yet another article from KED, where the police transcript is reviewed by the reporter as well as Lee’s claims about his sentencing. All were revealed to be completely false. Again from KED:
Not one of his claims held up to even minor scrutiny from basic fact-checking. This should cast major doubt on not only the seriousness that Lee claims his arrest was treated with, but the legitimacy of almost any of the statements he’s given about this in the two years since it happened. Remember that he lost a libel case against Ms. X, as stated here in the KED story about Ms. X:
Roughly, she’s saying that 8 users of a Korean social media site and she were taken to court for libel since Lee claimed that she purposely leaked this information to damage his reputation. She was able to prove her innocence, however, which may contribute to why she’s back to giving public statements again. One of Lee’s only defenses was that he was set up by Ms. X, but despite his “evidence,” none of that seemed to count when it mattered.
Far be it from me to trust the word of pigs, but if not even the basic facts aren’t going to stand in Lee’s favor, then what credibility does this conspiracy theory really have? They reek of someone desperate to take back control, scratching and clawing at any possible lead in the hopes that his anger will be justified. If the law is the most precious thing in a lot of his defenders’ eyes, then wouldn’t the fact that he lost a libel suit and the cops are considering a lawsuit over his public statements be incredibly damning?
- “I don’t support Infiltration, but both parties were awful, and I can’t be biased/What about when she broke his things?/What if she provoked him?”
It may seem like I’m being dismissive of this argument, but who cares? No seriously, who gives a damn what she did?
Once the few arguments above this one have been defanged, this sadly common refrain is exposed for the shallow, frequently misogynistic take that it is. It should be obvious that if someone is intent on taking an argument to a physical level and continuing to gaslight their ex-partner for years afterwards with live-stream tirades and lawsuits, one of the parties is probably a worse person than the other. There is no provocation that could justify choking someone and dragging them around bad enough to leave bruises.
This argument has its roots in, again, the PG summary. In listing every single accusation that the unknown 3rd party levied against Lee in the initial leaks, PG made it a point to debunk that Lee broke into the home and hurt Ms. X again:
While I agree that it was important to establish that no violence was done to the victim again after the fact, PG decided to include the intimate details of why Ms. X wasn’t going to let Lee back into the home based on his personal text message records and claims. Knowing now that Lee has a spotty history with telling the truth, these claims are suspect at best. If he phoned the police and got word that he was in the clear to get a locksmith to open the door, why did he promptly get sued and charged with property damage? One can only wonder.
Having to include why Ms. X did what she did, which is based solely on text messages with interpretation through the tormentor, is one of the biggest faults in the PG summary. Its claim is that its unbiased, but at every step, there is a section that does its best to paint Ms. X, the abuse victim, as erratic and irrational. The worst is right after this, where the summary attempts to dispel the “rumor” that Ms. X was scared for her life:
This is far and away the most disgusting part of this summary. Recall again Ms. X’s own words on the subject, from the KED interview:
After this, scroll back up and read some of those quotes from the transcript. There was a very clear threat, in Lee’s words, toward Ms. X about the safety of her health and well-being. If one was thinking in the most myopic possible sense, then yes, it would seem odd that if all this really happened the way it appears, she probably would be trying to get away from him and not care about his well-being over hers.
And yet, domestic abuse is a funny thing. The National Domestic Violence Hotline website specifically lists a large number of reasons as to why someone would still pursue a relationship if there is abuse. Ms. X actually commented on this in the KED article:
In Korea, the role of the family looms large over the culture. It is not unreasonable that the potential shame one could feel in leaving their spouse, even over abuse, would keep them from speaking up. And as the NDVH lists, cultural constraints and shame are both known reasons why someone might stay with an abusive spouse. To presume that she is not fearful for her life because of some unexpected behavior is not only grossly negligent of the struggles that victims of abuse face, but it’s also deeply biased in favor of the tormentor. And in this situation, what benefit would there be to giving the tormentor space to give a defense when his victim cannot?
If the original PG document is starting to look like a carefully coached defense of Lee, there may be a reason for that. In the preamble of the investigation summary, PG breaks down who was helping them with their investigation, and one line, underlined in red, is pretty illuminating:
Lee’s personal lawyers were helping to provide a lot of the information and reviewed each piece of information. This makes sense, especially since the information was going to be released publically, but it does taint the document. Their job, by nature, is to defend a client, and that means that any action which could incriminate him must be taken at its most charitable interpretation in order to prove his innocence. I don’t fault them, that’s the job, but there is a conspicuous absence of equal representation for Ms. X. According to Dr. Alan Bunney, PG’s CEO, there was an attempt made to reach out to her side, but no response was given. Video of that here, the statement itself is at 2:01:
I have no reason to believe that would be a lie, but it is hard to ignore that Ms. X herself, via Twitter, had this to say regarding that statement:
She says that no contact was even attempted. Even if she were contacted, it is important to note that due to the way Korea law works in regards to defamation through slander or libel, one can face criminal charges for publicly releasing even true statements that are seen as defamatory. As mentioned earlier, Lee sued Ms. X for this very reason, claiming that she leaked the information to damage his character. As such, any public statement of hers could be interpreted badly for her, and it makes you wonder if she could have even contributed to the PG document without compromising her case. From a statement by Ms. X on Twitter:
I have no idea how one could even begin to justify violent abuse, but I understand why many people have their doubts that it happened at all. The PG summary is woefully biased in favor of the abuser, and regardless of intent, it is, in my belief, the reason why so many people still want to cling to Ms. X’s actions for justification. If you paint a woman as erratic and unfair, the misogynists will suddenly be on your side.
- “Why should I care about Infiltration as a person? Can’t we just go back to playing games? What someone does in the privacy of their home is their business!”
This is probably the most difficult section, as I don’t have a lot of evidence or screencaps to post, just my opinion. Lee withdrew from the Capcom Pro Tour for 2019, and he lost out on a sponsor as well as his good standing in the community. These are not insignificant losses, but the fact that all it took was simply not attending tournaments for his redemption tour to begin is indicative of how ill-equipped the FGC is to deal with abusers in its midst.
I know what some people would say, and I actually agree in this case: I do not think Lee, at any point, would become violent towards someone at an FGC event. Domestic abusers are a cowardly lot, and would usually only physically hurt someone that they could easily overpower. I don’t think anyone would be in any danger were he to attend a tournament, but I think something a little bigger would be at stake.
As I’ve always said, the FGC is frequently a home for people who have a greater connection than “just games” to the scene. Many people found their way into the community by escaping the tougher realities of life, and abuse of some sort is a frequent, shared trauma. Many may find the idea of a “safe-space” cloying and uptight, but the reality is that it’s not much to ask for a place to not let someone in who would inflict the same trauma that they themselves have been a victim of. Lee’s continued presence at any tournament without any serious discussion of whether he should be welcome is telling anyone who has ever been a victim of abuse in the scene that the scene will always have the abuser’s back over theirs, and it would tell every woman that violence toward you is not enough to stop someone from participating in the community if they are well known enough.
Some might say that’s unfair, but I really don’t think it is. As I said in the last article, if you allow wolves and sheep in a space, eventually you will only have wolves. A lot of people talk a good game about supporting women in the scene and believing victims and “#cleanupthefgc,” but there has been an absolute silence on Lee’s continued use of the FGC to spread his hate campaign against Ms. X. And make no mistake, all those people he thanks for believing in him and sharing “the truth?” That is the FGC. Lee is a well-known name because of this community, and it’s through this community that he continues to launder his lies and his slander. To not speak out against it is to be compliant with his continued abuse of his victim.
It may not seem like it, but the constant attacks on her character are a form of abuse, his own way at taking back whatever little power he believes she took from him. The lawsuits that are apparently still coming are another example of him trying to control her, to make sure she pays, in cash, for the humiliation she has caused him. This has had a real effect; Ms. X described to KED that she is going to counter-sue Lee because fans of his in the Korean FGC hound her over social media, which is where she posts reviews for her job:
Lee is completely unrepentant for the harm he has caused, too. Everyone who says a bad thing about him is lying, the police mislead him, the press is out to get him, the FGC turned against him, bla bla bla. Anything to not apologize for what he has done. In another blunder, PG couldn’t even have the decency to just let Lee go quietly; they published a statement of him denying everything, even in the face of the overwhelming evidence that he was charged with a criminal act. He played the martyr, and it was incredulously published with no regard for the severity of what he did:
I don’t think anyone is doomed for life if they honestly try to make amends, even for something as confounding and personally damning to me as domestic abuse. If someone were to take the steps to answer for their harmful actions by apologizing to the victim and seeking some professional help, then I could not hold it against them forever. None of these things have happened here. Lee, as recently as a few months ago, is publically lying about the facts of his case in order to make himself look good. Not only that, he’s apparently blaming Ms. X for loss of income due to not participating in the 2019 CPT, something he personally recused himself from.
Even more damning is the fact that Ms. X wasn’t the only person he turned his vengeful eye towards. As mentioned earlier, 8 posters from a Korean social media site, DCInside Fighting Game Gallery, were lumped into Lee’s libel lawsuit against his wife. Lee was very public about this, taking to Twitter earlier this year to condemn the people in his scene he felt were disrespecting him:
As we know, Lee did end up making good on his threats, which means that even his local FGC was being silenced by his abusive ways.
Is this not utterly against almost everything the FGC stands for? That you would attack a community for talking frankly about something you have done, and actually sue them for expressing their opinion? For all the tough talk Lee’s defenders do, I would find it hard to believe that any of them would defend, say, Chris Tatarian if he tried to sue someone who made fun of him for being a jerk. Again, Lee’s only willing to attack those with whom he could effect with his power, so suing someone is going to exclusively happen where he thinks he could get away with it.
If being an unrepentant abuser who is so willing to uphold a bald-faced lie that he would try to bring financial peril onto people who would dare even post on social media that he’s an abuser isn’t enough to question what value someone has to the community, I don’t know what is. Giving him a platform like Evo directly lead to the IGN Korea interview where he plainly lied about his arrest and again tried to hurt his wife by accusing her of making everything up. This isn’t hypothetical anymore; the “potential” danger of platforming a known liar and abuser has already happened. Why hasn’t anyone even tried to say anything?
Earlier in this piece, I called this situation an albatross around my neck, and I mean that. The albatross was a symbol of the guilt and shame that the ancient mariner felt for his actions. Standing in the ballroom at Evo 2019 and seeing Lee’s gamertag blazing across the giant LED screen, a mark of celebration for his victory, was one time that I truly felt ashamed to be a part of the FGC. The fact that every announcement he does on Twitter about a tournament he will attend in 2020 gets hundreds of fawning praise from random FGC’ers on Twitter continues to turn my stomach.
But what can I do? I’m just one person, but after everything I saw with my sister-in-law, I knew that I couldn’t stand idly by while this guy did everything in his power to hide from his guilt. I don’t have a big voice, but if no one else is going to collect all the pieces that are out there, then why not me? Maybe no one will care all that much, but at the very least I can say that I tried to put the truth out there.
Truthfully, I’m tired of being angry at anyone who speaks praise of Lee. It doesn’t serve any purpose, and there are far too many to be angry at. Instead, all I can do is turn my anger towards the people whom I believe have done the most to whitewash what Lee has done – Lee himself, and Panda Global, who tried to do the right thing and ultimately ended up making a bunch of excuses for Lee. I’m sure none of them intended for it to be that way, but in going out of their way to protect themselves from danger, they opened up the floodgates for abuse towards the victim, and I think that’s unacceptable.
I don’t expect everyone to agree with me, and that’s fine; if I learned anything in my time in education, it’s that you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make it drink. If none of this information sways you, then God be with you, because I don’t know what else I could say. But if your blood gets as angered up as my does when you read this, then share it. If you see people asking what the deal is with Infiltration, show them this. Make them see how his statements match up with that of his victims, see how he lies about his punishment, see how unrepentant he has been for the past two years, but most of all, make them see how the FGC is partly responsible for this man’s continued abuse of his spouse.