[KS] Comments rippling through Korea: Readers' comments culture in Korean internet

Kye C Kim kc.kim2 at gmail.com
Fri Jul 16 06:02:23 EDT 2010


In my view, perhaps the fiercest battles for the hearts and minds of
the citizens take place in the Korean cyberspace, even when viewed
globally. This is a fascinating world with comments, counter comments
and counter-counter comments, some spanning over 10,000 ripples per
news issue.  Where else in the world can you see such OUT-VOICING
of views?

I would like to offer my own personal observations and would like to
ask for the views of the multinational members of this list on how
these observations compare with other countries.  If there are
scholarly studies of this phenomenon already completed or in
progress, I would very much like to hear about it.

I guess the first time this peculiarly Korean phenomenon was noted
by the rest of the world was during the election of President Roh,
where even The New York Times took notice of the role of Ohmynews,
a start-up by a former journalism student in the US.

I too found the readers' comments section of particular interest, as it
offered a wealth of spontaneous, from-the-heart stream of consciousness
voices, the kind that is nowhere else to be found, and certainly not in the
very formal articles which followed the strictures of the norms of "formal"
Korean language standards.  Here you hear the dialects, dis-grammaticalisms,
pauses and exclamations that more closely mirror real  voices in unguarded

Sometimes the voices were brazen, rude, grating, and sometimes
beautifully poetic and reflective.  And all of these aspects seemed to be
heightened by the assurance of anonymity.

The pictures have changed dramatically since the Roh elections.
No trace of these ripples can any longer be found in the archives
of Ohmynews website.  Perhaps understandable as storage takes
money and there were more comments than articles.  But insofar
as Ohmynews was as much about the readers comments as it was
about the formal articles published in the site( actually I would
lean toward the greater significance of the comments), I think this
archiving policy leaves the taste of Half-bakedness.

Initially, the mantle of leadership passed very quickly as major
portal sites like Naver, Daum, and the late commer Nate upped
the ante by providing greater sophistication in doing and viewing
the rippling, such as providing the demographic stats about the

However, the greatest fault line of change was the government
enforced Real-Name policy and the politicization of the internet
portals, such as the development at Daum which can no longer
link to the news articles from many of the major dailies in Korea.
Naver is no longer seen as neutral podium for views, and there
is hardly any reader response to be found in their news pages.
Nate seems to have escaped being scraped by the conflict and
has benefited from middle roading and now enjoy the largest
readership and largest reader responses.  But given the
experiences of the last few years, and given that KOREA is a
constant HOTSPOT of controversies, it remains to be seen
whether Nate can navigate the murky waters without hitting
the hidden crags.

I believe it is an important channel that needs to be kept open,
and I hope that the next round of , certain, controversies will
still be able to see the ten thousand flowers that bloom daily in
the Korean cyberspace.

Joobai Lee



Following is the link to the 10000 flowers on 7/15/2010 in Korean cyberspace

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