[KS] Korean Commons?

Frank Hoffmann hoffmann at koreaweb.ws
Thu Sep 6 07:31:16 EDT 2012

Fine, Lauren, but you did not say anything of how you link THAT (your 
understanding of the CC licensing system) to historical Korea. As I 
understand it, that was what this discussion was/is all about. Several 
movements related to the Internet and copyrights in "the West" (resp. 
the attempts to 'update' or redefine copyrights) make such historical 
claims to the "commons" as detailed in writing in the medieval England 
(pointed out by John Eperjesi). It was then the question if Korea also 
had anything such as an "commons" agreement which someone today could 
refer to (within the same political fight). Referring to the CC 
licensing system does not relate to Korea in this sense. 

It might be more fruitful to--again and again--reverse even this 
question, this theme: apart from that fact that Korea was over the past 
30 or 40 years a "fast developing country," are there possibly other 
explanations why copyrights, trademarks, etc. are being violated to 
such a high degree? (Korea and China are at the same time among the 
leading hacker countries in the world, with many millions of outgoing 
attacks on servers world-wide, every day.) I understand this is a 
political incorrect and insensitive statement and related question to 
ask. But only so *because* we are obliged to play by our own rule sets 
and ethics, and these again are dictated by our late-modern capitalist 
system, a social-political system with a long history. And that history 
varies in every country, goes back to various local understandings in 
pre-capitalist society, including the "commons" when it comes to e.g. 
England. I think what many of the Internet activists such as the 
'Pirates' and others are saying is that late-modern capitalism has 
step-by-step altered older rule sets and our ethical understanding 
according to the economic needs of venture capitalism. They see the 
Internet as a second chance, as a kind of parallel market and parallel 
social system to the existing political world-system. That might make 
sense to some degree. As you know, there are now even alternative 
Internet currencies such as Bitcoin being used which are succeeding to 
circumvent the national (and EU) financial systems, while still 
building a value relation to them (which allows exchanges just as 
between regular currencies). These are all signs of a parallel market, 
and there is a good chance that this succeeds over time. This ongoing 
parallel market is now looking for parallel rule sets, e.g. a 
replacement of the national and international copyright conventions (of 
which we have several sets also: Berne Convention, etc.) and trademark 
agreements. The CC licensing system you refer to is one such attempt; 
there are others. And again, such contemporary political movements are 
trying to legitimate their efforts by pointing to historical parallels, 
pre-capitalist parallels--and the naming "commons" and the references 
to British history is such a case. The question though, and that is how 
I understood John Eperjesi, was if there is anything in Korean history 
that parallels "commons" in England. To me this question in itself 
seems a question asked from a Euramerican perspective, looking at an 
(again) mostly U.S. initiated movement that is adapted in Asia as well. 
I would rather want to know if the late-capitalist rule sets and ethics 
(all with a long pre-capitalist development history) that we have in 
Euramerica are identical to the rule set and ethics that govern market 
and social life in Korea. If that is not the case, if a major part of 
the fast economic development in Korea (and Japan earlier and now in 
China) operates on different rules and ethics, e.g. as regards to 
authorship, copyrights, etc., then the question asked by John Eperjesi 
does not get us anywhere. To be sure, of course is Korea (now even 
North Korea with its copyright laws) on the surface operating under the 
same rule sets that Europe and America do, and it fastly adapts more 
and more of those. Still, the historical roots of capitalism and the 
political system cannot so easily be compared, and the question we 
should ask should be starting with the situation in Korea as it is 
today. I am not sure what a better question would be (in relation to 
historical Korea), but this particular question being discussed here 
seems not to make all too much sense. 


Frank Hoffmann

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