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Netizens Fly High and Above Korean Gov't
Candlelight demonstrators take their fight online
Jo Eun-mi (internews)     Print Article 
Published 2008-07-07 18:00 (KST)   
Netizens these days have the following motto: "If I don't trust the news, then I go to find the source myself."

The netizen investigators are frightening. They're sharp. They quickly go and analyze Chosun Ilbo or Dong-ah Ilbo articles. They quickly investigate statements from the government and provide alternative policies. One netizen criticizes: "How can a government that doesn't even know how to turn on a computer understand how the internet works?

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What Netizen Investigators Can Dig Up

One newspaper reported that, "Stores in the Gwanghwamun area are near-bankruptcy because of the two-month long candlelight protests." The head of the Jongro-gu chapter of Korea Restaurant Association condemned the candlelight protests for their lack of business. Various store owners took up placards and criticized the candlelight protests.

Netizens were faster than mainstream media in getting to the truth of the matter.

They found that the anti-candlelight vigil business owners were far from neutral and were supporters of President Lee Myung-bak. The quoted storeowner was head of the Jongro-gu chapter and owner of "Harimgak" Haehwa Noodle Shop. Netizens found a book written by Nam Sang-hae, owner of "Harimgak." They found that Nam Sang-hae was a member of the ruling Grand National party and a preparation committee member for President Lee's inauguration ceremony. He was a past head of the Korea Restaurant Association. The current head of the Korean Restaurant Association was also national committee member of the Grand National Party.

Here is another case in point. The "Nongshim" corporation has been attacked for being an advertiser on Chosun Ilbo. Nongshim earned the ire of netizens by being unfriendly to people criticizing Nongshim's advertisements on Chosun Ilbo and by continuing to advertise there regardless. There was an interesting response by netizens to Nongshim in an online community called '82cook' formed by women interested in cooking.

A netizen wrote a post on the '82cook' site. The blogger wrote that he was an 'average' Korean salaryman who loves ramen. He wrote that he didn't think it fair that netizens start this consumer boycott campaign of Nongshim.

Other netizens were suspicious and investigated further. They discovered that this 'average' ramen lover was an employee of Nongshim. They found that his IP address belonged to Nongshim.

This instance of astro-turfing backfired on Nongshim. Angered netizens focused more on their boycott campaign of Nongshim. Netizens pointed to instances of 'foreign materials' found in Nongshim products and called them "Cockroach ramen."

In contrast, Samyang Ramen had record sales after it announced that it would not advertise on Chosun Ilbo. Shortly after, Chosun Ilbo reported that 'foreign materials' were found in Samyang products. Following Chosun Ilbo's report, netizens ranked Samyang even higher on their list of preferred companies to buy from. Not only instant ramen products but even biscuits and milk products from Samyang were actively promoted by housewives online.

Samyang company's stock rose as well. Samyang company stock rose eleven days straight in June. During the last two weeks of June, the company stock rose from 14,500 won to 41,450 won, a 186 percent jump.

Netizens not only marched at the candlelight protests, but they also worked the phones and the Internet. Their online campaigns were creative and only limited by their imagination.

It all began with campaign against Chosun Ilbo subscriptions. Then they began to boycott campaign of companies that advertise on Chosun Ilbo. Every day, netizens posted a list of Chosun Ilbo advertisers and their contact details. Netizens phoned up the advertisers and complained. Companies that continued to advertise on ChoJoongDong saw their profits decrease and ChoJoonDong saw their advertising revenue decrease.

At the request of Chosun Ilbo, the government agency "Korea Communications Standards Commission," stepped in The Commission advised that the consumer boycott campaigns waged on "Daum" portal site are illegal. Take down measures were communicated to Daum, but this neither surprised nor stopped Korean netizens.

They prepared against Daum's take down measure, by making alternative sites on Google. Video segments that may be deleted from domestic portal sites were uploaded onto YouTube. Netizens wrote that they uploaded their materials onto sites on Google because no Korean group could easily send 'take down' letters to a huge global corporations like Google. Furthermore they argued that, "no old-fashioned laws and opinions can control the free web."

The netizens prepared for the possibility that their materials may be deleted from Daum's "Agora" websites by making an Agorian (agorian.kr) site and also "Google Agora."

Netizens showed that in the open web, they would always win at the game of playing hide and seek with the authorities.

How Netizens cope with Chosun Ilbo and Portal Site Naver

Netizens' ways of dealing with Chosun Ilbo, one of Korea's leading newspaper, and Naver, Korean portal site, evolve day after day. They find new methods every day. Netizens never fail to find some new way to damage Chosun Ilbo. One method they found was to do with the Chosun Ilbo sponsor link. Doing a search on a portal site brings up a "sponsor link." If any of the sponsor links are clicked, then the company that is registered under the sponsor link then would have to pay a fee to the portal site.

Netizens listed more than 20 web addresses. For example, if one looks up Chosun Ilbo on the portal Daum, then a website Chosun Ilbo Morning plus a sponsor link is shown. Then what happens this site is clicked? Chosun Ilbo would then have to pay the sponsor link fee to Daum.

There is also another way. Many netizens were disappointed by Naver's 'media censorship' of the candlelight vigils and decided to change their home page to Daum instead. But they didn't just stop with this. Netizens said that even "Naver Knowledge iN" (ask Naver application) should be termianted. They reasoned that Naver gained so much traffic because of the 'Knowledge iN' application, therefore netizens insisted in deleting all answers on the 'Knowledge iN'. Many of the netizens deleted their answers. They have also quit playing online games at Naver, which is a major source of revenue for Naver.

What if you have to go to Naver for the Naver Blogs you signed up? Don't worry, there is a "Way not to look at Naver Ads": Ways to help you delete all the ads that come up on the Naver site when you visit them. One netizen suggested; under the internet 'Tool' link, you go to 'Internet Options' then you add 'ad.naver.com''adc.naver.com' etc... on the 'Restricted Sites' bar under 'Security'. So if you add the 10 somewhat web addresses on to the 'Restricted Sites' that this netizen suggested, you will not see the ads on Naver.

Citizens Without Borders

The Internet has no borders.

Netizens knew. Preparing for candlelight vigils on weekends, netizens were not surprised by the unusually frequent mistakes by domestic weather reports. There were various conspiracy theories about the government weather service trying to stop the candlelight vigils. Information is power. Netizens did not rely on the weather forecasts given by the government weather service. They compared weather forecasts with weather reports from Japanese news sites.

Korean netizens overseas also actively took part. Korean-American homemaker Lee Seon-young's story on the "100-minute Debate Show" has become quite famous. Furthermore, Amnesty International, the world's largest human rights organization, has sent an investigator to investigate human rights violations related to the candlelight vigil. It was the first time Amnesty sent an investigator to Korea. This was in part due to netizens who used BBC news reports to convince Amnesty to send an investigator to Korea. It was the work of the organization, "Overseas Korean Mad Cow Disease Countermeasure Temporary Committee'.

The Amnesty investigator said she will investigate major reports by overseas Koreans on issues such as the detainment of a 12 year old, baby strollers hit with fire extinguishers and direct shooting of water cannons at protesters. The continuous efforts of local and overseas Koreans to inform Amnesty led to the investigation.

Translation by OhmyNews intern Jin Hye-ji and staff member Cynthia Yoo.
©2008 OhmyNews

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