Korean Demonstrations Show Strength of Net (and Cartoon) Organizing

(There has been candlelight demonstration everyday for over one month, and today there will be biggest demonstration. 6 June, today is a historical day in Korea in remembrance of 6.10 struggle of 1987, when Korean people fought against the military dictatorship and win our democracy, eg direct election of President. Now Korean people are preparing 2nd historical 6.10 today.--Byoung-il Oh) From Ohmynews: A cartoon circulating online and published in the Internet newspaper Pressian captures the gulf between Korean citizens and netizens and the conservative government officials they are demonstrating against. The cartoon shows a caricature of President Lee on a balcony above the protesters. Standing beside him is a mad cow. Lee is dressed in a police uniform and on his helmet is written 2MB. 2MB is the pejorative nickname netizens have given him. 2MB is both a pun on Lee's name (Lee in Korean sounds the same as the word for 2) and MB stands for Lee's initials and for the computer term megabytes. 2MB represents the limited mental capacity netizens attribute to Lee.In the cartoon an arrow from the word 3MB pointing to the mad cow indicates it has a mental capacity of 3MB. Lee is shown asking how the people protesting pay for their candles, repeating the rumor that the protesters are being influenced from behind the scenes by someone manipulating them. The people respond that they pay for their candles from their own money. That they are not being manipulated but are protesting voluntarily for reasons of their own. The mad cow tells Lee that he should use more intelligence when talking to the people. The description accompanying the cartoon referred to the public sphere provided by the Internet where netizens discuss and argue over issues. Lee is presented in the description with the cartoon, as failing to understand the Internet and its process of collectively developed knowledge. Instead, he relies on conservative news media like the newspaper Chosun Ilbo.


In the past, conservative newspapers like Chosun Ilbo were able to instruct politicians in the actions they should take. This represented a source of political power for the conservative media. With the Internet and the emergence of netizens, this old form of political activity is being challenged. As the cartoon demonstrates, the issue of what is an appropriate model for democracy for South Korea is a hot topic among netizens. Koreans have a proud tradition of struggle against the former military dictatorship in South Korea. The Internet makes the old forms of hierarchical governance structures less tenable. In their place, it is becoming possible to create horizontal structures where all netizens can discuss and contribute in an equal fashion.


The old institutional forms, like Lee's government structures, rely on vertical forms that are hierarchical. But these hierarchical forms are no longer adequate for the needs of the modern era. The netizen movement in South Korea has pioneered how to create new democratic structures using the Internet and the horizontal forms it makes possible. [3] Among the forms that are being explored are a media using the Internet to provide live TV coverage of the demonstrations, the posting of many videos and photos and continuous online discussion and debate. One of the online video sites is the OhmyTV site, where there is live 24 hour coverage of the demonstrations. The candlelight demonstrations, along with extensive discussion among netizens online, represent recognition among citizens and netizens that there is a need to broaden the forms of democracy in South Korea. The determination that no politicians be allowed to take the country back to its recent authoritarian past, is driving a resurgence of netizen activism that has not only surprised Korean politicians but American government officials as well. This resurgence of democratic activism in South Korea is setting an important example for how the Internet and netizens can help in the struggle for more democracy and against the neoliberal agenda. A 72-hour demonstration was held from June 5-7 and continued afterward. [5] Another demonstration is planned for Tuesday, June 10, to mark the 21st anniversary of the democratic uprising in South Korea that ended the military autocratic rule.

Several members of the on-line collective Jinbonetwere arrested and held for 48 hours (the maximum for police to hold people without trial.)