From the Cheonan incident in March to the latest North Korean attack on Yeonpyeong island, Global Voices takes a look back at the year’s hottest keywords that have been widely circulated on Korean internet venues.
March: The Cheonan incident and conspiracy theories
A South Korean warship, the Cheonan, was sunk in the West Sea on 26 March by an alleged North Korean torpedo attack, killing 46 sailors. While the government was busy dealing with this tragic disaster, Korean bloggers raised various conspiracy theories and gave out different explanations for this mysterious incident. As tensions between the two Koreas intensified over the year, most rumors with their own versions of who attacked the Cheonan, have gradually disappeared. (China and Hong Kong's Responses to the Incident, By Oiwan Lam)
June: North Korean ‘Face-girl’
A North Korean YouTube video of a pretty North Korean girl bragging about her high living standard made a hit in South Korea around June. The ‘North Korean Face-girl’, a nickname given to the YouTube girl by South Korean bloggers, praised its regime and leader Kim Jong-il for his generosity to her family and showed how affluent and happy her life is. But South Koreans, pointing out that a computer she uses is made by a U.S. company that North Korea despises, mocked this as the same old propaganda in a new fashion. (Read More)
July (Business/South Korea): Advent of Smartphones and Mega-Tweeters
The astronomical growth of Smartphones and Twitter in South Korea were game changers in the business sector. Samsung, one of South Korea's biggest companies, waged a fierce battle with Apple in smartphone markets. Many homegrown South Korean social networking services faced uphill battles against Twitter. As more than one million South Koreans became Tweeters, Mega-Tweeters who have more than several thousand followers sprang up and have started gaining power. (Read More)
July and August: North Korean Twitter- high risk with no gain.
North Korea opened its Twitter account, an irony in a notoriously reclusive nation. North Korean twitter account @Uriminzok (‘our nation’ in Korean) drew huge media attention worldwide, gaining more than thousands of followers overnight, as international media craved even a glimpse of the hermit kingdom. This instant interest was gradually lost as the regime's tweets proved to be no more than several-decades-old propaganda and blatant self-praise. South Koreans visited its twitter account less and less after the government blocked its page for security reasons. Many Koreans felt visiting the site by breaching the government guideline was an act with high risk but no benefit at all, since the site only contained lavish self-praise for its corrupt regime. (The account was accessible from the South Korean side only for few days.)
July: The 2010 FIFA World Cup and Jong Tae-se
The FIFA World Cup fever briefly thawed the inter-Korean tension among the public. Under the World Cup anesthesia, people focused on the North Korean people and players, rather than its regime. Jung Tae-se, a North Korean football player whose origin is in the South, gained a huge popularity in South Korea. However, after the game ended, a tragic story which many wished to be a rumor spread around local media that the North Korean national football team was reprimanded by its regime over their poor game results. (Read More)
September: Kim Jong-un, the ‘Son-Pig’
As Kim’s youngest son, Kim Jong-un was made the regime’s heir, numerous analyses and comments inundated online forums. The reaction to the news ranged from serious commentaries on how young and dangerously inexperienced Kim will rule the already devastated nation, to countless harsh jokes mocking Kim’s appearance, calling him ‘the son pig’. (China's reaction to the succession, By Andy Yee)
October: Reunification Tax and Mt. Baek-du
Despite constant conflict with its northern counterpart, the South Korean government saw the reunification of two Koreas as a mission within its reach and went on suggesting a reunification tax, prompting widespread public discussion. One speculation that worries the Korean public has been the Mt. Baekdu eruption scenario raised by many geologists. Experts said that if North Korea’s highest mountain with an active volcanic core, Mt. Baekdu, were to erupt, the aftermath will be ten times more destructive than Iceland's eruption in April. North Korean experts said the eruption will trigger a rapid shift and meltdown of North Korea regime. (Read More)
November: The Yeonpyeong incident
North Korea attached Yeonpyeong island, a South Korean populated island near its western border with heavy artillery fire on 23 November. As the breaking news was heard, people tweeted madly on how they felt, what they should be doing in case of an emergency and future scenarios. The incident, which deteriorated the hard-earned South-North Korean relations, sent a wake-up call to young South Koreans who had become used to the peaceful situation. Read More: (The night of skirmish; Reactions from Japanese side, by Scilla Alecci; and Reactions from Russian side, by Masha Egupova )
November-December (Business/South Korea): Pizza and Chicken controversies that eclipsed the WikiLeak's case.
From November to December, people focused on the big chain stores encroaching on the territory of small businesses with low-priced products. The E-mart’s pizza and the Lotte Mart’s chicken came under fire for providing the same items with higher quality at lower prices, almost devouring local pizza and chicken parlors.
Bloggers who used to side with small business owners during the E-mart’s pizza controversy, leaned toward the Lotte Mart's chicken that disappeared a few weeks after its debut. The weird controversy and huge fuss created over the price of chicken, have swept the nation for several weeks now, even prompting the President to comment on the chicken's price. (Read More)