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December 13 2013

South Korea's ‘Gas Tank Grandpas’ Block Protests in US

Notorious right wing extremists who go by their nickname ‘Gas Tank Grandpas‘ have continued to obstruct protests held by South Koreans living in the United States against the snowballing election manipulation allegations.

Storify user @wjsfree shared images of right wing groups trying to block a small peaceful demonstration held at Yale University earlier this week. Youtube user biophysics7 shared raw footage of the clash embedded below.

Back in September, protesters even caught on tape (no English subtitle yet) one of these ‘Grandpas’ accidentally divulging, while obstructing a candlelight vigil in New York City, that they were paid 100 dollars per protest they block by powerhouses and conservative political groups.

Identified by their extreme language, bandannas and military uniforms, these violent ‘Grandpas’ are exclusively comprised of elderly men well over 50 and have earned their nickname for wielding all sorts of weapons, including a portable gas tank, a fire extinguisher and sticks, while calling protesters ‘Anti-government commies'.

December 12 2013

Nelson Mandela's Death: ‘Left Us in Body, But His Spirit Is Eternal’

Since former South African President and anti-apartheid icon Nelson Mandela's death on December 5, 2013, people throughout the world have reflected on the beloved leader's life and the legacy he leaves behind.

Here are 6 reactions from around the world :

United Kingdom

Musa Okwonga, a poet and author based in London, noted on his blog that Mandela was first and foremost a revolutionary who went to war against injustice in his country before he was a symbol of peace and reconciliation:

Over the next few days you will try so, so hard to make him something he was not, and you will fail. You will try to smooth him, to sandblast him, to take away his Malcolm X. [..] You will say that Mandela was about nothing but one love, you will try to reduce him to a lilting reggae tune. “Let’s get together, and feel alright.” [..] Well, try hard as you like, and you’ll fail. Because Mandela was about politics and he was about race and he was about freedom and he was even about force, and he did what he felt he had to do and given the current economic inequality in South Africa he might even have died thinking he didn’t do nearly enough of it.

Madagascar

Mialisoa, a blogger in Antananarivo, Madagascar, expressed her deep respect and gratitude for the life lessons she's taken from Mandela in a post titled Bonne Route, Monsieur [fr] (Safe Travels, Sir):  

Un jour, Monsieur, je m’assoirais près de mes enfants et je leur lirais votre histoire. Un jour, mes enfants s’assoiront près de leurs enfants et ils leur liront votre histoire. Grâce à vous, je sais et grâce à vous, je continuerais à apprendre:
Je sais de qui parler, lorsque viendra le temps d’expliquer à mes enfants ce qu’est un homme de courage et de conviction.
Je sais de quels principes s’inspirer lorsque viendra le temps d’élever les miens.
Je sais l’importance de la réconciliation. Avec soi-même et avec son prochain.
Je sais la valeur du pardon.
Je sais le précieux de l’égalité.
Je sais qu’il est possible de rendre les hommes et soi-même, meilleurs.
Je sais le bien que créent l’humilité, l’humour et l’audace. [..] 
Je sais, Monsieur, que je n’en sais pas assez. Je sais bien que je suis loin de savoir. Aussi, la meilleure manière de vous rendre hommage, Monsieur, est de continuer à apprendre et apprendre à agir. Et que Dieu nous vienne en aide, car le temps d’agir est maintenant venu.
Monsieur, merci. Je vous souhaite une bonne route.

One day, sir, I will sit with my children and read them your story. One day, my children will sit with their children and read them your story. Thanks to you, I know and thanks to you, I will keep learning:
I know of whom to speak, when the time comes to explain to my children what makes a man of courage and conviction.
I know what principles to draw on when the time comes to raise mine.
I know the importance of reconciliation. With ourselves and with our fellow people.
I know the value of forgiveness.
I know the value of equality.
I know it is possible to make humankind and ourselves better.
I know the good that humility, humor, and boldness can do. [...] 
I know, sir, that I do not know enough. I know very well that I am far from knowing. So the best way to pay tribute to you, sir, is to continue to learn and learn to act. God help us, for the time to act has now come.
Thank you, sir. I wish you a safe journey. 

Toavina, a political analyst from Antananarivo,  recalled on his Facebook page Madagascar's role [fr] in supporting Nelson Mandela's African National Congress (ANC), the  resistance movement against apartheid and now South Africa's governing political party: 

N'oubliez pas chers Malgaches, que MADAGASCAR a aidé le peuple Noir Sud-Africain ! Nous avons hébergé sous la Deuxième Rep la Radio de l'ANC. Piet Botha, Ministre des affaires étrangères de l'Afrique du Sud est venu à Madagascar pour discuter du cas de l'afrique du Sud avec l'ancien président Ratsiraka. De Klerk est aussi venu à Mada dans les années 90.

Do not forget, dear Madagascans, that MADAGASCAR helped the back people of South Africa! We broadcasted ANC's radio station during our Second Republic. Pik Botha, South Africa's Minister of Foreign Affairs, came to Madagascar to discuss the South African situation with former President Ratsiraka. De Klerk also came to Madagascar in the '90s. 

Mali

While it was hard for him to find the words, Boukary Konaté, a Global Voices contributor in Bamako wanted to commemorate the man [fr]:

« repose en paix », car je n’ai pas de mots. Je n’ai pas de mots car tous les mots sont insignifiants pour exprimer ce que je veux dire. Alors, je me tais, je me tais dans mes murmures internes

“Rest in peace,” for I have no words. I have no words because no words are sufficient to express what I want to say. So, I'll stay silent, I'll keep quiet with my inner thoughts.

He added [fr]: 

Je suis fier qu'il y ait une Rue Mandela et une Ecole Mandela à Bamako au Mali. Je vais toute de suite pour une interview avec le Directeur de l'Ecole Mandela.

I am proud that there is a Mandela Street and a Mandela School in Bamako, Mali. I'm going to have an interview right away with the Mandela School's principal.

Here is the school in question:

This teacher at the #Mandela school began the morning by talking about the man with his first-grade students #Mali pic.twitter.com/0gwSg5lrPg
— Boukary Konaté (@Fasokan) December 6, 2013

Niger

Aminatou, a women's right activist in Niamey, Niger shared this thoughts [fr] about Mandela and education:

Mandela est une source inépuisable d’inspiration. Sa phrase sur l’éducation résonne fortement aux oreilles de tous :
« L’Éducation : l’arme la plus puissante que l’on puisse utiliser pour changer le monde. »

Mandela is an endless source of inspiration. What he said about education resonates strongly with everyone:
“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.”

France

Archippe, a French-based Cameroonian blogger and president of Internet sans frontières, pointed out a lesson for African countries to take away on his Facebook page [fr]:

Nelson Mandela nous aura enseigné une chose essentielle à nous africains, à nous humains: on peut vraincre par les armes, le nombre, la rhétorique, mais la vraie victoire, celle qui marque les siècles, est celle de l'esprit enchanté. Le corps de mandela n'est plus, son esprit est éternel.

Nelson Mandela will have taught us, us Africans, us humans, one essential thing: We can conquer with weapons, with numbers, and with rhetoric, but the real victory, what leaves its mark for centuries, is that of the soul. Mandela has left us in body, but his spirit is eternal.

An Algerian leader, through Alexandre Adler, a well-known french political blogger, commented on the impact the “Mandela approach” [fr] of inter-ethnic reconciliation could have had in Algeria:

Il y a quelques années, un dirigeant algérien nous confia que la «ligne Mandela» de réconciliation inter-ethnique aurait évidemment mieux convenu à l’Algérie de 1962 que le départ précipité des Européens et des juifs qui fut consommé en moins d’un an. Mais, ajoutait-il, «à cette époque, nous n’avions pas les idées de Mandela, et celles-ci nous serviraient bien aujourd’hui».

A few years ago, an Algerian leader confided that the “Mandela approach” of interethnic reconciliation would have evidently been better for Algeria in 1962 than the sudden departure of Europeans and Jews that came to pass in less than a year. “But,” he added, “At the time, we didn't have Mandela's ideas, and today they would serve us well.”

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December 11 2013

India Loves Gold. So Why Did Actress Rima Kallingal Get Married Without It?

Earlier this year price of Gold fell considerably in India prompting people in large number to rush to Shops to buy Gold. Image by Sanjoy Karmakar. Copyright Demotix (18/4/2013)

Earlier this year, the price of gold fell considerably in India, prompting people in large numbers to rush to shops to buy the precious metal. Image by Sanjoy Karmakar. Copyright Demotix (18/4/2013)

The southwestern Indian state of Kerala has an unparalleled hunger for gold. Nicknamed “gold's own country” by the New York Times last year, the state counts for only 3 percent of the population in India, but consumes 20 percent of the country's gold every year. Some of the largest gold showrooms in Asia are found in Kerala. Newborn babies here are fed gold dust and honey as a tradition. Brides are commonly draped from head to toe in gold. 

That's why Indian movie actress Rima Kallingal, who is from Kerala, recently made waves when she married in a simple ceremony sans the precious metal. At a time when many of her fellow film stars often appear as brand ambassadors to jewelry shops, her decision made a statement.

She explained her reasoning on Facebook:

പ്രിയരെ, നവംബർ ഒന്നാം തിയതി, കേരളപിറവി ദിനത്തിൽ ഞങ്ങൾ വിവാഹിതരാവുന്ന വിവരം സസന്തോഷം അറിയിക്കട്ടെ. ഞങളുടെ മാതാപിതാക്കളുടെയും സുഹൃത്തുക്കളുടെയും സാനിദ്ധ്യത്തിൽ എറണകുളം കാക്കനാട് രെജിസ്ട്രാർ ഓഫീസിൽ ഒരു രജിസ്റ്റർ വിവാഹത്തിൽ ഒതുങ്ങും ചടങ്ങുകൾ. ബന്ധുക്കളേയും, സഹപ്രവർത്തകരെയും, സുഹൃത്തുക്കളേയും, മാധ്യമപ്രവർത്തകരേയും ക്ഷണിച്ച് വിരുന്ന് നൽകേണ്ട നാട്ടുനടപ്പുണ്ട് എങ്കിലും, തല്ക്കാലം ആ ചിലവുകൾ ഒഴിവാക്കി നിങ്ങളുടെ എല്ലാവരുടെയും പേരിൽ വിവാഹ ചിലവുകൾകായുള്ള പണം എറണകുളം സർകാർ ആശുപത്രിയിൽ അർബുദ രോഗത്തോടു മല്ലിടുന്ന സാധാരണക്കാരായ രോഗികളുടെ ചികിത്സക് വേണ്ടി കൊടുക്കുകയാണ്. ഈ തുക ഞങളുടെ രണ്ടുപേരുടെയും സിനിമയിൽ നിന്നുള്ള വരുമാനമാണ്‌. എല്ലാവരുടെയും സ്നേഹത്തിനും പിന്തുണക്കും നന്ദി പറയന്നു. എം പി. പി രാജീവിനോടും, എറണകുളം ജനറൽ ആശുപത്രിയിലെ ഡോക്റെര്മാരോടും, അതോടൊപ്പം ഞങളുടെ മനസറിഞ്ഞ് കൂടെ നിന്ന മാതാപിതാക്കളോടും സുഹൃത്തുക്കളോടും പ്രത്യേകം നന്ദി അറിയിക്കുന്നു.

സ്നേഹത്തോടെ -
റിമ കല്ലിങ്കൽ, ആഷിഖ് അബു

Actress Rima Kallingal. Image via WIkimedia Commons. CC BY-SA

Actress Rima Kallingal. Image via Wikimedia Commons. CC BY-SA

Today, if my grandmother were alive, she would have been ecstatic to see me as a bride, but at the same time heartbroken to see me not dressed in gold from head to toe! From a very young age, I knew that I didn't want to wear so much gold for my marriage… For aesthetic reasons…

But as I grew up, the feeling grew stronger on many other levels, and today when I am getting married, I want to use this beautiful life that I have and this amazing platform that cinema has given me to send out my strong vote of protest against the dowry system that we still shamelessly and silently follow and dedicate my decision to the millions of parents who have spent their life earnings on their children's weddings!

Today, I won't be wearing a single gram of gold :)

Kerala's long history of gold

History has well documented the gold craze of many civilizations and cultures. Pharaohs, kings, emperors, and the so-called 49s of the American West all had a taste for the precious metal.

India's love for gold is much more than just investment. It has an emotional, cultural, religious and socio-political angle to it. India's love for this yellow metal dates back over 4,000 years when people of the Indus Valley first incorporated gold into jewelry. It also has a history of survival; gold was something one could keep as a reserve and could be passed on easily without any bureaucratic interference. Millions of people in India have invested in businesses or securities by pledging their gold jewelry.

People's attachment to the precious metal runs deep. Were it not for gold, the average Indian’s lot through history could have been a lot worse. That's why the story of Nirupama, a 9-year-old girl who gave up all her gold jewelry to benefit the struggle for freedom against the British in 1934 when India was still under colonial rule is still powerful.

Kerala's history with gold began when Romans traded the metal for spices. Today, more than 200,000 people in Kerala work in the gold industry, and the state is said to have more than 5,000 retailers. 

Some of the more visible evidence of this gold obsession can be seen at weddings, where brides wearing so much of the precious metal that the weight of it all can make it harder to move about gracefully are a common sight. 

‘Dowry is not just about gold’

Even though it is illegal, dowry (wealth transferred from bride's family to groom and groom's family) is not an uncommon feature of life in Kerala, though the fashion of brides wearing gold ornaments on their wedding day isn't necessarily part of the dowry custom. With the rise of dowry-related violence and deaths in India over the last decade, the tradition is a cause for concern.

Many social media users were elated at actress Rima Kallingal's decision not to wear gold during her wedding as a statement against the dowry system. 

Siya Siyaa, a woman who lives in Dubai, said she would try to pass on Kallingal's same values to her children:

Lv u reema… if it was now (my marriage) i wuld hav takn same stand.. nw i can try to instill these views in my offsprings… :)

Blogan pondered on his blog why media didn't give the actress much attention on the issue:

ഒരു ജനതയുടെ സ്വര്‍ണ്ണ ഭ്രമത്തെ ഒരു പെണ്ണ് സ്വന്തം വിവാഹം കൊണ്ട് വെല്ലുവിളിച്ചപ്പോള്‍ അത് ചര്‍ച്ച ചെയ്യാന്‍, ഇരുണ്ട ‘സ്വര്‍ണ്ണ മനസ്സുകളിലേക്ക്’ ഒരു നുറുങ്ങുവെട്ടമെങ്കിലും പകരാന്‍ അവസരം വന്നപ്പോള്‍ ‘സാമൂഹ്യ പ്രതിബദ്ധത’ മുഖ മുദ്രയാക്കി എഴുതിച്ചേര്‍ത്ത മാധ്യമ പന്നന്‍മാരൊന്നും മുന്നോട്ട് വന്നില്ല , 

അരക്ക് താഴേക്ക് അഭിരമിക്കാന്‍ ഒന്നുമില്ലാത്ത സ്ത്രീവിഷയങ്ങള്‍ ആര്‍ക്കുവേണം?
സഞ്ചരിക്കുന്ന ജ്വല്ലറികളായിക്കൊണ്ട് കല്യാണ മണ്ഡപത്തിലേക്ക് കയറിയ ചില നടിമാരുടെ വിവാഹങ്ങള്‍ ഇതേ മാധ്യമങ്ങള്‍ ആര്‍ഭാടമാക്കിയിരുന്നു എന്നുകൂടി ഓര്‍ക്കുക. 

A culture that's gold crazy should be ashamed that we didn't give much attention to Rima's stance, and the media never cared to discuss it given they salivate over every pompous wedding of the rich and famous. When every sexually exploited case is discussed to death, such a great gesture by a woman was not given any air time

A blogger only known as Film Critic wrote:

കല്യാണ ദിവസം തിരഞ്ഞെടുക്കുന്ന കാര്യം തൊട്ട് ആഷിക് – റീമ ജോടികള്‍ മലയാളിത്തവും , ലാളിത്യവും ഒരുപോലെ കാത്തുസൂക്ഷിച്ചു . എല്ലാ മതസ്ഥരും രഹസ്യമായി നാളും , മുഹൂര്‍ത്തവും നോക്കുന്ന ഇക്കാലത്ത് , മലയാളിത്തവും , കേരളീയതയും വാചകക്കസര്‍ത്തുകള്‍ മാത്രമാകുന്ന ഇക്കാലത്ത് , കേരളപ്പിറവി ദിനത്തില്‍ മുഹൂര്‍ത്തത്തിന്‍റെ തീട്ടൂരങ്ങളില്ലാതെ രണ്ടു റോസാപുഷ്പാലംകൃതമായ മാലകള്‍ പരസ്പരം അണിയിച്ച് ലളിതമായി അവര്‍ വിവാഹിതരായപ്പോള്‍ കാലാകാലങ്ങളായി നിലനില്‍ക്കുന്ന പല മാമൂലുകളും തകര്‍ന്നു വീണു .

I have many reservations about Rima and [husband] Ashiq, however they really walked the walked. With just simple rose garlands, they held a simple ceremony, which is a tremendously positive thing.

Indian Bride's typical Jewellery made of Gold. Image by Flickr user  Lokendra Nath Roy-Chowdhury. CC BY-NC-SA

Indian Bride's typical Jewellery. Image by Flickr user Lokendra Nath Roy-Chowdhury. CC BY-NC-SA

However, not all users were as delighted by the actress’ comments.

Resmi Vava, a research student at IISER-P, wrote on her Google Plus account:

സ്ത്രീധനമെന്നാല്‍ സ്വര്‍ണ്ണമെന്നു നിസ്സാര‌വത്കരിക്കുന്നതിനോടു യോജിപ്പില്ല എങ്കിലും..

Dowry is not just about gold, that's an oversimplification of the issue and I have reservations towards it. Yet, the views are interesting.

Sreebitha P. V., an assistant professor at the Central Univeristy of Karnataka, took an interesting position on the website Round Table India:

So it was not aesthetic reasons which prevented me from wearing gold. It was just that I was born in such socio-economic circumstances.

In fact, it is very easy for upper caste and upper class women like Rima to take a decision of not wearing gold for their marriage and to contribute lakhs for other causes. What about the OBCs and Dalits who cannot manage to wear gold even when they wish to do so, especially in the socio-cultural context of Kerala where gold symbolises social status! What about OBCs and Dalits who think that it is their right to gain this status by wearing gold? What about OBCs and Dalits who hopelessly believe that they can confront the casteist patriarchy by wearing gold?

Sreebitha also references the “Kallumala samaram” (stone necklace revolt) that took place in Kanjaveli, near Kollam in Kerala, where women of the lower (Pulaya caste had to fight against the upper caste to wear gold and stones.

When Indians still struggle with poor governance and a lacking social security net, and when rural areas still lack a good banking system, an investment they can even wear that brings with it the possibility of upward social mobility will remain the precious metal of choice.

December 09 2013

South Korea: ‘Netizen Investigator’ Talks about Election Manipulation Done via Twitter

Protests have continued for almost a year about the snowballing allegations that South Korean government bodies were engaged in an orchestrated effort to manipulate the latest presidential election. The very latest revelation tells [ko] that there are an additional 20 million tweets written by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to either smear the opposition candidates or praise the current President. This number easily surpasses last month’s count: 1.2 million tweets by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and 23 million tweets [ko] spread by the Defense Ministry's Cyberwarfare Command. 

Zaro profile photo sent via email. It is a picture of his young daughter holding a candlelight (detailed explanation photo is written below)

Zaro profile photo he sent via email. It is a picture of his young daughter holding a candlelight (detailed explanation of the photo is written below)

There is an ordinary individual who worked behind the scenes for a year to make this ground-breaking revelation possible– a 40-year-old net user who goes by his penname Zaro (@zarodream) [ko]. Zaro, who introduced himself as a full-time office worker who neither has technology background nor any political affiliations, kindly answered questions asked by Global Voices Korean editor via email.  

Q: Now many net users call you by your famed nickname ‘The Netizen Investigator’ [*note: it is a popular online term among young Koreans that initially refers to certain net users who are exceptionally skillful at guessing the full names of celebrities/public figures who are engaged in ugly scandals. Korean press reveals only initials of their names]. Since when have you started using your nickname and what this name entails?

제가 ‘네티즌 수사대'라고 스스로를 자처하게 된 것은 국정원 트위터의 흔적을 본격적으로 추적하면서부터 입니다. 사실 처음에는 직접 나서는 것이 부담스러워서 여러 언론사에 제가 발견한 내용들을 제보하는 것으로 출발했습니다. 그런데 대부분의 언론사에서는 제가 제보한 내용들을 무시하더군요. 그리고 보도를 하더라도 제한적인 폭에 그치더군요. 그래서 제가 직접 ‘네티즌 수사대'라는 이름을 내걸고 직접 공개하기 시작한 것입니다. 그러자 오히려 언론에서 저에게 더 많은 관심을 보이며 제가 만든 자료들을 보도하기 시작하더군요[...] 사안에 따라서는, 특히 증거인멸의 가능성이 있는 경우에는 언론사나 수사기관에 직접 따로 제보하는 경우도 많습니다. [...] 때로는 수사기관에서 어떤 방식으로 수사를 진행하면 좋을지에 대한 방법을 제안하기도 합니다. 실제로 검찰이 제 글을 읽었는지는 모르겠지만 검찰이 수사결과를 발표할 때 보면 제가 제안한 방식을 그대로 적용하고 있는 경우가 많더군요.

As I dedicate myself to tracking NIS’ trails on Twittersphere, I started calling myself ‘The Netizen Investigator’. Since there is a lot of pressure in publishing revelations under my name, at first, I merely passed along my findings to media outlets. However, most media companies ignored my reports. And even if some did report, they ended up using only small portions of my findings. That is why I decided to directly publish my findings. Once I did that, then the media showed sudden interest in me and started reporting about my findings … In some cases where my (premature) posting of information could lead to the destruction of evidence, then I contact media and investigative agencies directly and report them my findings… Sometimes, I suggest to investigative agencies specific ways of how to execute the investigations. Although no one can verify whether prosecutors have read my writings or not, I noticed that they followed some ways I suggested.

Q: You also run your personal blog. Are there other sites you usually go to and what do you usually write about?

블로그와 트위터 외에도 저는 ‘Daum 아고라', ‘오늘의 유머', ‘MLB파크'에서도 활발하게 활동하고 있습니다. 그런데 참으로 안타까운 것은 이 세곳 모두 국정원의 여론조작과 종북몰이로부터 자유롭지 않다는 것입니다. ‘Daum 아고라'의 경우 국정원 뿐만 아니라 탈북자 단체인 NK지식인연대가 조직적으로 여론조작을 벌인 곳입니다. ‘오늘의 유머'의 경우 국정원이 다수의 아이디로 추천-반대 조작을 한것도 모자라서 아예 종북 사이트로 낙인을 찍어버렸고, 이 사이트의 운영자인 이호철씨는 국정원으로부터 고소당한 상태입니다.

Beside my personal blog and Twitter account, I am active at these sites: Daum Agora, Todayhumor, MLB Park [ko] [note: Daum Agora is known to be an online venue where serious political debates are taking place, while Todayhumor is an online community site that hosts discussions/chitchats on various diverse topics including fashion, online games, celebrities and users’ personal worries and issues, not limited to politics] Unfortunately, all these three sites were not free from the NIS’ manipulation of public opinion scheme and their ‘pro-North Korean sympathizer’ rhetoric. In the case of Daum Agora, not only the NIS but the North Korea Intellectuals Solidarity carried out a systematic public opinion manipulation. On the TodayHumor site, NIS agents, using multiple net IDs have upvoted/downvoted certain posts (in order to influence the site). They even took one step further into branding the site as ‘pro-North Korean’ site and sued Mr. Lee Ho-chul who runs the site.

Q: What has motivated you to track down NIS’ online activities? And how much time have you spent?

지난 4월에 인터넷 독립언론 뉴스타파(KCIJ)는 국정원으로 추정되는 핵심계정 10개를 공개했습니다. 그런데 참 안타까웠던 것은 이 사실에 대해 메이저 언론사들이 외면해버리더군요. 특히 수사를 진행하고 있던 검찰은 국정원 트위터에 대해 수사할 의지 자체를 보여주지 않았습니다. 그래서 제가 뛰어든 겁니다. 저는 비록 검찰처럼 수사권도 없고 첨단 장비도 하나 없지만 일개 네티즌도 마음만 먹으면 이만큼이나 찾아낼 수 있다는 것을 보여주고 싶었습니다. [...]저도 생업이 있는 직장인이기 때문에 대부분의 작업은 밤 늦은 시간부터 새벽까지 이어졌습니다. 하루에 약 3~4시간 정도 작업을 하고 있습니다. 최근에는 軍사이버사령부의 트위터-블로그-게시글 등을 추적하는 일에 많은 시간을 보내고 있습니다[...] 제 예상으로는 아마도 국정원보다 훨씬 광범위한 규모가 될 가능성이 높아보입니다. 

Back in April this year, independent online news outlet NewsTapa [ko] (Korea Center for Investigative Journalism) revealed the ten key net accounts that belong to the NIS. Sadly, (despite their revelation) South Korean mainstream media outlets totally ignored the report as if nothing had ever happened, and the prosecutor’s office did not show any intention to investigate the NIS’ Twitter accounts. That's when I jumped in. I wanted to prove that an ordinary user such as myself, who neither has the official investigative rights the prosecutors have nor any decent devices, can reveal this much, when I am so determined. …Since I am a (full-time) office worker, most of my investigation started late at night and continued till early in the morning. I spend about 3-4 hours daily. Currently, I spent much more time in tracking the Defense Ministry’s Cyber Warfare Command’s activities on Twittersphere, Blogosphere and their posts (written on online community sites)… I expect their online activities would be done on a much bigger scale than those of the NIS.

Q: Could you elaborate on the logistics of your ‘tracking down’ of NIS’ trail on Twittersphere?

저는 먼저 핵심계정 10개가 직접 작성하거나 RT한 트윗들을 찾는 작업을 진행했습니다. 1차적으로 구글에 핵심 계정을 입력하고 검색을 누르면 다양한 정보들이 쏟아집니다. 특히 구글에는 해당 트윗을 삭제했더라도 그 흔적이 고스란히 남아있는 경우가 많습니다. 또한 핵심계정이 올린 트윗을 누군가가 인용하여 RT를 했다면 원글이 삭제되더라도 그 기록이 고스란히 남아있게 됩니다[...] 그리고 구글에는 검색을 도와주는 여러 명령어가 있는데 이를 적절히 활용하면 작업을 하는데 큰 도움이 됩니다. 예를 들어 'site'라는 명령어를 활용하면 해당 계정에서 사용된 특정 단어가 포함된 트윗들을 찾을 수 있습니다. 그리고 온라인에서 제공되는 여러 트위터 관리 사이트가 제공하는 정보들을 살펴보면 특정 트윗에 대해 누가 RT를 많이 했는지를 볼수 있습니다. 그리고 RT한 내용 중 사진이나 동영상이 포함되어 있는 경우에는 그 흔적을 찾기가 더 용이합니다. 

The first step was to locate tweets or retweets done by the key ten accounts. When I googled those major accounts, various search results came out since even after they removed certain tweets, there are still traces of that tweet on Google; when someone mentioned or retweeted certain tweets, the trace of the tweets remain intact even after the original tweet has long gone. …In Google there are several useful commands that people can take advantage of. For example, the command “site” can be used to track tweets that include certain words. And there are many Twitter management sites/tools that enable users to check who retweeted specific tweets. When tweets include images or video clips, it is so much easier to track those.

Q: Is there any specific reason you were focused on tracking NIS’s ‘Twitter activities’ than their other online activities?

트위터는 다른 온라인 활동과는 다르게 그 흔적이 고스란히 남습니다. 자신이 작성한 모든 트윗과 계정까지 삭제를 하더라도 구글을 통해 검색이 용이하고 빅데이터업체를 통해 복원이 가능합니다[...] 그리고 중요한 것은 서로가 트윗을 주고받고 RT된 내용들을 분석해보면 하나의 사회관계망이 도출된다는 것입니다.

Twitter, unlike other online activities, leaves discernible traces. Even after a user removes every tweets he wrote and even his Twitter account, [some of tweets] are still searchable by Google and we are able to recover some by getting help from big data companies… And most importantly, if you analyze the interactions between certain Twitter accounts, you can figure out the connections between accounts.

Q: It is tricky to match a Twitter ID with one’s real identity. How was this possible?

뉴스타파가 공개한 핵심계정 10개 중에서도 가장 핵심으로 꼽혔던 대장계정은 ‘nudlenudle'이라는 계정입니다[...] 저는 핵심계정 10개와 동일한 계정으로 이메일을 제공하는 대형 포털 사이트인 네이버, 다음, 네이트, 야후 등에 계정이 있을수 있다는 생각이 들었습니다. 저는 회원가입 절차에 나오는 ‘아이디 중복 체크’ 방법을 통해 핵심계정 10개를 확인해봤더니 다수의 아이디가 동일한 계정이 존재하다는 것을 발견했습니다. 이를 바탕으로 뉴스타파는 ‘nudlenudle'이 국정원 심리전담 직원 이모씨 라는 것을 최종 확인하게 된 것입니다.

One of the most important accounts, even among the NIS’ ten key Twitter accounts revealed by Newstapa, was net ID: ‘nudlenudle’… After thinking there must be accounts using the same ID in major portal sites, such as Naver, Daum, Nate and Yahoo, I used the user registration pages’ ‘Check for ID availability’. I checked all ten key accounts [in these portal user registration pages] and was able to reach a conclusion there are accounts using that same ID. Based on my finding, Newstapa was able to confirm that the user ID ‘nudlenudle’ is an account belonging to Ms. Lee who works for the NIS psychological warfare team. [*note: Major South Korean portals require users to type in their real names and social security numbers at time of registration. Zaro provided the possibility that checking portal sites accounts could lead to verification of Twitter user's identity]

Q: Upon seeing specific kind of traits/content, why did you suspect them to be written by the NIS? Are there any patterns NIS’ tweets share?

가장 큰 특징은 북한에 대한 내용이 상당히 많다는 것입니다. 그것도 일반인들이 알기는 힘든 차원의 정보가 담긴 내용들이 상당히 많습니다. 그리고 종북몰이에 혈안이 되어 있습니다.

The most significant trait of the NIS is that they quoted lots of North Korean related content. They often contained information that no ordinary citizen could have access to and they were very eager to brand (someone/group) as a ‘pro-North Korean sympathizer’.

Zaro thanked Newstapa's investigative journalists for their endeavors and humbly added that ‘he merely reported info and suggested possibilities to them'. He explained about his profile photo above: It is a picture of his young daughter holding a lit candle, meaning he is hoping to see ‘the society where no candle light is ever needed’ [referring to candlelight rallies] and ‘building such a world for his daughter would be Zaro's dream'.

December 04 2013

Follow the Money, South Korean Politicians Got Money from Construction Companies

Newtapa [ko] (Korea Center for Investigative Journalism) published a web feature [ko] which displays list of politicians’ names who received political donations from construction companies involved in the statewide construction project ‘Four Major Rivers Project‘. 

November 25 2013

South Korea's Spy Agency, Military Sent 24.2 Million Tweets to Manipulate Election

It has been almost a year since South Korea's spy agency made headlines for manipulating public opinion before the latest presidential election, but shocking revelations have shown that the electoral interference was much more than some maverick spy agents trying to sway public opinion – it was done systematically and on a massive scale. 

Recently, the country's prosecutor's office conducted a thorough investigation and found that the scope of election manipulation was much wider and organized than anyone has expected: 1.2 million tweets were sent out by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) to smear opposition leaders, and 23 million tweets [ko] were spread by the Defense Ministry's Cyberwarfare Command to tip the scale in favor of current President Park Geun-hye.

Weekly protests seem to have rekindled, as well as numerous tweets about this unprecedented election interference:

We are now holding a candlelight rally [as of 6 p.m., November 23] with tens of thousands of angry citizens against the systematic electoral interference, broken campaign promises and a clampdown on labor groups.

The number of NIS’s election-related tweets are found to be around 1.1 million – what a colossal amount. If we assume that there are a hundred NIS agents [whose major tasks are leaving comments online], it means one agent took care of 11,000 tweets. If you assume that he or she wrote 50 tweets a day on average, that still takes 220 days to reach that number. If we dont count weekends and holidays, they need a full year to publish this amount of tweets. And it is the evidence that there has been a systemic, organized, and massive efforts to interfere in the election. [*note: More of NIS's tweets have been found as the investigation proceeds, the most recent revelation says that they are about 1.24 million tweets [ko] in total.] 

Countless sarcastic comments were made about not only the NIS agents but also the Defense Ministry's Cyberwarfare Command, which is believed to be three times bigger than the NIS’s cyberteam [ko]. It allegedly sent about 20 times more election-related tweets than the spy agency:

@SamuelWKim1: The NIS sent 1.21 million tweets and the military’s Cyberwarfare Command sent 23 million tweets. The NIS was not working hard [compared to the Cyberwarfare Command].

No country in the world has pulled off such a systemic and massive manipulation of elections. Please somebody call the Guinness Book of World Records in England and ask them to list us as a country where an unprecedented number of 1.2 million manipulative tweets have been found. If we can also include numbers of comments they [NIS and military Cyberwarfare Command] left on portal sites, we can even break that record.

The prosecutor's office confirmed that NIS wrote 1.24 million of election and politics-related tweets. They’ve found 1.24 million tweets so far! But I believe even that number would be just the tip of the iceberg. What if they had done a more thorough investigation on the portal sites such as Naver and Daum?

Additional revelation came out later [ko] that best-selling authors, academics and even entertainers who vocally criticized the administration have also been a target of attacks by the NIS tweets:

@actormoon: 이건 대상이 ‘민간인'이란 면에서 또 다른 차원의 ‘범죄'입니다

@actormoon: Considering the fact that some tweets were targeting civilians, it is another level of “crime”

November 23 2013

Is South Korea Encouraging Portal Sites to Self-Censor?

The South Korean government has announced plans to allow large portal sites to censor or delete user comments that are deemed libelous, a move that Korean web users fear will restrict freedom of expression online.

The South Korean Communications Commission held a conference this week proposing regulations [ko] that give popular portal sites the power to make user comments invisible especially those considered libelous, for 30 days. If no active measures, such as the concerned user filing a complaint, are taken during that period of time, the sites can delete the comment.

Authorities claim that the regulation will lessen the burden of portal sites by reducing the number of defamation cases they face because of their users’ comments. However, critics question whether it is justifiable to allow the portal site to decide whether a comment is libelous or not– a tough judgement call even for legal professionals. 

Korean Portal Sites Logo

Image of Korea's largest portal sites (their arbor day edition) where active online discussions are taking place. Image uploaded by Flickr user @paperon. (CC BY NC 2.0)

Local media pointed out [ko] that the authorities assured the web portals that there will be clauses included that minimize their legal liability in case of a lawsuit– so portals will remain unscathed as long as they show they have censored or deleted the comments. However, opponents say the measures will promote self-censorship and political powers could abuse this bill to pressure portals to silence the opposition.

Net users in well-known, active community sites such as TodayHumor [ko] and Ppompuu [ko] exchanged heated discussions regarding the proposed regulation and the recent trend of South Korean authorities proposing multiple bills restricting online activities, such as a bill that would regulate online gaming like drugs and alcohol, and another that would limit hours of smartphone usage [ko]. Net user ID: 껄껄 explained [ko] on TodayHumor site: 

이전: 정치인 -> 요청 -> 포털 -> 삭제. 이후: 정치인 : 요청x :포털 -> 삭제

한마디로 포털을 방패삼아 자신은 숨으면서 포털에게 무소불위의 힘을 주어 알아서 기라는말. 쟁점1. 안그래도 애매 모호한 명예훼손인데 포털들이 객관적으로 과연 판단가능할것인가. 쟁점2. “투명성과 공정성을 기한다면 큰 문제가 없을 것” 반대로 투명성과 공정성이 잃는다면 큰문제가 된다는것. 명예훼손이라는 법적인 영역을 과연 일개 기업이 판단가능한 영역이고 자의적으로 즉결처분가능 영역인가?

BEFORE: Politicians request portals to delete
AFTER: Politicians don't need to request. But portals go ahead and delete anyway.

This regulation means to use portals as a shield that they can hide behind them. It also intends to be, I gave you the power [to delete], so in return you voluntarily submit to me. Here is the first talking point: Libel is such a complicated case [to determine]. Will portal sites be able to make an objective judgment? Second talking point: They say that ‘when clarity and impartiality are maintained, it will not be a problem’. In other words, it can be understood as, ‘When clarity and impartiality are lost, there will be a serious problem’. Will an ordinary company [such as portal sites] be able to make the right judgments on legal issues such as libel, and is it within their area of expertise to make a final call?

Below is a part of one discussion thread [ko] from Ppomppu site:

악용될가능성이 아주 부단하죠. 악용보단 아주 이용할려고 작정을 한거죠 . 말이 안되는 법안이라 생각하는데요[...] 저대로 활용되면 그게 좋겠죠.. 실상은 조금만 맘에 안 들어도 삭제하라고 할 듯..[...] 댓글삭제 함부로 안되는 곳으로 몰리겠네요.

It is highly likely that this rule will be abused. Well, I would say they intend to abuse it, and I think it is just a plainly ridiculous bill [...] It would be good if it really works the way [that they claim], but in reality, these sites will try to delete comments right away when they find them disagreeable [...] Now people will go to site where they don't freely delete comments.

Here are discussions from the South Korean Twittersphere:

@Chocolete90: 7,80년대에나 통할 법한 통제를 지금 시대에 적용한다고 될 법한 일인가? 인터넷 규제 정말 가능하다고 보는건가? [...]설상가상 시대감각도 없어..

@Chocolete90: Do they really think it is possible to apply such regulation that could have only worked back in the 70s and 80s? Do they seriously think it is possible to regulate the Internet? [...] Such an anachronistic decision.

@ehanb: 문제는 지들 유리한 글은 내깔겨 둘 것이 뻔하다는 거.

@ehanb: The problem is that it is undeniably clear that they will leave comments that work in their favor.

@skjn_legon: 역시 그 분들에게는 인터넷이 두렵고 어려운 미지의 세계겠지. 그러니 힘이 있을 때 확 잡아놓고 싶겠지[...]

@skjn_legon: For those authorities, the Internet is an unknown, dark and scary place. So they want to rein it in while they are still in power.

November 22 2013

South Korea: Suffering of the Sacrificial ‘Wide Goose Fathers’

‘Wide Goose Father’ is a commonly-used term in South Korea referring to sacrificial fathers who send their wife and children abroad for better education, but themselves remain in South Korea to work and cover all the expenses. The number of wild goose fathers has been steadily increasing over the years and recently, local media revealed that 70 percent of them suffer from depression and 77 percent from inadequate nutrition. Simon Kim from Korea Bang site translated related articles and net users’ responses to the news.

November 19 2013

South Koreans in USA Held a Candlelight Vigil, Denouncing the Spy Agency Scandal

South Koreans living in the United States held a candlelight vigil in Times Square, New York, denouncing the state spy agency's interference with the latest presidential election. @Metempirics posted photos and a video clip of the protest.

Largest South Korean Church's Embezzlement Scandal Just Got Worse

The largest Pentecostal Christian congregation in South Korea and the world, Yoido Full Gospel church, has repeated come under fire for its founder Cho Yong-gi and his family's involvement in a series of ugly scandals. Last weekend, more revelations were made about Cho's alleged extramarital affairs and church money misappropriations, apart from the existing embezzlement and tax evasion charges that made headlines earlier this year.  

A group of church elders who used to side with the founder finally came clean and held a press conference disclosing new details and presenting evidence about Cho's alleged misdeeds. The total amount of money mentioned in this conference alone is astronomical -it easily surpasses 100 million US dollars, and most scandalously, 1.4 million US dollars were allegedly given to a female vocalist in France named Jeong who allegedly had an extramarital affair with Cho.

Sharp criticism of the pastor was easily found on Korea's Twittersphere from Christians and non-Christians alike.  

Past Cho Yong-gi giving a sermon at Yeoido Full Gospel Church. Image by Flickr user @Theholyspirit

Pastor Cho Yong-gi giving a sermon at Yeoido Full Gospel Church. Image by Flickr user @Theholyspirit

This is a photo of the press conference calling on Pastor Cho Yong-gi to step down. (captured other's tweet) [Unable to locate the original tweet]

Pastor Cho Yong-gi allegedly had siphoned off several billions of church money and furthermore, in order to silence Ms. Jeong –a vocalist with whom Cho had an extramarital affair with– he gave her 1.5 billion Korean won [1.4 million US dollars]. Does this sound to you like something a pastor would do? Or more like a cult leader?

Full Gospel church's elders have disclosed that Cho and his sons have embezzled several billions of the church's money, but still, a majority of regular church-goers continue to treat Pastor Cho as some sort of deity and don't take this case seriously. Church leadership is not the only one who should be blamed for Korean church's corruption, but also those church members, they do bear certain responsibility.

@john6311:천국에서는 한국돈이 쓸모가 없답니다.

@john6311: Korean won is totally useless in heaven.

Those doormats who pay their way to heaven by giving church offerings– they made this place the heaven for Cho Yong-gi. RT @jhem91: Pastor Cho Yong-gi received 20 billion won [18.7 million US dollars] as his ‘retirement money’ and then he received an extra 75 million [71 thousand US dollars] on a monthly basis. He is so blessed. What happens to those idiots who funded those money?

I find it so lamentable that church leaders are corrupt beyond belief. As a Christian and a person who used to respect Pastor Cho Yong-gi when I was working in the Arab region, I feel so depressed.

Pastor Cho Yong-gi was given 20 billion won [18.7 million US dollars] of retirement money without publicly declaring the amount, and also received 60 billion won [56 million US dollars] of church money which was set aside for ‘special mission work’ (spread out) for five years. 'A Church getting bigger'– it is not a blessing from God, but merely a blessing of money, and in a church where money overflows, corruption also overflows.

Reposted bycheg00 cheg00

November 12 2013

North Korean Tablet Debuts on eBay, But Under Suspicion of Pirating Angry Birds

North Korea’s recently-launched Android-based tablet, Samjiyon appeared on eBay, listed by a Canadian account with a shipping location of Yanji in China. North Korea Tech blog also reports that the worlds's one of the best-selling applications, Angry Birds, was included on the tablet without proper permissions from the game maker.

November 10 2013

South Korean Media Whitewashes President's European Trip

South Korean President Park Geun-hye recently completed a week-long official visit to Western Europe on a political mission to forge economic and financial partnerships with Belgium, France and the UK.

But some facts, you wouldn't know from Korean media coverage.  

Korean net users have bashed pro-government major newspapers for inundating their pages with lavish praise for the president's fashion sense and language skills while distorting the truth and filtering out some major talking points.

“When Park stepped into Buckingham palace, the rain stopped and the sun shone [ko]“. “The world was mesmerized by the president's traditional Korean fashion [ko]“. “Park delivered an opening speech in French, received a standing ovation for her fluent French‘ [ko]…

These are just few examples of actual headlines Korean media printed while covering Park's visit. Media critics even published a lengthy compilation of Korean media's praises [ko]. And it was nearly impossible to find any negative commentary, especially from the three biggest conservative newspapers in the country, which are notorious for being in agreement with almost every major issue backed by right-wing governments.

To South Koreans, this kind of coverage shares hallmarks of the country's dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s, considered the darkest era of journalism when the current president’s father ruled the country with iron fist and infamous military dictator Chun Doo-hwan brutally clamped down on democratic movements. Back in Chun’s era, primetime TV news always began the broadcast with a heaping of praise for Chun [ko] as the first news item.

Park's trip-up, embargoed

On November 6 during Park's visit, as she was exiting a car, she fell because she stepped on the tail of her long, traditional Korean dress. But only on the night of November 7 were Koreans able to read about this on Korean news as the presidential house had placed an embargo on local press and asked that they not write about the fall [ko] until foreign media covered it.

Many net users seems perplexed, even shocked at the incident:

Fell with a splash! This is a scene of Your Highness Park Geun-hye falling down during her visit to UK. The presidential house asked to hold off writing about it till the foreign press reported on this. Come on, we are not living in an absolute monarchy. The media who voluntarily caved to this are quite problematic.

What is funnier than Park’s fall? It is hilarious that the presidential house blocked press from reporting on this and that the press accepted such request.

The real reason for a standing ovation

Numerous media outlets reported that Park spoke in French during her visit to France and received a standing ovation. But they didn't explain what was her speech about: 

Local media have showered the president with positive coverage that she got a standing ovation by speaking in French. But this fact they missed out: the part where she got the most applause is when she said she will open up the Korean public sector market to foreign companies.

Similar comments lamented:

@ksi0601 올랑드가 원하는 건 ‘시장’뿐이다[...] 박근혜의 연설에 기립박수를 친건 당연한 것이었다. 하지만, 이런 사실을 알리는 언론이 대한민국에는 없었다.

@ksi0601 What [French President Francois] Hollande wanted was the market [...] It is so obvious why they gave a standing ovation to Park Geun-hye’s speech. But there was no Korean media who reported this fact.

Korean media unanimously praised Park’s visit to France and UK, however Koreans living in those countries said their media don't even report much, except the fact that she is a dictator’s daughter and the Korean spy agency’s interference in the presidential election. Shame on you — you [Korean] journalists and tabloids who don't even feel shame.

Threatening Korean protesters in Paris

During Park's visits to France and the UK, Koreans living in those countries held candlelight vigils denouncing the state spy agency's meddling in the latest presidential election – an election that made Park the president today:

 Right now, Koreans living in the UK, holding signs, are holding a candlelight vigil. We are now in London. 

 Today in London, a candlelight event was held to welcome President Park. 

However, ruling party lawmaker Kim Jin-Tae, who accompanied Park on her European tour, posted a threatening message on his Facebook page [ko], saying “You Paris protesters– you will pay for this”, suggesting that the protesters are from the leftist party, and adding that “anyone whose blood didn't boil upon seeing those protesters must not be a Korean”.

Enraged by this insult, the protesters demanded that Kim apologize [ko]. Net users chimed in: 

That thug Kim Jin-Tae made quite a scene by saying “those people who protested in Paris against the election fraud, I will made them pay”. By saying so, he has instantly made Park — who publicly said that “democracy runs smoothly in South Korea” — a liar.

Thanks to [ruling party] Saenuri’s politician Kim Jin-Tae, more people are learning about the Paris protests, which were held during Park’s visit to Paris. These protests have been rarely reported by Korean media.

November 06 2013

South Korea: An Interactive Timeline of the Spy Agency Election Manipulation Scandal

A special webpage ‘NIS 2012‘ [ko] was set up by savvy net users to host an interactive timeline explaining how the NIS (National Intelligence Service)’ election manipulation scandal has unfolded over the year. The site also features a diagram displaying relations and dynamics between concerned interest groups and political powerhouses and a list of top ridiculous quotes made by politicians and spy agents.

November 04 2013

South Korean Net Users’ Donation to Villagers Fighting Against Power Line

Clashes continue to intensify in small South Korean village Miryang as senior villagers resist the government's decision to impose electrical power lines across their land, saying they will fight to the death for their land and living rights. An environmental group started a grassroot campaign in Daum Agora site [ko] of gathering small donations from individuals to provide solar panels for the villagers. Over 1400 net users have participated so far. 

November 02 2013

South Koreans in Europe Protest Against the Spy Agency Scandal

Protests have continued against South Korea's spy agency who allegedly interfered with the latest presidential election and manipulated public opinion to tip the scales in favor of current president Park Geun-hye. Ahead of Park's official visit to Western Europe, Koreans living in France held candlelight vigils denoucing the allegations and more are planned next week in the United Kingdom and France. @wjsfree posted a nice roundup of protest photos and links.

Women's Magazines in Korea Don't Show Korean Cover Girls

It took ten years for women's magazine Allure's Korean edition to finally have a Korean cover model. James Turnbull explains in the Grand Narrative blog that the reason lies in Korean readers taste who prefer foreign, Caucasian cover models. 

October 30 2013

South Korea Wants to Regulate Online Gaming Like Drugs and Alcohol

Drugs, alcohol and gambling. With those already under tight control, the South Korean government wants to add a fourth vice to the list – online gaming.

Earlier this month, South Korean lawmakers proposed a bill that regulates online gaming in a similar fashion to drugs and alcohol. As local news reported, the country's Ministry of Health and Welfare took a step further [ko] towards the restriction last weekend by designating the online game as one of the four major addictive elements [ko] which merit state-level control.

Net users have erupted with jeers and criticism, and the proposed regulation has unsurprisingly drawn severe backlash from members of the gaming industry who are enraged to be considered in the same category as drugs and gambling.

New main image of the Korea Internet and Digital Entertainment Association's website

New main image of the Korea Internet and Digital Entertainment Association's website that wrote “Condolence to the Republic of Korea's Gaming Industry”, implying that the government's decision will bring death to the Korean game industry. Fair Use Image.

The Korea Internet and Digital Entertainment Association posted an online petition [ko] in their website, arguing that the government's decision will bring death to the Korean gaming industry, which makes up 60 percent of the nation's entire contents market. Only few days have passed, but it has already gathered over 55,000 signatures.

Korean social media has been inundated with sarcastic comments mocking the bill, with some users saying that they would love to abuse it by taking sick leaves:

I welcome this news of designating game addiction as a disease. I will definitely be diagnosed as suffering from game-addiction at the company hospital.

Once game addiction is acknowledged as a disease, then I would qualify for sick leave, and even be deemed to be disabled! I could even use the first-degree disabled person sticker on my car to get discounts. Gaming is so worth trying!

Some serious responses voiced concerns that lawmakers and government officials lack understanding of the gaming industry or user behavior:

The reason why the issue of online gaming addiction is being blown out of proportion is because many struggle to understand the concept of “virtual reality”. People tend to develop irrational fear for something they don't understand. Actually, I think no one has clear idea on how the gaming [industry] will develop.

Several years ago, the authorities presented some statistics on gaming addiction which were later found to actually be data on Internet addiction. It was a data set unqualified to be used as an evidence for gaming addiction. Furthermore, that study is thought to be bit groundless. Nowadays, they even don't try offering any data sets and blindly claim that gaming leads to addiction. Gaming addiction issues are no longer a topic for a rational debate. 

The latest developments are in line with the previous controversy over a shutdown system implemented by Korea’s Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism which dictates a time window when teenagers aged 16 or under are allowed to play online games — another case of an infamous bureaucratic decision that net users called out for being neither informed nor effective: 

Three things pro-Shutdown-ers have in common. 1. They have no real understanding of the details of the Shutdown law. 2. They have no understanding of students's rights. 3. They have no understanding of the real causes of gaming addiction. 4. They have no understanding of the structure of the gaming industry. (Since they've heard that gaming companies make a lot of money, they assume their would be similar to those of the big corporations)

Many net users pointed out that the authorities have failed to see the big picture, either intentionally or unintentionally:

@idgmatrix:게임 중독이란 없다. 다만 여가와 놀이 시간의 심각한 부족이 있을 뿐이다. 원인과 결과를 뒤집지 말라. 우리의 연간 근무시간은 세계 1위를 달리고 있고[...]

@idgmatrix: There is no such think as gaming addiction. What we see is a serious shortage of leisure time and entertainment hours. Don't confuse the causes of the problem with the symptoms. Our nation’s annual work hours are ranked as the highest in the world [...]

Actually, it is no surprise that our young people are addicted to gaming, since they have so many emotional issues — it is understandable that they, who had to suffer under the 12-year f**ked-up education system, want to escape from reality (by gaming)

@kinophio: 게임중독 여론은 최소한 3개 층위의 크로스다. 학부모의 지지율이 절실한 정치권, 지위의 안전과 돈줄을 확보하고픈 정부부처/민간단체, 그리고 ‘진심으로’ 게임이 미운 학부모들이다.

@kinophio: There are at least three layers (of interest groups) involved in the gaming addiction debate: political groups desperately seeking supports from the parents, government divisions and private organizations who want to secure their status and money source, and lastly, parents who genuinely hate the game.

October 29 2013

South Korean Tear Gas Being Used in Bahrain?

Bahrain interior ministry allegedly ordered 1.6 million teargas canisters to use against protesters, and South Korean company DaeKwang is believed to be one of the major suppliers. R. Elgin wrote in Marmot's Hole blog about the ironic history of tear gas– a notorious symbol of Korean government's clampdowns back in 70-80s becoming a money-maker nowadays. Earlier this month, net users tweeted photos of protesters outside the Korean embassy in London, calling Korean companies to stop selling toxic gas.

October 23 2013

USA: Elevating Young Asian Voices in Immigration Reform Debate

The Youth Leadership Council of the Korean American Resource & Cultural Center created an inspiring video to help young Asian voices heard in the immigration reform debate. Blogger Angry Asian Man briefly comments on this video featuring local youth's thought-provoking spoken word performances. 

South Korea: Labor Worker's Posthumous Victory Over Samsung

South Korean conglomerate Samsung has come under fire for their notorious labor violations. ‘International Campaign for Health and Labour Rights of Samsung Electronics Workers‘ explains about South Korean Court's recent ruling that orders industrial-accident payouts to the bereaved family of a former Samsung employee who died of leukemia. 

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