The time we need retooling

By Yoonjae Lim. Yoonjae, 15, is a student at the Korean Minjok Leadership Academy. He lives in Hoeng Seong, Republic of Korea. Please read his article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Nowadays, there is an unprecedented event happening in the history of Korea. With two camps brutally criticizing or even plotting against each other, there is direct democracy ongoing, like that of ancient Greek people shouting in the Agora. One side is crying for the resignation of the current Minister of Justice. The other side is anticipating for the reformation of the public prosecutors’ office. The former says that there seem to be three million, and the other side is insisting that their own forces are two million in total. Just like the division seen between the two Koreas, there is a split between the area of Gwanghwamun Plaza and Gangnam. In this case, the former side would symbolize the people wanting the Blue House of Korea to overturn its decision of appointing this controversial figure. The latter side would be the ones who think of the current Minister of Justice to be their savior to create fission in the area of prosecution and jurisdiction that was like an inviolable power since the birth of this state. At this moment, there is no longer a Gangnam Style that can be loved by everyone in this nation.

No one will know the exact number of people on the streets for the moment. Instead, one sure thing seems to be that a lot of people in this society have a message to share. Imagine that a total of 5 million people are out in the streets busily asserting that they are justice. It is evident that a lot of chaos is ongoing with sources of energy called mistrust and hatred abound. All of this rooted from the dramatic kick-turn of a voiceless, yet ambitious, person finally having his day by having governmental influence in the society.

In Korea, several years ago, an individual who was not famous at all, started posting his personal thoughts on Twitter. He was a criminal law professor of a prestigious Korean university. He was eventually able to gain momentum by criticizing every public official of the regime who were related to some controversy at that time. His comments were ruthless and severe, since he had less to lose. In the end, he became an influential voice for his righteous and forthright statements. This was the typical hero’s journey that every citizen loves. If this was the end of the story, there would be no angry faces and many people would have seen hope in the future. Unfortunately, from the period that he had to receive a confirmation hearing to add an exclamation point by becoming the Minister of Justice, a massive plot twist started.

Many people believed in his illusion. However, some groups started casting doubt about his flawlessness and the massive tragedy started as his words from the past came straight back to him and attacked his reputation. In the past, he argued that students should receive scholarships based on their economic hardship, not only by their success in academics. Overall, this statement seemed to be just, even if it required some sacrifice from some groups in society as it was able to be interpreted as an expansion of Noblesse Oblige. The problem was that the daughter of this man had received a full scholarship for her studies even though there was enough wealth accumulated in her family. If this was the only issue, there may have been a way to solve the problem. Unfortunately, this was only the tip of the iceberg and nowadays the presence of this person became a hot potato that is creating not only a physical war zone in the streets, but also a virtual war zone in the internet world. It seems that his karma has upset many people. For this reason, even if he made it to the post he wanted, his power seems to be tainted by his own footsteps.

This all started because of countless Twitter posts that a scholar made about the need of justice. The problem was that the actions he did actually take and the noble yet superficial tweets collided and crossed the line for many people. In a country that is already divided into North and South, the controversies that this man has created have made the right and left wing trying to kill each other intensify. Considering that two wings collaborating leads to a better result in terms of managing a country, this process of division seems to bear negatively for the future of this country. Through this case, it is possible to see how the misuse of social networking services can lead to a tragedy. However, it can also be thought that having a transitional stage like this could also be an opportunity.

In the past, for many, there may have not been a specific place to show one’s idea in public. For centuries, there have been times that many voices were not even heard at all, as there was no such way to speak out to the world. That was how voices were buried for a long time. Without the press power that is embodied in one of the authorities, there was no particular way to deliver opinions to the public. However, the age has now changed. With the open, transparent and bottom-up characteristics of the Internet, the concept of a world wide web has developed and the idea of a social media has evolved significantly. People now even have the option to select which platform they want to use, or even choose all of them in order to maximize the support that they can get from the tool. The advent of such new techniques has lead to a paradigm shift. Regardless of the wealth or the amount of knowledge accumulated, there is an opportunity for everyone to be more influential.

It is sometimes hard to imagine. The underdog becoming the leading power may have only been a Cinderella story. The problem is that the attempt to be a bigger person involves the process of enduring a greater responsibility. It is sad that many people are not aware of this principle and sometimes even misunderstand the important meaning hidden behind the use of social media. With many voices to be casted, there is a price that could be paid. Especially, once the voiceless becomes the influential person and can create a plethora of dreams for numerous stakeholders, that no longer is just a simple opinion. With social media becoming a leveraging tool, that could become a trap for the person who only tried to benefit from this special form of power. Social media is dangerous because in seconds, information can be spread and hurt people. Therefore, people should think twice when they use this power.

For people to benefit and for the internet space to be less contaminated with hatred, there should be more care taken by people in general. For this to be achieved, the best way would be building the long-term capacity through education. Within the sudden introduction of a cyber world, there is a need to know what kind of responsibilities should follow with utilizing this new form of power to prevent division of the society.

58 comments on “The time we need retooling

  1. Byunna Park on

    The current political situation in Korea has never been before. I think it’s a good article to worry about problems in using SNS.

  2. DaeWon Kim on

    Well written essay~
    Hope for democracy of high standard~
    I am proud of transparent system to reveal opinion in public, looking forward to next generation’s sparkling.

  3. SangJin Choi on

    Excellent writing at a young age! Our Korean society needs to know that justice is not only about the right way to distribute things, it’s also about the right way to value things…….emphasized by Michael Sandel.

  4. Brian on

    This is very good writing about Korean politics. I like how the writer thought of using the song Gangnam Style to show what is going on in Korea. Overall impressed by this piece.

  5. Hunter Choo on

    A sharp analysis of the current political situation in s.Korea, with composition exceeding that which is expected from those of his age. Looking forward to further pieces.

  6. Kwon on

    This era is an experimental generation that cannot predict how SNS will affect all areas of the world, including politics.
    This essay shows one insight into the impact of SNS.

  7. HY Jeong on

    It’s a great essay with sharp analysis of a latest hot button issue engulfing Korean society. It reminds us how important but also extremely difficult it would be for us to carry out the practice of ‘walk the talk’. The age of internet has enabled us to easily track and monitor what we (or they) have said and done even if it was already outside our (or their) memory. On a flip side of the coin, someday we may try to establish the right of getting forgotten in the online as one of fundamental rights as a human being.

  8. Ho-Seung Lee on

    Well done. The descriptive context was quite informative illustrating where Korea is now in domestic politics. But a stronger connection to the linkages with social media and the internet would have been better if linked up more earlier in the essay. Nevertheless, I applaud the commendable writing of Yoonjae Lim. Keep on writing!!

    • Sung Jae Park on

      Very good! Yoonjae. You pointed out well one of the Korean hot issues and structural problems. Your descriptions on the current issues are very well done. I hope you refine your idea with a slightly focus on an analytical viewpoint and contribute to New York Times or other international magazines.

  9. Mary on

    It is great to see how such a young student could have deep insight with the proper use of SNS.

    I am totally with you on the point that there needs to be more education made on this issue.

    I am overall impressed by your writing. I hope you keep up the good work.


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