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Internet brings politics to people

Mar 03,2003
[Last in a series] From university campuses and labor union offices to the Internet ― political activists around the peninsula have moved their stage to cyberspace. By taking advantage of this new network, activists have created a vital tool that can mobilize people for everything from running an Internet press to cyber political parties.
OhmyNews (www.ohmy news.com) and Pressian (www.pressian.com) are two Internet newspapers recently established by student political activists from the 1970s and ’80s. These online newspapers focus social issues neglected by the established, offline presses, presenting alternative views. They were essential in carrying the voices of young Internet users in the last presidential election, and in the process became influential media players. “The mainstream media is changing,” said Oh Yeon-ho, president of OhmyNews. “The Internet is creating another authority.”
The Internet is also contributing to social movements. Last year’s candlelight protests for the deaths of the two girls who were accidentally killed by a U.S. armored vehicle originated from photos of the girls’ dead bodies posted on the Internet and from online calls for a candlelight vigil.
“With the advent of the Internet, new social movements have appeared,” said Kim Yong-hak, a professor of sociology at Yonsei University. The movements have several common characteristics, according to Mr. Kim: they have no particular organizations mobilizing the movements; those who volunteer have diverse motivations, and they are moved mostly by spiritual values not by materialism. Mr. Kim said that the last presidential election was historic, showing how these new movements now have real political power.
“In Korean society today,” said Kim Ick-han, a historian, “Invisible social movements are developing in cyberspace. While conservatives are widely dispersed, former student activists and those in their 20s are systematically organized through the Internet. I think this trend will go on for at least 10 years. Those former activists will eventually command all of society.”
The Internet has also changed the concept of politics and political parties. The People’s Party for Reform was born on the Internet, in a political chat forum, and has attracted 43,000 members in just six months. “If the first form of democracy began in the acropolis of Athens, it is being completed in the current digital agora, where individuals form political groups,” said Rhyu Simin, 44, a former head of the party. The party plans on fielding candidates in the general elections in 2004.
During the presidential campaign last year, about 300,000 people a day visited the home page of Nosamo, the support club for then-candidate Roh Moo-hyun. It also raised more than 7 billion won ($5.9 million) for his campaign.
Former student political activists may have become ordinary citizens and are scattered around the society. Now the digital network is binding them again.


by Special Reporting Team


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