[FORUM]Winning the war in cyberspace

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[FORUM]Winning the war in cyberspace

Text message services through mobile phones and the Internet have been playing the role of trigger devices in anti-Japan demonstrations in China. We can feel the changes in China, where the Internet culture is developing faster than in Japan.
In China, anti-Japanese Web sites have been increasing and leading the demonstrations after the Japanese government allowed the distortion of history in the country’s textbooks. Protesters post statements condemning Japan on Internet sites and make public their plans for anti-Japanese protests.
It is also noticeable that students and protesters are exchanging information about demonstrations through mobile phone text messages, which can be sent en masse. “Let’s wash away Shanghai with the anti-Japanese wave,” and “Knock down the Japanese!” were some of the provocative messages. The mobile phones are like the posters hung at Korea’s universities during the 1970s and 1980s.
Some of the anti-Japanese Web sites broadcast the demonstrations live, just like some of Korean Internet media. Internet and mobile phones are stirring up and uniting the Chinese.
About 100,000 joined a violent anti-Japanese rally in Shanghai on Saturday, and the Chinese public security authorities have sent text messages to all mobile phone users to warn them against participating in illegal protests. Such an incident is unprecedented.
That is not the end of the cyber war, however. Chinese Internet users have been attacking the Japanese government’s Internet sites. They spread the techniques of trampling down these Web sites through the Internet, and many users are logging on to the Web sites of Japan’s Defense Agency and Police Agency simultaneously, paralyzing the functions of the Internet sites. Tens of millions of people have joined the Internet signature drive to oppose Japan’s bid to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council.
Although Internet access is not as widespread in China as it is Korea, 94 million Internet users and 340 million mobile phone users in China have been demonstrating the country’s digital power.
Although street demonstrations against Japan are less violent here, hot-blooded Internet users of Korea are also demonstrating the country’s digital power in the Dokdo island controversy. Nearly 1,000 Internet communities have formed in defense of the island, and information about Dokdo and parodies criticizing Japan have been flooding the Internet.
Internet signature drives to defend Dokdo have also been enthusiastically carried out. Many have downloaded the popular song “Dokdo is Ours” for their mobile phone’s ring tone, and many mobile phone users are playing the game of defending the island with their phones.
In another pro-Dokdo effort, Hanafos.com, an Internet site, is selling the virtual Tsushima island for 1,000 won per 1 pyeong (3.3 square meters). When all 210,000 pyeongs of the island are sold, the virtual Tsushima will be covered with the Korean national flag and the money raised will be donated to the civic group Dokdo Guards.
Japan appears to be losing in the cyber battles. The country belatedly invested in a high-speed Internet network and the Internet population grew to 16 million, but Web sites are not as diverse and active as those in other countries.
Because it is difficult to type in the Japanese language, Japan’s Internet users are unable to engage in online chatting as easily as Korean users do. Instead, because there are more than 80 million cellphone users, short e-mails are sent through the phones.
It appears that Japan is challenging China with mostly “conventional” means. A threatening letter containing a razor blade was sent to the Chinese consulate in Osaka; protesters destroyed parts of the Chinese ambassador’s residence in Tokyo.
South Korea, China and Japan should restore calm. Even in China, significant numbers of Internet users are saying that violent clashes with Japan should be avoided for China’s economic growth. The three countries should rather compete to win a meaningful war in the information technology arena.
It is a difficult task to occupy the territory of another country in the 21st century. Trying to expand one’s territories in the cyber world is more realistic. South Korea and China are more developed in the Internet industries than Japan, but they are weaker in the core IT technologies and component and material industries.
South Korea must reinforce such shortcomings and expand its cyber territories. In the world of digital industries, Korea is entitled to have a larger territory than Japan’s.

* The writer is the JoongAng Ilbo’s deputy managing editor in charge of digital news.

by Kim Il
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