[Going to the blogs]Free speech and emotional land claimsFreedom of speech, impetuous Korean netizens and the always controversial Dokdo issue converged this past week to provide fodder for the Korean blogosphere. The story began with a post at the blog “Occidentalism” (www.occidentalism.org/) stating that one of its frequent contributors, Gerry Bevers, had been asked by the president of the university where he is employed to cease posting on the Internet his research into Korea’s and Japan’s claims on Dokdo/Takeshima. The request from the president evidently came after angry netizens voiced their complaints to the university concerning Bevers’ assertions about flaws in Korea’s historical claims to the islands. Bevers writes at the blog, “[The university president] told me that it was a sensitive issue in Korea and that he had been contacted by individuals complaining of my postings on the subject. He said that he was worried about the school’s reputation.” This set off a flurry of opinion at various blogs covering topics ranging from the level of freedom of speech in Korea to sensitivity to one’s host culture to the role of blogs as a medium for disseminating information. Starting at “Occidentalism,” reader Dogbert railed at the actions of the netizens. “It is extremely unfortunate [Bevers] fell victim to cyber-harassment. Actually, free speech and knowledge are victims here as well.” At the blog “I Have Seoul” (http://ihaveseoul.blogspot.com /), Shaun wrote, “The fact that the netizen community could get so emotional as to successfully stop any one from posting about the topic because they don’t like the outcome is DISGUSTING. ABHORRENT. And the university should be ashamed.” While the general consensus of bloggers was that the measures taken by netizens were inappropriate, over at “The Marmot’s Hole” (www.rjkoehler.com) reader WatchingfromLA took the university president to task, writing, “The university head is the more culpable. He knows the score and his own responsibilities, while the thugs are quite inert to reality. . . . And in the end, thugs only get meaningful power when the university heads kiss their [derrieres].
Some expressed sympathy for the president’s position. Also commenting at “The Marmot’s Hole,” The Goat writes, “I think we have all seen the viciousness with which these cyber thugs will attack anybody without thought or remorse. I think it is fairly safe to assume that the president is also aware of this. He had to protect the interests and (near) future of the university. By doing so, he could have also protected Mr. Bevers’ job as well (intentionally or otherwise). In an ideal world, perhaps the president could be lauded for taking a stand for academic freedom and what it stands for ― however, as we all know, this is far from a perfect world.” Remort adds, “[The president’s] request [for Bevers] to stop publicly posting seems reasonable enough. And as well, a proper, scholarly, academic publication would be a far more suitable medium for his personal views.”
Though academic journals may indeed be the ideal medium for an honest discussion of Dokdo/Takeshima, reader Irrawaddy finds blogs a valuable source of information, “It was only after I started following these great blogs that I became sort of hip to the issue. I had no idea that [Dokdo] was such an emotional thing. Or that people with an agenda were making it into a big thing.”
It’s the simple pleasures that count
When looking for a quick bite to eat, it’s hard to beat kimbap restaurants. Mary at “Mary Eats” (http://maryeats.com/) passionately describes the world of Korea’s tasty rice rolls, “Korea’s kimbap restaurants, much like North American diners, provide customers with simple pleasures. You won’t find truck drivers fiddling with a word search over a slice of cherry pie, or tired waitresses refilling bottomless cups of coffee. What you will find, however, is a constant menu, full of cheap Korean comfort food, deliciously satisfying on the rainiest of afternoons, latest of nights or most horrid of hangovers.”