[Viewpoint]The cyber battleground

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[Viewpoint]The cyber battleground

‘I can create a world-shaking incident with my thinking only by using the Internet,” Jean-Louis Martin confidently declared, despite being a victim of an accident that left his entire body paralyzed.

He can only hear with his left ear and see with his right eye. However, he explored the depths of the Internet with his good eye and accumulated tremendous amounts of professional knowledge.

In the end, he drove his doctor to death and manipulated patients, creating a castle under his control out of the hospital.

Although this is the fictional storyline from the novel “The Ultimate Secret” by Bernard Werber, there are some uncomfortably real aspects to the story.

Our reality is often more dramatic than a novel, and we have seen many real incidents in our lives that appeared more fictional than fiction.

The fever has gone now, but the recent mad cow disease crisis was like watching a fictional story play out.

The entire nation was swept up in fear of the disease.

The starting point was TV, but the fears were amplified through the Internet, hundreds and thousands of times over. As rumors spread, they stretched the truth. It seemed to be a mechanism of spreading malicious hatred in cyberspace.

University lecturers and public servants, who were dissatisfied with the realities of their lives, participated in spreading the fabricated hatred.

The vague sense of risk was transformed into substantial reality, and rationality was labeled as treachery to the fatherland.

There was no gunfire, but it amounted to a civil war. And just like any war, the victims were the ordinary people.

Small travel agencies and construction companies found their businesses failing due to threatening calls to not publish advertisements with major newspapers, adding difficulties to the already severe hardships faced in the sputtering economy.

Store owners who filed a lawsuit against the protesters to seek compensation also suffered from threatening telephone calls.

And behind such hardships was the Internet, which amplifies and reproduces hatred.

In cyberspace, lists of companies and stores that should be targeted for threatening calls were distributed everyday, as if it were homework for Internet users.

That is why China’s Huanqiu Shibao, also known as the Global Times, said cynically that Korea’s Internet has been transformed into “poison,” not “a window to information” - although such a statement still feels like an absurd exaggeration.

But Internet hatred easily crosses borders. Whenever China and Japan stir up historical and territorial disputes, the forefront of the conflict is not in the diplomatic arena but the Internet.

While diplomats use rhetoric to refrain from emotional responses, taking into account the sensitivity of international relations, Internet users do not hesitate to engage in wars of abuse. Such battles quickly lose the authenticity of the fight - deteriorating into meaningless and emotional arguments over each other’s rudeness.

And yet, such cyber scraps are not easy to forget, leaving deep grudges for all involved.

The Internet hatred between Koreans and Chinese runs more deeply than between the Koreans and Japanese, many attributed to when some Korean Internet users posted that China deserved the recent Sichuan earthquakes.

While Japanese Internet users reacted with both congratulations and sarcasm to Korea’s Olympic gold medal-winning baseball team, Chinese Internet users unanimously jeered the Korean triumph.

There is no other way to explain such anti-Korea feeling among the Chinese Internet users.

Korean Internet users, however, are not the worst. Hatred mixed with nationalism , racism and religion is horrific.

Between the Serbs and Albanians, hacking and cyber terrorism, severe enough to be called a war, are rampant.

In the United States, Internet users have created computer games to bury Muslims alive or shoot illegal Mexican immigrants.

The British magazine The Economist worried that the Internet has become the new battleground. The real problem is that such cyber wars are sparked by a small number of extremists or childish students and then spread fast.

As technologies proliferate and the Web sites share more information, the spread of hatred through digital content is becoming easier and easier each day.

What Martin said in the novel is no longer fiction.

The novel ends by separating Martin from the Internet, but in our reality, that cannot be a solution.

We must come up with effective measures as soon as possible. Some Internet sites operated outside Korea have found a solution by operating cyber courts to virtually imprison Internet users who use foul language.

Such a method must be studied and reinforced to be used as an international standard.

While many ignore this issue, we must take the initiative and find a solution, because it is the Korean Internet users who are engaged in several cy-ber wars at home and abroad.

*The writer is a deputy political news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.
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