The war online

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The war online

The latest sporting event involving two of the most beloved sports stars in Korea and Japan has rekindled the war of words between Internet users of the two countries. VANK, a Korean Web site famous for leading public awareness campaigns about Dokdo, the Korean-controlled islets in the East Sea claimed by Japan, was bombarded by attacks from Japanese Web users. Korean netizens posted nasty comments on Japanese Web sites after Mao Asada of Japan edged her long-time rival, Korea’s Kim Yu-na, in the Grand Prix of Figure Skating finals on Saturday. This spurred coordinated retaliatory moves by their Japanese counterparts. The right-wing Web forum is brimming with tirades against Koreans and some posts even detail ways to attack VANK.

Fierce online exchanges have now become common among users from Korea, China and Japan. Every time politically and historically sensitive issues - China’s Northeast Asia project, the dispute over Dokdo and Japanese history textbooks, to name a few - the Internet becomes an ugly, defamatory war zone for online posters from the three historically intertwined nations. Users from each country arm themselves with nationalistic logic and attack the opponent of the moment.

Web services joined in by providing automatic translations of antagonistic Web sites and Internet comments, aggravating hostility and outrage among young Internet surfers in the three countries.

The fight has been ongoing in cyberspace even as leaders of the three largest East Asian economies met recently and agreed to join efforts to weather the global economic slump. Their linked histories, the reckless mob mentality of Internet society, and the worst-ever rate of joblessness among the youth may have combined to unleash toxic nationalistic emotions and xenophobic anger.

Whatever the reasons may be, there is nothing to justify the dangerous level of verbal abuse now being hurled among online users from the three countries.

When antipathy intensified ahead of the Beijing Olympic Games between Chinese youths and Korean supporters of Tibet, their governments stepped in to cool the atmosphere. They agreed on the need for more cultural exchanges among the youth to clear and prevent misunderstanding about one another. It is high time for leaders of the three countries to come together to find ways to help the young break away from the pitfalls of historical nationalism and instead take the path of friendship and companionship.
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