[Viewpoint] Beware of reckless online postings

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[Viewpoint] Beware of reckless online postings

Recently, an online media outlet featured an article about Kim Jong-un’s wife, citing a Chinese news agency. When I saw the picture of the “wife” of the North Korean heir apparent, I realized the person in the photo was Ju Da-ha, a Korean racing model. I recognized her face instantly because Chinese portal sites had featured the same photo and claimed she was a personal assistant of Kim in August.

In the photo, Ju is in a school uniform, and she surely looks like a professional model. The JoongAng Ilbo’s online edition investigated and found out that the woman in the photo was indeed Ju. But only three months later, the same photo was said to be of Kim’s wife.

Moreover, Chinese portal sites distributed a photo supposedly of the fourth wife of Kim. This one did not need further investigation because it was a photo of Park Geun-hye, a Grand National Party lawmaker. The photograph, taken during her visit to Pyongyang, also featured the North Korean chairman of the National Defense Commission. While Korean media corrected the identity of the photo, the information can still be seen on Chinese portal sites.

Primarily, the Chinese portal sites provide absurdly inaccurate information. But is the situation any better in Korea? Not necessarily. Sometimes, we need an even more thorough investigation and verification of online information. Earlier this month, Kim Eul-dong, a Future Hope Alliance lawmaker, disclosed her old family photo and demanded an apology from Professor Kim Yong-ok.

In the 1990s, Kim Yong-ok claimed that former lawmaker Kim Doo-han, father of Kim Eul-dong, was not the son of General Kim Jwa-jin, a war hero who fought against Japanese imperialism, and similar rumors spread in cyberspace. She said that she had struggled to prove her family lineage for nearly 20 years, and she would like to prevent further pain and damage as people may doubt her background based on the accusation.

But that is the nature of the Internet. Once information is entered online, it doesn’t go away. It is spread and stored in numerous places. Information is absorbed but not judged, so once false information is entered, it will be automatically reproduced and republished without correction.

No one monitors wrongful accusations, libel, improper language or instigations. Many people use the Internet as a toilet to pass out verbal excretion.

Some may say that it is a place to vent our frustration in a hypocritical world. Their argument has a point. However, no one displays their excretions publicly. Therefore, we all need to keep our handling of verbal excretion private.

First of all, you need to keep things personal for your own sake. Nowadays, many companies do “online investigations” when recruiting and hiring. They check social networking services for job candidates. As your excretion is a measure of your health, the words you spread in the online community suggest your personality and character. So your reckless, imprudent posting from years ago may backfire at the most crucial moment.

Also, there is a scientific reason. Kim Jun-su, a brain psychology specialist and professor at Seoul National University School of Medicine, said that the most important part of the brain to enjoy human life is the frontal lobe, which controls judgment, impulses and moral capacity.

People have differently sized frontal lobes, and meditation and mental training may affect their function. If you pour out impulsive and agitating words, the development of the frontal lobe may be delayed, resulting in regression of your reasoning power.

Moreover, we are now living in the society of “urban legends.” According to a survey, more than half of respondents aged 20 to 40 believe the ungrounded rumor that the Korea-U.S. free trade agreement would make Korea an economic colony of the United States.

People want to believe the rumors and urban legends as they distrust the political establishment and feel alienated due to polarization.

The new technology of digital media has become the field of rumors and accusations. We need to reconsider whether we are inclined to blind following rather than critical judgment. We need to awaken our judgment and reasoning to make sure we don’t practice witch hunts driven by rumor and power trips.

*The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

By Yang Sunny
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