Political parties hunt for SNS experts

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Political parties hunt for SNS experts

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Ahead of big upcoming political elections, competition among political circles for recruiting SNS (social networking service) experts is getting more competitive as SNS has become one of the most important tools for attracting voters.

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SNS expert Park Yong-hu, 47, an advisory official to Korea’s top mobile messenger service Kakao Talk, won’t answer the phone when he doesn’t know the number because most of the calls are from politicians asking him to join their election camp.

Park said that he has been asked to take charge of the SNS marketing department in the election campaigns of many lawmakers and potential presidential election candidates.

In 2012, the general election will be held in April and the presidential election follows eight months later.

“They know that SNS is an efficient tool for attracting voters, especially for people in their 20s and 30s,” Park told the JoongAng Ilbo.

For this reason, political parties are eager to learn about SNS and also encourage their members to participate by using services such as Twitter and Facebook.

The ruling Saenuri Party said that it has monitored how often their members participate in SNS activities and evaluate their activity frequency in order to apply the results when screening nominees for the general election.

“It [SNS] doesn’t only attract voters but also affects their thinking very strongly on election pledges and important social issues,” Kim Hyun, a spokesperson at the Democratic United Party told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“SNS is becoming a huge part in creating a new election environment that leads to more participation from young voters and clean elections. It is an essential factor to study because more and more voters tend to screen and exchange their opinions about candidates and make decisions.”

Kim added that political parties have targeted celebrities that have many followers or friends in the past but recently have changed their targets to IT experts who actually study the SNS world.

Choi Jae-yong, head of the Korea Social Media Agency, a social media education program provider run by the government, is one of them. “I was suggested to be a backup candidate for a party recently after turning down several lawmakers’ recruitment offers,” he said.

Choi said that a lot of quiet recruiting is going on and many rumors as to who the popular targets are have started. A politician who asked not to be named said that one of the strongest presidential election candidates for the ruling party is trying to hunt the CEO of a major social media group enterprise.

The most popular targets for the political circle are Twitter experts. “Twitter has stronger ripple effects than any other SNS tool,” Won Yoon-sik, an official at NHN Corporation, Korea’s largest search engine, told the JoongAng Ilbo.

“Facebook is more for communicating with people you already know, but Twitter enables people to exchange opinions with many more people.”

However, experts say the SNS practices being performed by politicians are insincere.

“The SNS users post their messages because they want politicians to listen to their opinions and feelings,” Park Yong-hu, the Kakao Talk advisor said.

“But it seems like they use SNS as a speaking tool to advertise their election pledges.”

“Politicians need to show how carefully they listen to the public,” Yoon Seong-ee, professor of political science at Korea University said.


By Park Tae-hee [sakwon80@joongang.co.kr]

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