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21st Century’s Democracy Comes From Citizens’ “Thumbs”

21st Century’s Democracy Comes From Citizens’ “Thumbs”

Posted May. 11, 2005 23:27,   


The democratic movement in the Middle East, the democratic revolution in Central Asia, and China’s anti-Japanese protests…

These events are weighty incidents that have shaken the world this year. Behind all these incidents are mobile phones and the Internet. In other words, “mobile power” and “Internet power” made “people power.”

If the print media led a modern revolution and TV pulled down the Berlin Wall, the “thumb revolution,” represented by text messages from mobile phones and the Internet, is currently destroying the wall of a controlled society after emerging as a new kind of political power.

Experiencing the recent candlelight protest around Gwanghwamun organized by high school freshmen, the rally against the impeachment of President Roh, and the “group of extremely supporters of President Roh” in the 2002 presidential election, Korea is already a developed country in terms of “mobile phone demonstrations.”

However, in China and controlled societies in Middle East and Central Asia, mobile phones and the Internet are now getting attention as a powerful tool of freedom and democracy. That is the so-called “Mobile Democracy.”

In particular, China is a good example. Around 10,000 protesters consisting of university students and citizens who staged anti-Japanese protests in Beijing on April 9 made their promises through text messages and the Internet.

Unlike the past, when they demonstrated using wall-posters, mobile phones and the Internet simultaneously gathered tens of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people.

Although the Chinese authority controlled the online messages by blocking a specific key word with the mobilization of 50,000 inspectors, they were defenseless to text messages. On May 4, the memorial day of the May Fourth Movement, the Chinese government used text messaging, saying, “restrain anti-Japanese rallies” to its people.

The New York Times has recently reported that a text message has become an important communication tool of protest in the Middle East area, including Lebanon. Throughout last year and this year, online forums and text messages have also played a pivotal role in collecting people in Central Asia’s revolution, including Georgia, and the Ukraine.

Professor of journalism and mass media at the Hanyang University, Han Dong-seop noted, “The power to demolish a despotic state will come from ordinary people’s thumbs rather than from an ‘Advance Democracy Act of 2005’ from U.S. President George W. Bush.”

Hyung-June Park Jae-Young Kim lovesong@donga.com redfoot@donga.com