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Power of Netizens

Posted June. 29, 2005 06:01,   


The reporting team of Dong-A Ilbo, based on the online poll results from 2003 until recently released by the two major domestic internet portals “Naver” and “Daum,” measured the extent to which the opinion of netizens affected the policy decision-making processes.

Of 280 opinion polls conducted, we analyzed 165 study results related to policies and decision-making of the government, National Assembly, investigation authorities, and opinion leaders. Questions asking personal preferences were not included in the study.

Although policy decisions may not have been determined solely by statements of Internet users, the correlation is becoming increasingly prominent.

Opposition of Netizens, A Big Stumbling Block-

Of policies or decision-making against netizen’s opinions (90 cases), around half (43 cases) were found to be revoked.

Only 44 percent, or 40 cases, proceeded within their original package despite the resistance from the public.

The remaining seven cases remained uncertain or had only some parts carried through. As high as 71 percent of agenda supported by Internet users (75 cases) were carried out as they were.

In particular, in questionnaires asking the course of action or the decision-making of politicians or celebrities (12 cases), not a single case was determined against the views of netizens.

A significant 61 percent of policy and legislation decision-making in cultural, entertainment, and sports sectors was consistent with how Internet users thought. However, in the diplomatic and economic arenas, a mere 36 and 35 percent of policies, respectively, followed the opinions of netizens.

Highly Influential in Public Figures-

It turned out that celebrities who rubbed netizens the wrong way had a hard time surviving in the media and entertainment sectors as they are sensitive to fan reactions.

Yoo Seung-jun, the singer who was banned from entering Korea after abandoning his Korean nationality to avoid military service in 2002, failed to appear in a cable TV show last month after facing the netizens’ criticism.

Sohn Ho-young of GOD, a popular boy band, finally got off the hook only after deciding to hold on to his Korean citizenship after being involved in a controversy over his nationality.

Chuncheon City of Gangwon Province had to give up placing a statue of Bae Yong-jun, a popular Korean actor also known as “Yon-sama,” at the drama set last year as netizens strongly opposed it, citing the “poor artistic quality” of the piece.

The impact of the online public opinion goes beyond the cultural, sports, and entertainment sectors.

Former Finance and Economy Vice Minister Lee Hun-jai, who eventually stepped down from his post, was strongly pressured by cybercitizens to do so as he was involved in a real estate speculation scandal. Seoul National University professor Hwang Woo-suk was elected the only candidate for the dean of veterinary science college in February, but gave up the job because the public and netizens opposed the idea and urged him to “focus on research.”

The revised nationality law presented by a Grand National Party member Hong Jun-pyo was passed with strong support from netizens despite arguments of unconstitutionality by some legal scholars.

The government had revealed plans to scrap the special excise tax for 24 items such as golf products and jewelry September last year, but adjusted the number of items to 13 with the netizens’ resistance.

Not Always Met-

Despite the disagreement of Internet users, many of the political or diplomatic issues were carried out as planned.

Although a number of cybercitizens objected to proposals concerning the National Assembly’s presidential impeachment and dispatching combat troops to Iraq, the motions were passed in their original forms.

The opinions of netizens were not much reflected in issues related to long-term economic policies, either. Good examples include character change in newly designed notes, government’s tobacco price raise, and funding of credit card companies in management difficulties.

In addition, even though many suggest the screen quota system be abolished, the government supports the position of the film community and still preserves the system.

“Perhaps not always, but the increasing influence of netizens implies the emergence of new opinion leaders,” said Jang Deok-jin, a social science professor at Seoul National University, and noted, “Nobody will be able to make decisions easily without the consent of these cybercitizens in the future.”

Jae-Dong Yu jarrett@donga.com ditto@donga.com