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Netionalism Emerging in East Asia

Posted March. 22, 2008 08:23,   


These are just a few excerpts on “Naver Enjoy Japan,” a Web site created for message board exchanges between Korean and Japanese netizens. The citizens of the two countries fiercely argue with each other through hundreds of postings on the Web site, which offers real-time auto-translation.

As Internet users from all around the world have more opportunities to interact with each other on the Web, “nationalism,” a combination of the Internet and nationalism, is emerging. This is a term implying the propensity for surfers to degenerate other countries or to represent national chauvinism.

▽ Sites Bombarded with Slangs

The East Asian news section of Ni channeru (2ch), a Japanese Web site, is inundated with postings criticizing China for the dumplings scandal in Japan, and the Tibetan unrest. “Start a riot in Beijing and die all together,” is an example of one of the incendiary comments.

On Chinese Web sites such as Tienya, Internet users wrote that they felt “very refreshed” after Taiwanese spectators held a picket sign disparaging Korea in the middle of a Beijing Olympic baseball qualifier between Korea and Taiwan.

Internet sites of Korea, China and Japan are bombarded with vulgar epithets such as “Jokbari,” a term that Koreans uses to disparage Japanese, “Gaoribangzu,” a word that Chinese uses to belittle Koreans, and “Jjangkola,” a term that Japanese or Koreans use to mock Chinese.

There are many sites in Korea and Japan, focused on anti-Japanese, anti-Chinese and anti-Korean issues. There are as many as 30-40 “anti-Japanese” sites in Naver and Daum, two major Korean portals. Some sites have as many as 5,600 users.

Japanese site ‘2ch’ has a special section “Nida,” which displays anti-Korean content. Negative news on Korea is posted on the East Asia news section every day. As the anonymity inherent on the Web has facilitated rabid nationalism, “ultra-right netizens” have emerged as the main source of “anti-Korean” and “anti-Chinese” content there.

“Net-nationalism” is spreading through portal sites and personal blogs in China where there are no explicitly anti-Korean and anti-Japanese sites due to governmental regulations. Recently, an “anti-Korean rap” video clip posted by a Chinese blogger spread throughout China, eventually becoming an Internet sensation.

▽ Cause and Forecast of Netionalism

Experts point out that the anonymity and mob mentality of the Internet is the cause of widespread netionalism. Libelous content posted by a few Internet users spreads to net users, and is promulgated globally through auto-translation software on the Web.

The Korean Wave, the Korea-Japan World Cup, and the rise of China have raised mutual awareness among the relevant Asian countries, contributing to the emergence of netionalism. The fact that a social Web site for Chinese students studying in Korea has a plethora of anti-Korean content, implies that netionalism is deeply rooted both online and offline.

With the increasing number of Internet users, netionalism in Korea, China and Japan is considered to be potentially harmful to the diplomatic exchanges between the respective countries. Japan’s "2ch" has about 200 million visitors per day. The Chinese Internet penetration has surpassed 220 million, overtaking the United States as the most populous Web nation.

Ahn Min-ho, a journalism professor of Sookmyung Women’s University, said, “Wikipedia regulates socially divisive data such as race and gender internally.” To that end, he said that Seoul, Beijing and Tokyo and their relevant Internet leaders should work together to stifle netionalism.