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[Opinion] Consumer Movement

Posted June. 21, 2008 04:59,   


In the morning of June 20, Korea Advertisers Association Vice President Kim Yi-hwan was attacked over the phone by anonymous citizens. The reason for the attack was because the association had sent a letter to Internet portals Daum and Naver asking them to oversee Web pages that threaten advertisers who put ads in the Dong-A Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo, and the Chosun Ilbo. “I don’t know how they found out my private phone number, but they called from early in the morning and poured out unimaginable insults and swear words. It is an act of terrorism on market economy to impede the marketing activities of an advertiser in such a way as this,” he said in outrage. The problem is such violent acts are covered in the name of the “consumer movement.”

Professor Yeo Jeong-seong of the consumer studies department at Seoul National University says, “While a consumer movement is a way for a consumer to express dissatisfaction about a certain product through a boycott campaign, it is clearly political behavior under the cover of the consumer movement to anonymously attack an advertiser for putting ads in certain publications just because those media wrote articles that one does not agree with.” Professor Mun Jeong-suk of the consumer economics department of Sookmyung Women’s University also said, “Whether it is a consumer movement or not, it is a threat to the system not acknowledging the liberal activities of economic actors who are the basis of capitalism. It is the same as threatening a company for making products just because you don’t like seeing others consuming those products.”

While the consumer movement in the past focused more on the protection of consumers, the focus is now moving toward “consumer sovereignty,” a notion that regards consumers responsible for their choices and behavior. Consumer policies also go beyond the guarantee of damages and ask that consumers do their part such as reading necessary information or agreements before purchasing goods. It would be a shame for Korea, a country with the 13th largest trade volume in the world, if its people show behaviors implying that consumers are allowed to do whatever they want because they are weak, such as blackballing companies with lies and threats.

These people are smashing down a core value of democracy – freedom of the press. When the blank-page-juncture of the Dong-A Ilbo broke out in the 1970s, the dictator regime attempted to control the press by pressuring advertisers not to put ads in the newspaper. Now, ill-willed anonymous citizens are taking the place of the dictatorship. Are they dreaming of a multitude-dictatorship that will replace the military dictatorship? Would mature citizens tolerate that?

Editorial Writer Heo Mun-myeong (angelhuh@donga.com)