Seuma’il, Sshipal Balgaengi! (Smile, F*cking Commie!)

Over the last few years I’ve been trying to understand why so many Koreans seem to support the idea that Korea needs top-down censorship and top-down elimination of anonymity online.

They often cite the abhorrent behaviour of “Korean netizens” as evidence, with the Dog Poop Girl cited as a minor example and the suicides of many pop stars who were criticized online as major evidence of the cruelty and need for firmer controls online. (Michael has a post up that pretty much says the same thing I’ve been saying since I first encountered this weird rationalization: that a pop star could be forced into suicide by public criticism online, though with less emphasis on the problems of net censorship and this silly — and quite arguably unconstitutional — Real-Name System so many are excited about and supportive of, with the mistaken perception that it will essentially banish online abuse, while not minding that it also seems to be (selectively) banishing online anonymity in Korea.) When they talk about and criticize the depraved “netizens,” you get the feeling they thing these are rabid teenagers and young adults with no life, badly adjusted and cut off from society; people who need to be muzzled for peace to rule.

Perhaps they should think again, if they think the problem will be solved that way. A character going by the pseudonym “Smile” posted some pretty extreme comments on various Daum-administered web pages; similarly nasty comments have been made by someone “Smile” on Naver blogs, including a web cafe for housewives (with 660,000+ members) posting about their furniture purchases and home decorating tips; a brief glance made the nature of those comments pretty obvious even to me, for I could pick out the Korean words for several extreme cuss words, especially “fuck,” and heavy use of the word “balgaengi” which means “Commie” but is closer in tone to “fucking Commie” or something. There was also at least one personal threat mad, on the order of, “I’m gonna call the cops on your for posting false information online!” (But with more colorful language.)

Well, someone eventually did a little investigating by, well, er, clicking on the link on the pseudonym “Smile” and found something interesting about this raving, seemingly lunatic, foul-mouthed and threatening “netizen” jerk’s ID. It linked directly to  the homepage of a Congressman by the name of Shim Jae Chul. (Here’s his webpage, currently mostly shut down though you can see the front page, where his hobbies are listed as Ham [Radio, apparently], playing the saxophone, traveling, and reading. He doesn’t mention netizen rants, however, and it’s important to note — for legal purposes, mainly — that the link might be a coincidence, an artifact of the fact someone else is using the same pseudonym, or something. I’m not totally sure how that link could have appeared, but anyway, nobody’s totally, 100% sure it’s him, even given the bizarre similarity in comments between the Daum user known as “Smile” and the Naver user who goes by “Smile.”)

But, actually, a lot of people seem to feel sure about it. Citizens are showing their disapproval by sending him money, via online bank transfer. They’re sending 18 won, or 1,818 won — the equivalent of of a couple of pennies, or a couple of bucks in the latter case, but with the verbal pun that the Korean word for “18” [ship pal] is a pun because it sounds the same as the word for “fuck” [sshipal] — and they’re requesting him to special-deliver him a receipt for the payment. Special delivery costs 10,000 — about $10 — so donations to him are a net loss; the point being that the law requires him to send a receipt of any political donation, and that the cost of special deliveries come out of his government-allotted expense account.

So far, approximately 20,000 people have sent him a “fuck-you donation”, and his phones have been ringing constantly from calls by people demanding their receipts be sent special delivery… So it looks like it’s bye-bye expense account.

One article about these events quipped, in the title, on how he was getting “paid” for his “part time job.”

10 thoughts on “Seuma’il, Sshipal Balgaengi! (Smile, F*cking Commie!)

  1. Contributer? As in contributer of comments? Hmm… but then surely you’d be talking about being a commenter, a.k.a. commentator… no?!

    I’m not quite sure what you’re talking about, but, you have got me interested. And even more interested in your stuff. Good to see! Congratulations on getting published in Asimov’s! That’s a sign of excellence, for sure.

    I just picked up Years Best 8 (published 2003, refers to the best of 2002). Yeah, I’m a bit out of date. My excuse is I’ve been reading for my Masters in Children’s Lit. I’m looking to fit in a bit of a cross-reference with the good works by Ursula K LeGuin. She’s most excellent.

    Speaking of which, I was glad to find some quotes of hers on the wiki page for children’s lit. authors or criticism or something just the other day. Glad to discover Bruce Stirling and William Gibson recently (a few years ago) too. Bloody excellent.

    Hmm… Maybe you meant ‘contributer’ in some other sense. If you meant a contributer to Asimov’s, then I guess I’ll never get to read the rest of that teaser article… if there actually IS an ending. I get the feeling you might be the type just to write something like that to see how many hapless saps have nothing better to do, or have chronic levels of curiosity.

    Anyway, these are my recent contributions to local wider society:

    and I had a small piece published in the K.Herald this Tuesday.
    … Does THAT count!?!

  2. Heh, it’s the autotext of the plugin. I’ve moved you to the inner circle so you can read the post now.

    By the way, thanks, I’m indeed pleased about the Asimov’s publication. And I think you are indeed contributing to society on your sites, though Fair Trade seems to be catching on so slowly here, and though I fear Mike White’s Mom’s hopes will likely be lost in the static of political turmoil here. Someone might care if she was a famous American, or a rich Korean, but things as they are, I have only a little hope she’ll ever get any answers.

  3. Interesting story. One certainly hopes that they’ve found the right person…

    I’ve always found it interesting how ‘demonstrations’ in Korean cyberspace can mirror those found in real, urban space. Crashing Fifa’s website after losing to Switzerland in 2006 is a more traditional way (like paralyzing traffic arteries around Gwanghwamun and city hall), but this seems quite different. Someone obviously explained how to go about screwing the guy, and it spread like wildfire. I suppose it’s more of a cyber-lynching, like the Dog poop girl.

    As for the real name system, it was first suggested in the days after the dog poop incident, when the media began digging up as many similar stories as possible and using them as an excuse for more regulation. While I think of it, this debate about online privacy I found over at Left Flank is pretty interesting…

  4. Though I cannot prove it, my personal suspicion is that (a) this is the right guy (simply because of the apparent similarity in tone between the posts of the two “Smile” accounts, though one set were, again apparently, partially deleted), and that (b) regardless, what people are really doing is venting their anti-GNP sentiment.

    That is to say, I suspect netizens are slowly discovering the power of a polity to exploit flashmob techniques to form an effective opposition without having to depend on representative opposition (in the Congress, for example).

    Which could be very messy, but then, democracies are supposed to be messy. I just hope it doesn’t have to be bloody too. (Lime’s watching the demonstration on live webcam and says heads are getting pounded right now.)

    I’ve also been disturbed by the manipulation of popstar suicides by the media to manufacture this notion of murder-by-nasty-blog-comment which has so many young people unthinkingly endorsing the Real Name System. The causality is assumed, and any sensible discussion of mental health is completely avoided, so that when you bring the point up to people, they mostly just go, “Huh?”

    Thanks for the link to the debate. It was interesting, but I have to say, I tend to consider worst cases important when they can be very bad, and the bad possibilities with web privacy are very bad, especially with how basic civil rights are dissolving away worldwide. It’s easy when you’re in the US, but in a state where dissidence is punishable with death, we need to be defending the human right to anonymity. (And since the kind of rapid social change that can turn an opinion into treasonous dissidence can arise anytime, anywhere, what’s the sense of throwing away the right to anonymity?)

    One entertaining illustration of a bad scenario (though I don’t think it’s worst case) is the one Schwartz mentions, Cory Doctorow’s story “Scroogled” — implied by Aaron Schwartz’s concerns, but stepped up to a much scarier level. (Even if I think Google is generally much more our friend than, say, Yahoo.) There are darker possibilities, actually, and those are the ones that worry me more.

  5. The non-net media portray any net-related problem as a lot worse than it actually is, in general. People are using time they’d have used consuming other media to do their ‘net time, and the more traditional media are threatened by this.

    At least, this is the only reasonable theory we’ve come up with to explain some of the crap we’ve seen locally and nationally (central Texas and USA).

  6. I think you’re right about that. The media here are even more prone to that, though, since the major media here (especially print newspapers) are primarily far-right wing, while a lot of avid net users are younger, and seem to have a political bent against them.

    Again, “right” and “left” don’t mean here what they do in the West; it’s more about sympathies and antipathies, though even here I have more sympathy for the (moderate) left than the right, since they’re slightly less universally corrupted and slightly more willing to pass laws that fight sexist discrimination and so on. But I have pretty big problems with the political establishment as a whole, and it seems to me that plenty of people here do too.

  7. I followed the link to your site from the zenkimchi site. I hope this “contribution” will allow me to read the rest of the storey about the internet troll.

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