During these weeks there were two major fusses about public persecution through social network services online (a blog post from Human Rights Monitor Korea sums the cases up pretty well). Newspapers, severely suffering from losing their grip on public sentiment, are trying their best to keep the public away from SNS, dubbing these cases “SNS witch hunts.” Leaving the existing media outlet’s interest aside, these cases are worth contemplating anyway.
Both cases were ignited by lopsided, unilateral opinions and the initial self-claimed victims were backfired later as contrary statements came up from the other party. In the end, it seems that the both party were victims of the despotic public.
Something like this could always happen in any culture but I think it is way too severe in SK and I am not alone in this view. We, Koreans care too much for the others and are charged with immense pathos (by which I mean a general aspect of emotions, not the usual meaning in English). This tends to lead into fanaticism to the extent that blurs a frontier between religion and politics. We see it in the remnant of the Roh Moo-hyun camp returning to the stage (which I would like to dub “necROHmancy”) and the recent fuss around the I Am A Weasel fanatics.
Can’t Koreans just leave the things as they are and stand on as an each individual? It seems that they can’t help taking sides and persecuting each other’s side. They cannot bear inside critics so they purge them from their camp, solidifying the uniformity of the group. Yes, I think we have strong totalitarian sentiments, even after having suffered from the totalitarian military regime.
One thing for which I am particularly concerned is that ethnic minorities would soon become the next prey for these hostile sentiments. Heretofore, SK have maintained a relatively uniform ethnicity or culture. The notion of Korea as a single-race nation-state is outright delusional (there is nothing like a “single”-race!) but it still has a certain grip on the people.
After having become one of the economically prospering countries, SK draws in more and more people from different cultures. Who’s going to be blamed after an inevitable economic downslide took over? And what if there are ethnic minorities, much easier to prey on than union members or people from Honam? As the ethnic or cultural minorities become a part of the society, more likely for them to be at gunpoint of the blind pathos, I’m afraid.