Kim Young-ha (김영하) and the “Hot Button Medium”

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Kim Young-ha, who is a regular contributor to the New York Times Opinion pages, has a new piece up in which he discusses the current “Hot-Button Medium,” which, surprisingly, is a very old one, in fact it is wall-posters, typically at Universities.

The basic question the posters ask is disarmingly simple, “How are you (now?)”, but the idea has proved quite flexible, attaching itself to any of a number of political brawls here, from nationalization of the railroads, to internet ‘cheating’ at the last election.

Kim notes those realities but then makes an interesting segue:

The poster movement — a return to a more basic sort of expression — may best be seen as a backlash against an online culture that allows users to post whatever they want using false names or no names at all. Anonymity was once welcomed by political activists as a way to get opinions out in the open, but it has now come to be regarded as an obstacle to meaningful dialogue.

That the means of expression being more basic is arguable. Obviously in one sense they are certainly non-digital, but in fact the posters are famous largely because they have been represented on the internet and partly because their destruction, at the hands of the idiots at Ilbe, have also gone viral.

But it is very interesting, as Kim notes, that these are all signed and specific complaints from specific people, which is very different, in fact more basic and traditional, than the recently developed piranha-pool of the anonymous internet and its netizens.

The internet has not always been kind to Kim, but I’m glad to see him writing about this, even in the limited space offered by the NYT. How long can it be before we can expect a book of formal essays from Kim? It seems like a very common thing for Korean authors to do, so we can only hope.^^