On-line Public Sphere and Deliberative Democracy: Civility and Tolerance in the Anti-U.S. Beef Internet Protests in Korea

Young Jae Choi (Hallym University, South Korea)

This paper addresses the question of civility and tolerance in on-line journalism and on-line public debates. In Korea, one of the world’s most wired nations, the internet has emerged as a substantial influence on public opinion, threatening the position of conventional media. During the anti-U.S. beef protests in spring 2008, Daum (one of the two giant portal sites) drew considerable protest because of its popular discussion forum, Agora, through which biased messages on the potential dangers of mad cow disease quickly spread, leading to massive public protests. Moreover, the forum users spearheaded a boycott of the conservative newspapers and companies placing ads in them. The newspapers were accused of supporting the deal regarding U.S. beef imports and criticizing the popular protests against American beef. Against this backdrop, the portal suffered a public backlash, in which it was accused of condoning or ignoring those biased messages in the discussion forum, moreover of allowing illegal acts such as “obstruction of business and defamation”. The government also sought to heighten Internet portals’ social responsibilities. This paper reports on an investigation into the objectivity, fairness (elements of journalism), civility and tolerance (elements of deliberative democracy) in the messages on the popular discussion forum. It also explores the effects of messages on the biased agenda building.

Timing - Saturday - Panel Session E1

Download Full Paper - Young Jae Choi.doc



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