Political Democratization to Democratization in Everyday Life
Joo Sung-soo, Graduate School of Public Policy
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The viral tidal wave of the Me Too movement that started in 2017 did not fail to hit Korea as well. The liberal movement is one of the most revolutionary moments in Korea after the candle light revolution and the impeachment of the former president. Basing his research on such revolutionary acts, professor Joo Sung-soo (Graduate School of Public Policy) reported his study results and the newly coined term, “democratization in everyday life” on the Seoul Broadcasting System (SBS), one of the major national television and radio network companies in Korea.
After the succession of the Sewol Ferry incident and the piles of unresolved sexual assaults and hidden camera issues, people have come to live in constant anxiety and fear that they can no longer trust anyone but themselves to help or protect themselves from these threats. Luckily, various online platforms have allowed these individuals to gather online to share and talk about their fear, dissatisfaction, and needs for change. People have then started forming a tight bond of empathy, which has eventually led to mass action, an example of which was the candle light revolution. The candle light revolution in the midst of growing anxiety was a historical event that ignited the beginning of a domino effect that uncovered the dirty crusts of our society.
The successful impeachment of the former president after a series of protests has encouraged people to be aware of the power of their voice. If it was not for the online platform, the candlelight revolution would have been impossible. In other words, such revolutionary acts have all started from individuals who have gathered online. “The term ‘democratization in everyday life’ is based on IT technology and the tight-knit network that individuals form through online conversation and collective intelligence. In this way, individuals form a bond of empathy through which they can freely express themselves, and the freedom of expression is of course, one of the essential conditions of a democracy,” said Joo.
Joo admitted that the internet definitely has two faces. “Up till now, I think only the dark side of the internet has been dealt with. I won’t deny that it can isolate some people, but I believe that it has more positive sides to it than the negatives. This especially applies for Koreans,” said Joo. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), 57 percent of South Koreans use social media for news at least once a day, while 47 percent use it several times a day. “It means that the majority of Koreans, especially teenagers and young adults, are constantly exposed to the online world, a place where they can learn new information on a daily basis and freely form new connections with other online-users countless times throughout the day,” said Joo.
The younger generations live in an era where they are constantly exposed to a free flow of information and democratic ideologies. Korea, along with its Chinese and Japanese counterparts, is slowly moving away from its authoritative culture. However, there is still a distinct generational gap as this sort of value change is more apparent in the younger and comparatively liberal generation. This can only create more generational conflict and societal instabilities. “That’s why I came up with the term, 'democratization in everyday life.' It’s different from political democratization because the latter only focuses on politics. Now we should focus not only on the politics but also on bringing democracy into our daily lives, fully living up to our rights like freedom of expression and speech,” said Joo.
When asked to impart any lasting words of wisdom, Joo responded, “democratization in everyday life also exists in our school. Amongst your colleagues, your seon-hubaes (senior-junior), or between a professor and a student, there may exist some sort of authoritative relationship. I’m a professor, but I also go through unjust treatment from time to time. Democracy begins with being able to express. I hope this sort of free atmosphere also spreads throughout the school as well.”
Park Joo-hyun firstname.lastname@example.org
Photos by Lee Jin-myung
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