Author Archives: Jin Lee

Asia media examine Trump: The view from South Korea

by Jin Lee

South Korean journalism is paying less attention to international affairs due to seriousness of the political scandal in South Korea.

Still, however, journalists here are covering the United States under Donald Trump’s presidency. This is not just because of the bonds between the U.S and South Korea, but because of the status of the US as the world-leading country in the economy and international politics.

As President Trump continues to sell the “American First” idea since his presidential campaign, however, many countries have expressed discomfort about Trump being president. South Korea is no exception. As much as many South Korean citizens are unhappy about Trump because of his enforced immigration policy and hostile attitude to non-white foreigners, the way South Korean journalism covers Trump administration is unfavorable.

Such concerns were initiated after Trump signed an executive order restricting immigration from seven Muslim countries (Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen). Trump’s immigration policy has sparked a fierce debate in South Korean media over racism and global citizenship, which made not only those listed countries but also the rest of world puzzled, worried, and even threatened. South Korean media have seriously criticized the order, seeing several subsequent cases as being unfair to South Korea.

One case occurred Feb. 11 in Koreatown, Los Angeles, when a Caucasian woman attacked an 83-year-old Korean yelling “white power” before fleeing. This news has spread by social media. Los Angeles police have so far not apprehended the woman.

And on that same day a South Korean solo traveler was detained in Honolulu where his connecting flight to NYC was scheduled. The traveler said, not only was he barred from entering the country with no reason at the immigration checkpoint, but also that he was forced to say he had been illegally employed in the U.S., although he never had worked in America. His request to contact South Korea Embassy was reportedly denied by U.S. Customs and Border Protection in Honolulu, and he subsequently was deported. South Korean news media covered both cases, saying “With the enactment of Trump’s executive order, possible unfavorable treatment to South Koreans may be happening.”

In addition to increasing concerns about South Korean citizens’ safety in the U.S., South Korean news media also are anxious about security on the Korean Peninsula. The Feb. 10 meeting between Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe provoked such anxiety. North Korea staged a ballistic missile test that day while Trump and Abe were playing golf in Florida. They quickly voiced their concerns about North Korea.

“I just want everybody to understand and fully know that the United States of America stands behind Japan, its great ally, 100 percent,” Trump said. South Korean media reported, “given his statement, U.S. under Trump seems to consider neither South Korea nor peace on the Korean Peninsula at all.”

South Korean media appear concerned that diplomatic relations between the US and South Korea have been changing after the inauguration of Donald Trump. The media coverage of international politics – mainly about the U.S. – is enough to trigger concerns and fears about security in South Korea among South Koreans.

Media here report that as Trump argues for a more protectionist American economic plan, many South Korean companies, such as Samsung and LG, will likely to encounter difficulties in their business with the U.S. In addition to the unfavorable immigration policy or attitude in the U.S., the security and economy of South Korea might be in trouble under Trump administration, many news media say.

While South Korean legacy media continue to produce news in a “South Korea in crisis” format under the Trump administration, new media, including Twitter, are full of cat images. One tweet in Korean reads, “After the 2016 presidential election, now the world, all we’ve got to do is upload pictures of cats and dogs.” Another twit in Korean says similarly, speaking to U.S. Twitter users, “Hey America, now you will understand why we only upload cat pictures. Soon your tweets will be full of pictures of cats.”

Some tweets directly mention a “world gone crazy.” By doing so, new media full of cat images seem to ridicule current politics. Those images of cats on Twitter do not just say “cats are so adorable.” Rather, by posting memes of cats that tease their owners or modifying cat images to make fun of human beings, Twitter users seem to enjoy the humor of the current political crisis.

It is no coincidence that funny memes of world leaders, including those of South Korean President Geun-Hye Park, North Korean President, Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump, are posted together with those cat memes on Twitter. Uploading funny pictures is a way new-media users here can temporarily escape current political and international crises. Through cat memes, Twitter users deride people in general. Through humorous images of presidents Park and Trump, they also blame the “stupidity” of politicians who were supposed to do their best for the better world, but instead cause bitter conflicts in the world.

Concerns about Pokémon Go technology

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After the release of augmented reality game Pokémon Go in July, the game became a sensational cultural phenomenon influencing diverse social sectors, including the stock market, smartphone accessories and even the real-estate market.

Developed by Niantic for Android, iOS and Apple Watch devices, Pokémon Go is a location-based smartphone game that users play with virtual creatures, called Pokémon originally from a Japanese animation series. Utilizing the smartphone’s GPS capability, the game locates Pokémons on players’ current geographical location, in which the players capture, train, and battle Pokémons. By combining a friendly and familiar entertainment content, Pokémon Go helps people easily understand the concept of augmented reality.

One day after its release in selected 20 countries, the game recorded the highest download on the app markets of both Android and iOS. Within the first week from its release, the number of Pokémon Go users outnumbered the number of daily Twitter users and outplaced other mobile games as the fastest game ever to No. 1 on the mobile revenue chart. As of July 13 it topped 15 million downloads on Google Play and Apple’s App Store, according to a USA Today report. Consequently, numerous game strategy guides, tricks and secrets have been introduced for all users at different levels, across various media and the world: “How to get unlimited Poke Coins Free”, “How to track rare Pokemons on your map” or “XP Trick for Lucky Eggs.” For instance, one blogger posted his trick, such as suspending the smartphone on a toy truck and letting the truck run to move swiftly to catch more Pokémons and items.

With the high popularity of the game, the technology industry has launched a variety of subsequent products and promoted its existing products associating to the specifications of Pokémon Go. Since Pokémon Go is a mobile game, products featuring saving the battery of devices are attracting public attention. Exemplified by Apple Watch, wearable devices operate battery-efficiently, but also provide users more opportunities to enjoy an immersive and cinematic virtual reality experience.

But there are always side effects. The media have reported recent accidents happening to players while playing the game. One Pokémon Go player crashed his car into a tree in Alabama, an Arizona couple left their two-year-old baby at home unattended to play Pokémon, and one man was rescued after he fell off ocean bluff while hunting Pokémon in California.

And the media are reporting other dangers. The number of police reports have been increasing, which robberies become rampant using Pokémon Go. Robbers hide nearby “PokéStop” – where players gather game items – and conduct armed robberies targeting the players. Not only physical attacks but also players’ device security became vulnerable. In the countries where the game has not been released, several malware apps were spread masquerading as the beta version of Pokémon Go app or other game-related content. When cyber crimes are brought to the table with Pokémon go, not only the individual user but also any connected network to the user can be infected since the game operates based on the Internet connection and utilizes the users’ account of Social Network Sites.

In addition, as the game utilizes the players’ GPS information, their privacy is an issue. Pokémon Go can access users’ current location, travel information, camera and other content in the device or cloud storage. And since players are likely to use their personal accounts and work accounts interchangeably when logging in on mobile apps, data from both accounts can be transacted, monitored and used while playing the game. Possible risks from data leakage are omnipresent.

Beginning with Pokémon Go, augmented reality apps and products will mushroom as the next big game in the technology industry. At the same time that the new technology gives more chances of new pleasure, enhanced productivity and a new way of life, it also can appear to be at least a bit of a threat to the society. For now, at the early stage of the big technology wave of the future, it is important for the media to fully acknowledge and report on such issues.