Author Archives: Jin Lee

South Koreans more worried about U.S. and Trump than North Korean nuclear threat

By Jin Lee

If you Google, South Korea and Seoul are listed as two of the safest countries and cities in the world. That South Korea is the safest country is sharply contrasted with the images of the Korean Peninsula, as described recently by the media in both the United States and around the world. Although North Korea has been a big headache to the U.S. since the Cold War, the nuclear threat of North Korea became more intense lately, especially since President Donald Trump took office.

It is true North Korea’s nuclear testing appears improved enough to threaten the U.S. The missile launched late in August traveled some 1,700 miles and flew over the Japanese territory. Time magazine said, given the distance and type of the missile, the recent test shows North Korea is targeting the U.S. territory of Guam. Indeed, North Korea stated it is “examining a plan” to strike Guam with missiles, hours after Trump warned the North in early August that any threat to the U.S. would face “fire and fury.”

This situation is translated as a “crisis” on the entire Korean Peninsula by both the U.S. and international news media. The frequently appearing news coverage on the Peninsula is heightening the world’s attention and fear as the headlines of major news agencies demonstrate. For instance: “Putin warns of ‘global catastrophe’ over North Korea” (CNN, Sept. 5), “Trump renews threat of force against North Korea over nuclear weapons” (Washington Post, Sept. 8), “Trump: ‘Sad day’ for North Korea if U.S. takes military action” (Reuters, Sept. 8).

However, media in South Korea show the situation in a different light, as “the crisis” is not perceived as provocations of the North and thus fail to draw attention by South Korean citizens. On Aug. 29, when North Korea confirmed the “success” of a ballistic missile test, the most read news stories on South Korean portal websites, Naver and Daum, were “Gangseo District residents (in Seoul) disagreement over a planned special education school for disabled children,” “South Korea spy agency admits attempting to rig 2013 presidential election for the conservative party,” “Hurricane Harvey resulted from global warming,” and weather news. News about the nuclear threat from North Korea’s missile test was located below these and other national news stories and South Koreans saw little news of North Korea’s nuclear tests.

On Twitter on that day, South Korean users massively tweeted about “a clear sky signaled the arrival of the fall in Korea” while sarcastically but rarely mentioning the missile test. South Korea’s fall sky, while clear, is difficult to see due to air pollution from China. One tweet was retweeted more than 41,000 times, saying:

“N.K.: Missile launched! East Sea, passed! Japan, passed!

Japan: OMG, what’s going on? Military provocation? War?

S.K.: Wow, such a fall sky today”

The number of retweets of this tweet demonstrates while South Koreans know about North Korea’s testing, they are not alarmed and see it simply as “old” news.

In U.N. speech on September 19, Trump threatens “to totally destroy North Korea” calling Kim Jong Un as “rocket man.” South Korean newspapers translate it into Korean in their online news articles. One comment on the news article on the Web amounted 1,865 likes within four hours, said, “Is this correct translation? Don’t mistranslate and write news overreacting. I am more scared by journalism that provokes fear and plays on South Koreans than by North Korea’s nuclear threat.”

When Trump tweeted “Long gas lines forming in North Korea. Too bad” on September 17, major South Korean news agencies mistranslated: “A long gas pipe line is formed in North Korea now. Regretful.” Then news continues, “This tweet seems to show Trump’s opinion opposed to President Moon’s discussion of an idea to connect gas pipe lines through South Korea, North Korea, and Russia in Moon’s last visit in Russia. The point is made that Trump’s tweet may criticize South Korea attempting to enhance economic cooperation with North Korea through negotiations with Russia, an ally of North Korea. Given that Trump tweet mentions a call with President Moon, there is a chance Trump might have delivered his opinions directly to President Moon.”

Major news agencies in South Korea are undergoing journalists’ protests, being accused of news managers’ interference in news coverage in favor of the previous government (President Lee, President Park) and Korean conservative party (Liberty Korea Party) after the center-left party Democratic Party won 2017 presidential election and became the ruling party.

Reasons for this lack of concern are varied. One might blame political indifference of young generations or one might blame the characteristic of Twitter as one of the new media where “soft news” is more consumed than “hard news” as users are free to say anything at any moment. Too, there are other explanations for indifference or sarcasm toward North Korea’s missile tests, which are found on new media, such as Twitter, Facebook and other online sites.

While some South Korean traditional media talk about a possible scenario of North Korea’s attack on the South, implying a need to strengthen the army, scholars and international news agencies point out that North Korea targets the U.S., not South Korea. The size of the Korean Peninsula, some 87,270 square miles, is about one-half the size of California. Given this, North Korea’s attempt to broaden the range of its missile is not seen by most media here as targeting the South. South Korean citizens acknowledge this, and thus show little interest in do the North’s missile tests.

In addition, North Korea has repeatedly made such threats over the years as there have been a number of such tests since the end of the Korean War. Tests of missiles have often been covered by “old” media when South Korea’s congress or government needs to conceal something. The most recent example is the corruption scandal of the former President Park. When the scandal began to be revealed, the government and conservative party (majority then) played the North Korea card to distract people’s attention by focusing on security.

However, South Koreans no longer seem to buy this idea. Thus, when the political scandal was exposed, on many online sites and new media South Korean users predicted the missile tests of the North would be performed, and thus covered by the government and news. And that’s what happened. The next day, the North’s missile test took place and the South Korean government and congress used a familiar script in addressing its population: “Dear South Korean citizens. The threat of the North Korean nuclear issue becomes more intense. However, this is the time for us to hold our hands together and push through today’s difficulties…” As this script has been repeated so many times in past years, news of the North Korean missile testing was simply dismissed by most South Koreans.

In recent weeks in South Korea there have been critiques of the Trump administration on Facebook, Twitter and the Internet. One Twitter example said “Trump or Bush? They are just same. Terrify people, evoke fear by repeating North Korea. Trump will try to sell weapons, as always.” Similar rhetoric has frequently appeared in many posts on South Korean Facebook, Twitter and in online news.

Predicted on tweets, three days after North Korea’s missile test, Trump tweeted, “I am allowing Japan & South Korea to buy a substantially increased amount of highly sophisticated military equipment from the United States.” A number of South Korean tweets followed, with people swearing and saying, “I knew it; this was the plan.”

Hong-gul Kim, son of Kim Dae-Jung (the 15th president of South Korea), posted his tweet, “Trump is making every effort to take advantage of this nuclear crisis of North Korea as a chance for selling the weapon.”

Reports from some South Korean news agencies criticized the U.S. Seoul Sinmun, for example, asked in early September, “Trump’s outright pressure on us to buy weapon. Is there a deal going on between South Korea and the U.S.?”

According to Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, South Korea is a major consumer of U.S. weapons, and, the U.S. government sent about $10 billion worth of weapons to foreign countries in 2016. It has long been reported here that the U.S. exerts pressure on South Korea to purchase “high priced but low quality” American weapons.

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.