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Professor strives to ensure positive Web culture

A die-hard trend of cyber bullying has a university professor campaigning against hate comments on the internet.

In recent years, well-known singers and actors have committed suicide, with hostile comments from anonymous netizens thought to be among the reasons. Their suicides alerted the nation to the problem of anonymous cyber attacks.

South Korea has the highest suicide rate in the OECD, and experts point at cyber bullying as a major reason. Deaths from online bullying are widely recognized a serious social problem in Korea.

So to help turn the tide against cyber bullying, Konkuk University Prof. Min Byeong-chul has launched a campaign to promote positive online comments.

“Online comments written with the intention to threat, harass, or degrade others indiscriminately has been a prevailing problem in Korea, and to put a stop I have been promoting a movement for positive comments,” the founder and president of the Sunfull Movement said.

Sunfull, which is an abbreviation of a phrase meaning good comments, is an online campaign to give encouragement and hope to those people suffering from malicious comments on online bulletin boards.

More than 75 percent of Koreans use the internet, the nation’s high-density online community has become a hotbed for witch hunts and groundless accusations.

The merits of anonymity also give stronger power to netizens who are likely to sway to crowd or mob psychology.

When a young female singer committed suicide amid groundless rumors and malicious comments in 2007, Min gave his 586 pupils at Konkuk University an assignment to visit 10 celebrities’ websites or blogs that were flooded with hate comments and leave positive comments.

The assignment resulted in 5,860 positive comments, and since then, the movement has expanded nationwide as the public comes to realize the serious impact of malicious comments.

“Not so long ago, internet was an effective and friendly tool for a better life. These days it has become a monster. The real threat posed by hate comments today has to do with our young generation,” he said.

With that in mind, the Sunfull Movement is already being practiced by students in schools across the country. Earlier this year, a number of schools participated in the movement by organizing Sunfull clubs of students to encourage other classmates to post positive comments.

“We have to let the little kids learn, as character education. That’s why I am encouraging schools to carry out the movement,” the professor said with enthusiasm toward spreading the movement throughout the schools.

“Internet users must be convinced that this can really change culture and save lives. Schools have cooperated to give students social service points for posting positive comments online, and as of today they number 560,000.”

“The worldwide spread of the Sunfull Movement from Korea would bring a new phase of online culture where we create no harm for the next generation.”

Meanwhile, President Lee Myung-bak at the recent cabinet meeting called the controversy over the authenticity of singer Tablo’s diploma at Stanford University a “witch-hunt that should never happen again,” highlighting the importance of positive on-line behavior.

By Hwang Jurie  (jurie777@heraldcorp.com)
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