Shortly after Labor Minister Lee Chae-pil met representatives of labor and management for Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction amid the labor confrontation in mid-June, word of an imminent police crackdown on striking workers started spreading via Twitter.
“That wasn’t what the minister truly meant. So we responded via Twitter, explaining the true meaning of his remarks,” Kim Eugene, a labor ministry official in charge of public relations, said. “We have an online spokesperson who handles such cases.”
Monitoring Twitter has become part of everyday routine for Kim and other public relations officers in the government, as the government embraces the new communication tool to reach out to the public.
“There seems to be no better tools than social networking services in publicizing government policies. We should get used to using them,” President Lee Myung-bak said in a Cabinet meeting in April. The president hired last July a former journalist for the new post of chief online communicator, who is tasked with managing his social media accounts.
Since then, many government ministers started tweeting or writing on Facebook.
|An image of a handwritten note posted on Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik’s Facebook.|
Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik’s Facebook account is managed by his aides but he also writes regularly. The 62-year-old premier writes on paper, not on computer, which his staff scan and post on the Web. His Facebook site is titled “pencil-written” Facebook of Prime Minister Kim Hwang-sik.
In a posting dated June 21, he boasted about his new tailored suits, for which he paid 250,000 won each. The suits were made by a local company which fills 44 percent of its workforce with physically challenged people, he said.
|Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan’s Twitter page|
Foreign Minister Kim Sung-hwan is also another Cabinet member who is passionate toward social media. The minister opened his account only in April and so far posted 288 tweets. He has some 1,600 followers.
PR experts say that social media, if used wisely, can be a low cost, yet effective, channel for the government to disseminate policy information, get speedy public feedback and facilitate interactive communication with citizens about policy.
Most of the ministers’ Twitter accounts, however, look too official, run by their staff.
“Just think of SNS (social networking service) as a tool for conversation,” Lee Chan-jin, CEO of Dreamwiz and an enthusiastic Twitter user himself, tweeted: “If one is forced to engage in conversation, that conservation is most likely to be fruitless, but still it’s better than doing nothing. Some may learn to have true conversation, others may not, but it’s worth a try.”
By Lee Sun-young (firstname.lastname@example.org)