The Korea Herald


S. Korea’s echo chambers grow, study finds

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Jan. 30, 2024 - 13:15

    • Link copied

South Korea's National Assembly building in Yeouido, Seoul. (Getty Images) South Korea's National Assembly building in Yeouido, Seoul. (Getty Images)

South Koreans' tendency to search only the information matching their own political inclination has been rising while their general interest toward politics has been on a downward trajectory, a recent survey by a local research company indicated.

Last year the online research company Embraine conducted a survey of 1,000 adults aged 19 to 59 to find how much they are affected by the filter bubble, which refers to when an internet user encounters information that conforms to and/or reinforces their own beliefs.

The study showed that 17.8 percent of respondents actively look up news or information with conflicting political views from their own. This marked a decrease from 25.8 percent in 2023, indicating that a growing percentage of the public is becoming uninterested in information that opposes their own politics.

When facing those with contrasting political opinions, the percentage of those who have discussions decreased from 2021 to 2023, both online -- 25.8 percent to 20.2 percent -- and offline -- 27.2 percent to 21.7 percent. In contrast, an increasing percentage of people said they avoid such debates altogether in that same period -- 11.4 percent to 14.7 percent online, and 9.7 percent to 13.8 percent offline.

This indicates a growing tendency for people only communicate with those who hold similar political views and shut out those who have differing views.

Researchers found that older people were more indifferent toward what other people thought. When asked if one would be okay "even if nobody related to my thoughts," 61.6 percent of those in their 50s said they would be fine, compared to 50 percent of 40-somethings, 44.8 percent of 30-somethings, and 38 percent of those in their 20s.

In contrast, 50.8 percent of those in their 20s said "getting people to relate to my thoughts is very important," compared to 46.4 percent, 42 percent, and 40 percent of the 30s, 40s, and 50s age groups, respectively.

It was found that the older generation in general is more likely to watch YouTube channels that match their own political beliefs: 43.1 percent for those in their 50s, 37.7 percent for 40s, 28 percent for 30s, and 28.6 percent for 20s.

"This indicates that (the older generation) is more likely to only receive biased information when it comes to political issues, putting them at an increased risk of the filter bubble. Since the aforementioned results indicate that many people from this generation have no trouble when no one relates to their thoughts, it can be expected that they are more likely to be subject to extreme political bias," the study said.

Around half the people on both Meta -- formerly Facebook -- and YouTube said they are not aware of their friends' political inclinations, 48.1 percent for Meta and 51.8 percent for YouTube.

In addition to growing political bias, the study showed a general trend of declining interest in politics with 18.3 percent of respondents saying that they have no interest in politics in 2023, nearly double the 8.9 percent of respondents in 2020.

Around 50.4 percent said they do not support any political party while 13.1 percent said they do not know much about the parties, both figures increasing from the 2021 results of 47.1 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively.