South Korea is one of the most wired countries in the world, with the world’s fastest average Internet connection speed. About 47 million people, or 92 percent of the population, are Internet users, indicating the nation’s inseparable relationship with their digital space.
In an ever so connected society, words spread faster than ever before. So do the malicious comments.
In an effort to fight online negativity, professor Min Byoung-chul has been pioneering a campaign for peace on the Internet, fighting online bullying and hateful comments since 2007.
The movement, called Sunfull, has now taken roots and wide recognition in Korea, joined by 6,000 elementary, middle and high schools and civic groups. The name originates from “sun,” a Korean word meaning good, and “full,” referring to the word for “reply.”
Min Byoung-chul, chairman and founder of the Sunfull Movement (Park Hyun-koo/The Korea Herald)
Now, Min is moving to spread the movement to other countries, including the U.S. and Japan, with the focus now being China, Korea’s neighbor crucial in cooperation both online and offline.
And his efforts have already started to pay off.
In 2014, Korean netizens sent a book of condolences to families of victims of the Sichuan earthquake that hit China in 2013. Likewise, Chinese netizens left words of comfort on a memorial website for the dead and missing students from the Sewol ferry accident in 2014.
“I believed that the launch of this movement was even possible to contribute to enhancing Korea-China relations,” said Min, chairman and founder of the Sunfull Movement in an interview with The Korea Herald.
“A single slanderous comment on the Internet may hurt someone’s feelings or even possibly cause international conflict,” he added.
In the same vein, in May last year, Min brought together 3,000 young people from Korea, Japan and China in an aim to build multinational friendship and peace. Participants were also invited to a ceremony to showcase their campaign for peaceful Internet comments, which took place at Gwanghwamun Square in downtown Seoul.
“I wish to host more of such events in hopes that the it will foster friendship among the young people of Korea, Japan and China, and allow them to commit themselves to staying away from negative online culture,” said Min.
Min lectured at Beijing Language and Culture University in 2014 as a visiting professor to introduce China’s younger generation to positive online culture. He also held a cyber debate via a channel of China’s biggest social media portal Weibo. Min moreover ranked No. 17 on Weibo’s list of people of the year in January for his work for the public welfare in China.
“It is just the beginning of my quest to urge youths around the globe to pledge an end to posting negative Internet comments and to send each other peaceful messages,” he added.
He stressed that by doing so, the younger generation, the future of society, will acquire positive online habits that can strengthen and build students’ characters.
“As studies find, the earlier you start character education, the greater the influence it will have on the child. That’s why it is important to teach young people how to relate to others and put themselves in others’ shoes.
“Such personality training can become one’s life habit,” said Min.
Min also stressed the need for establishment of regulations to fight slanderous commenting.
“Just like when a penalty is given to punish those who violate traffic regulations, there must be a collective effort to control groundless malicious comments,” Min said, arguing for stronger legal action against reckless online negativity.
Currently, malicious comments online are punishable under the Act on Promotion of Information and Communications Network Utilization and Information Protection for spreading false facts or defamation. One can receive up to three years imprisonment or a fine of 30 million won ($27,000). Most cases end up with a monetary penalty.
“And by doing so clean online culture will settle here and spread to other countries as a good example.”
By Kim Da-sol (firstname.lastname@example.org)