Written by Korean Studies Workshop for Junior Faculty (2013) participant Jiyeon Kang.
Igniting the Internet is one of the first books to examine in
depth the development and consequences of Internet-born politics in the
twenty-first century. It takes up the new wave of South Korean youth
activism that originated online in 2002, when the country’s dynamic
cyberspace transformed a vehicular accident involving two U.S.
servicemen into a national furor that compelled many Koreans to
reexamine the fifty-year relationship between the two countries.
Responding to the accident, which ended in the deaths of two high school
students, technologically savvy youth went online to organize
demonstrations that grew into nightly rallies across the nation.
Internet-born, youth-driven mass protest has since become a familiar and
effective repertoire for activism in South Korea, even as the rest of
the world has struggled to find its feet with this emerging model of
Igniting the Internet focuses on the cultural dynamics that
have allowed the Internet to bring issues rapidly to public attention
and exert influence on both domestic and international politics. The
author combines a robust analysis of online communities with nuanced
interview data to theorize a “cultural ignition process”—the mechanisms
and implications for popular politics in volatile Internet-driven
activism—in South Korea and beyond. She offers a unique perspective on
how local actors experience and remember the cultural dynamics of
Internet-born activism and how these experiences shape the political
identities of a generation that has essentially come of age in
cyberspace, the so-called digital natives or millennials.
South Korea’s debates on the nature of youth-driven Internet protest
reverberated around the world following events in Tahrir Square in 2010
and Zuccotti Park in 2011. Igniting the Internet offers
numerous points of comparison with countries following a path of
technological development and urban youth formation similar to that of
South Korea with a thorough consideration of general structural changes
and locally specific triggers for Internet activism. Readers interested
in social movement theory and new media in social context as well as
students and scholars of Korean studies will find the work both
far-reaching and insightful.