South Korean Internet War Goes on as Conservative Website Grows


Forget Kim Jong Un’s rockets and Japan’s territorial claims; an invisible war of another sort is waging on the smartphones, laptops, and Active-X infected PCs of South Korean netizens as the conservative portal Ilbe gains more attention on the Korean internet.

Last month, koreaBANG looked at the origin of the conservative online community, which is a hotbed of online South Korean conservatism that has continuously created ripples on the Korean internet following the presidential election.

The below article is a good breakdown of the current online debate in Korea on the nature of Ilbe, its netizens, and its opposing camps.

Note: the comment section on this article was dominated by Ilbe users.

From The Kyunghyang Shinmun:

Ilbe vs. Anti-Ilbe: a volatile Internet war?

The presidential election has ended but the death match continues between online communities. Ilbe, a website that emerged as the center of the rightist community in the second half of 2012, has spawned hot controversies in various communities.

In the morning on December 14th, 2012, 5 days prior to the election, posts with the following title were spammed on ‘humor site’ Ilbe. ‘You have always made trouble trying to ‘industrialise’ [Ilbe meme meaning to convert others to their rightist views.] but how does it feel to get ‘agriculturised’?’ That was a new development.

Slogan calling for 'agriculturization' of Ilbe.

Slogan calling for ‘agriculturisation’ of Ilbe.
‘A normal site can be ruined by one Ilbe bug. Everyone has to try hard to terminate Ilbe bugs right now.’

The state of the community war was broadcast live on other big Internet communities. The anti-Ilbe allied front included most famous online communities. Even Soranet, regarded as the symbol of depravity, joined the alliance. A user on DC Inside that can be considered the ‘origin’ of Ilbe left a comment in reply to Ilbe users’ request for assisstance and it garnered attention. ‘IMO, you guys should have a taste of your own medicine for once.’

They named the ‘war’ on that day the ‘Great Victory on Ilbe’. The term ‘agriculturisation’ was in sarcastic response to ‘industrialisation’ used by Ilbe users who fight ‘comment battles’ or ‘spam’ their comments in other sites. A soccer community named ‘I Love Soccer‘ led the war. Why has Ilbe become the ‘public enemy’?

Around that time, a Facebook page titled ‘Are you an Ilbe bug?’ was opened. This is how you use the page. If you find a netizen who uses words like ‘unji’, ‘~盧’, ‘industrialisation’, ‘jwajom‘, ‘Chun Tank’, etc., you recall them to the ‘Are you an Ilbe bug?’ page by attaching @. The Facebook page explains the context of each term and lists problems caused by ‘Ilbe bugs’ in details. In an interview with Weekly Kyunghyang on a instant messenger, the page administrator said ‘I try to explain why Ilbe is problematic to those who insist Ilbe is just fun and only a part of it is wrong. I made the page to bring the fact that they are using a far right-wing sense of humor to the consciousness of the main user groups, high school and university students.’

A smartphone application was released as well. Red Tornado representative Shin Seok-ho who developed the ‘anti-Ilbe bug’ application said ‘It is not a big deal that they have a particular political orientation in Ilbe. However, as for the atmosphere on Ilbe where more sensational immoral posts are promoted, our aim is to remind people of how dangerous some thoughts on Ilbe are to the general public.’

How did Ilbe grow big in 2012?

The beginning of the oldest Korean Internet communities dates back to the late 1990s. Those communities catered to users interested in photography, films, sports, beauty, celebrity fan clubs, etc. It was the Lee Myung-bak administration when they became politicised and went out to the streets with candlelights, after witnessing the regression of democracy.

The politicians paid attention to them. Moon Jae-in, candidate from the Democratic United Party, wrote a comment in the overseas baseball community MLB Park. Internet boards were flooded with ridicules and parodies of candidate Park Geun-hye who suffered in TV debates. There was the NIS employee incident right before the election. It was later known that the employee was active ‘in relation to a particular candidiate’ in Today Humor which is associated with progressive orientation.

What about the conservative rightists? According to‘s statistics, around the election period last year, the number of visitors increased for other communities, too, but it was the right-wing humor site Ilbe that experienced remarkable growth. In early 2012, the average number of daily visitors for a month for Ilbe was 726,000. In the meantime, however, the number surpassed Today Humor and SLR Club (photography society) and increased by half the visitor number (2.19 millions) of the biggest communty DC Inside.

Ilbe’s emergence has created numerous issues. The ‘Ilbe report’ written by a female university student who observed Ilbe for several months received attention in many online communities. ‘The most shocking thing was the word they use to refer to women. (…) All females are called boji [pussy]. Ilbe users were naturally labelled ‘Ilbe bugs’. It means they should be terminated. According to Lee Gil-ho who published the Internet subculture report ‘We Are DC’, there were similar discourses regarding ‘PolGall bugs’ and ‘MakGallers’. PolGall bugs refer to the users of DC Politics Gallery. ‘Half-jokingly, the ghetto strategy for them was discussed. What it means is that if you smash their nests, they will crawl out like cockroaches and contaminate other sites so we should keep stable nests for them.’

Ilbe users call themselves ‘retards’. According to their logic, the opposite is ‘shit seonbi‘. Shit seonbi refers to the tendency to make moral and righteous comments without supportive action and adhere to political correctness. Ilbe users claim Today Humor represents jwajom (left-wing zombie) and shit seonbi traits.

Why Today Humor? According to the aforementioned Facebook page administrator, MLB Park, Clien and SLR Club have strict moderation rules and a high average age of the user base. Therefore, it is hard to implement ‘industrialisation’ on those sites and Women’s Generation is hard to get in because it is a closed female community. For various reasons, Ilbe users chose Today Humor as an easy target where most users are relatively young and it is easy to get in.

The grand war between Ilbe and other online communities

During the election period, Ilbe coined the word ‘haeng-gay’ that means ‘Ilbe users who act out’. That is, the ‘industrialisation warriors’ who volunteer to convert other netizens to ‘conservative right-wings’. An Ilbe user named ‘chunpoong’, who is a former DC Inside user and has kept an eye on Ilbe’s growth, describes the difference between the old school conservatives and Ilbe as the following. ‘Let’s say there is this guy who makes parody videos very well. Someone hired him to do some work. Would the result be the same as the ones he was making purely for fun without any profit? In my opinion, the quality of the videos he made just for laughs would be much higher because he persued fun, not work.’ The creator of the right-wing podcast ‘Tteokbokki investigators’ and university student Hwang Gyo-young questioned, ‘there are many negative aspects about Ilbe but at least can’t we positively view that it made young people have an interest in politics?’

The main stages for Ilbe’s industrialisation have been the comment sections on Nate, Naver and Nate Pann. On Nate Pann, their activity included comment battles, up-voting comments favorable to conservative candidate Park Geun-hye and down-voting unfavorable comments. During the whole election period, ‘assisstance requests for Nate Pann industrialzation’ were posted on Ilbe. They also tried to ‘industrialise’ other online communities. They replied to posts supporting the opposition party, using accumulated counter-argument materials from Ilbe. Was it successful?

It failed but successfully created many ‘newbies’ in the process. A comic strip drawn by an Ilbe user named ‘Bubble Bubble Memories’ shows how that happened. The main character who was a Today Humor user went to Ilbe to criticise them. But whoa, it is fun there. After some inner conflicts, he turned into a newborn Ilbe user. The identity as a Today Humor user? He keeps it in the corner for emergency masquerade.


Ilbe users found new fun provoking other communities. They made trouble in other sites and left a comment like ‘I came from Today Humor!’ People who didn’t know the circumstances believed it. Then they used signs that they are from Ilbe, using expressions like ‘Ahem ahem’ and ‘Today Humor users doing shit seonbi shit.’

Internet subculture researcher Lee Gil-ho explains similar conflicts between Internet sites existed in the past. ‘There were conflicts between DC Inside and Humor University back then. They fought over who created original memes and materials and who copied them. In a sense, it is similar to what’s happening between Today Humor and Ilbe.’ As the quarrels continued, Today Humor administrator prohibited taking materials from Ilbe. But it still didn’t end the fuss.

The online communities who ‘couldn’t overlook Ilbe’s atrocities any more’ formed a coalition and declared a war on Ilbe in December last year. They did spamming and DDoS attacks. However, Ilbe didn’t crash and endured it.

A conspiracy theory was born. If Ilbe really received 40G DDoS attacks as claimed by the Ilbe administrators, it is impossible to endure such attakcs without huge resources and high technology. In short, is Ilbe backed by a certain political party or institute under the table? This theory gained support in progressive communities.

Ilbe, the birth of a new right-wing?

How do we have to view Ilbe? Editor Park Kwon-il who co-authored the book ‘The Complaints of the Right’ that dealt with the ‘signs of the emergence of new right-wings’ last year called Ilbe the ‘neo-right’. In November last year there was the so-called ‘authentication chaos‘ where Ilbe users showed off their student IDs and certificates. The editor viewed it as the expression of ‘We are the people and elites’ corresponding to the leftist rhetoic of ‘the most oppressed but powerful working class’.

Park said ‘I personally have a hypothesis that Ilbe users are of the fallen middle class or their children. They seem to blame democratisation activist groups in the past or pro-Roh groups for their social frustrations and have a tendency to vent out their frustrations by attacking social minorities created by polarisation during the Roh administration.

They resemble the ‘net uyoku’ [Internet right-wing, abbreviated as ‘netouyo‘] residing in anonymity-based websites such as 2ch and Nico Nico Douga in Japan. The net uyoku claim that social minority Zainichi Koreans and the Democratic Party of Japan who advocate them are ruining Japan.

Park added ‘there will be more sites like Ilbe from now on.’ With the downfall of student movements, the Internet has become the place of raising awareness for both the right and left. For example, progressive online communities such as The Acro and Jinbo Nuri [closed] will play the role of school. The progressives were very strong online before but conservative communities will grow large and there will be severe struggles for recognition.

Lee Gil-ho who has studied ‘subcultures’ including DC Inside said ‘There is a possibility that Park’s predictions are realised. It may seem ironic to see far-right wing nationalism is expressed in the platform of extreme egalitarianism [of the Internet]. If the final direction is won by the far right, I will be embarrassed as a researcher.’

Lee added, ‘Ilbe looks anti-social from the outside but there are rules, too. Immoral and sexual jokes seem to be prevalent but at least they try to see through fabricated posts. They have their own sociality. The most important thing is that what Ilbe is, the identity of Ilbe, hasn’t been determined. The identity is created by the differences between the inside and outside and battles between them.’

In a way, Today Humor is the mirror of Ilbe. They are each other’s the other. Let’s take a look at another comic strip by ‘Bubble Bubble Memories’. He peeps at Ilbe over the wall. Then, a figure in Seonbi attire (Today Humor) pushes him inside the wall and calls him ‘Ilbe bug’. He was labelled as such although he didn’t intend to be one. Other communites are labelled as jongpuk or jwajom by Ilbe in a similar manner.


Are Ilbe users communicative with other community users? The aforementioned Facebook page administrator said, ‘Honestly, I feel tired. I don’t think they will change. But I’m doing this to raise awareness for others who haven’t been influenced by them.’ Graduate student Yoon Eun-ho claimed ‘we cannot regard Ilbe a group that shares the democratic discourse rules because they turn to violent factionism.’

Culture critic Heo Ji-woong said ‘Nevertheless, communication is necessary. A feeling of fatigue from failures of the so-called democratic reformist groups played a big role in forming their views. If you weigh the total amount of fatigue created by the so-called ‘enlightened citisens’, who only seek rhetorical righteousness, for the people in between the right and left, it is the ‘enlightened citisens’ who do more harm.

Lee Gil-ho added the following. ‘If you call Ilbe users Ilbe bugs, you are regarding them inhuman. You can hate Ilbe but once you label the users as bugs, you are closing every possibility. The same goes for Ilbe. You cannot communicate if you call others jwajom and skates.

January 2013, the Internet war continues. After 5 years of Park Geun-hye’s conservative administration, in January 2018, how will the online community geography have changed? It depends on everyone’s effort from now on.


DC’s ‘Hit Gallery’ and Ilbe’s ‘Daily Best’

There is an interesting thing if you read notices on Ilbe. Unlike Ilbe users who omit honorifics, Ilbe administrators use a high-level of speech in notice posts. They try to get minimally involved in the users’ affairs. On DC Inside, the administrator himself chooses the posts for the Hit Gallery. Most posts about DC and administrator Kim Yu-shik are put on the Gallery. Therefore, the users always ridicule it with comments like ‘This shit is for HitGall? Ke ke.’ On Ilbe, best posts are chosen by the automated system. Now a pop-up window shows up everytime a new best post is registered.

Ilbe has two systems for the Ilbe [Ilbe means daily best] posts. ‘General Ilbe’ from any boards across the site and ‘Politics Ilbe’ for the up-voted posts from the politics board. According to Ilbe user ‘chunpoong’, a post needs about 20 up-votes to be sent to general Ilbe while it needs 12 to 14 up-votes for politics Ilbe. An Ilbe user named ‘Neulgeuneusae’ is a doctor. According to him, the posters on the politics board are mostly highly educated professionals. When their posts are taken to the image board, the dwellers do firepower support spreading them on the Internet. As administrator Saebu said ‘You can make fun of everyone including me as long as it’s fun but if it’s not fun, I will ban you.’, the most important keyword on Ilbe is ‘fun’.

‘Fun’ was brought up by most Ilbe users I have talked to. If you make a video of a DJ with a dildo in his face, it may be upsetting for the fans but for Ilbe users, the ‘retarded idea’ itself is humorous. One of the Ilbe administrators Saebu, known as a university student majoring in computer science, is described as a ‘disabled man on a wheelchair’ by the users. Since last December, they have been using a mimetic word ‘kirik kirik’ expressing the sound of a moving wheelchair. ‘We admit our douchebaggery but what about you guys?’ This is the perspective of the Ilbe users looking outside. In other words, their attitude is the antithesis of authority, morality and political correctness.

From their perspective, the most clear contradiction is found from the so-called left-wing progressive. They think the left activists are much more hypocritical than the conservatives who stress the ‘responsibility of those who have vested rights’ because the left talk about the working class but don’t want to let go of their own vested rights. ‘Neulgeuneusae’ added, ‘My political orientation is still the most aligned with the Democratic Labor Party‘ except for their jongpuk tendency. Serving terms in prison [for violating the National Security Act] should not be a medal of honor. For the progressive left-wing to be confident, they should behave accordingly.’


Comments from Nate:


In Ilbe, you can swear at the administrators. In Today Humor, it takes several days of activity just to make a first comment or press the ‘dislike’ button and if you get on the nerves of Dear Seonbis, you get banned by the strict censorship. I guess that’s the freedom of speech you want, he he.


In Ilbe, the admins do not interfere and the users argue with various facts. In Today Humor, they just block you from using their site if you don’t align with them. People gibber about Ilbe bugs but I don’t see Ilbe users talk baselessly. Their sarcasm may seem unpleasant but they bash things with facts. On the articles where they can’t advocate their stance, they shut up and don’t even bother. Jwajom bastards, however, make fucking fusses even on the factual articles where they cannot defend their stance. Ilbe bashes issues but jwajoms bash Ilbe no matter what. Ilbe is confident to argue with jwajoms so they keep the door open but Today Humor blocks opposing voices due to lack of confidence and then claim delusional ownage in a circle jerk. Today Humor is really like the North Korean dictatorship.


Are you afraid of a humor site? No. 1 opposition party and jwajoms are trembling.


Sigh, the nation is going under since the commies run wild.


The three key points of Ilbe:
1. Timing
2. Humor
3. Facts

After Ilbe became famous, groups who wanted to steer Ilbe in the direction they want using albas failed because of those three factors. If your post doesn’t meet the criteria, it will be ruthlessly democratised [down-voted] to the bottom, ke. That is why no matter how much lefty sites like shit Today Humor, MLB Park and Clien, which are occupied by the jwajom admins and albas instructed by the Democratic Skate Party, suppress freedom of speech, zombify users and go apeshit, they can never defeat Ilbe.


The Great Victory on Ilbe was possible because Ilbe is a completely open forum where even lefty jongpuk spies can freely express their opinion without revealing their identity. The few extreme illegal posts they bring up to tarnish Ilbe’s image are deleted and the responsible users are banned. Other communities have become full of lefties only because lefty moderators banned normal rightist users with dictatorship and self-righteousness. Those refugees gathered together and built today’s Ilbe but it is still open to the progressive leftists. Because of this, there is a high chance that various incidents on Ilbe could be self-fabricated by the progressive users.


Isn’t it true that Ilbe brings facts and diligently checks data to rebut in arguments? Don’t you know what DC Gall they came from? Ke ke. Whatever, Ilbe gets closest to the facts. Although some high schoolers lower the forum’s quality…


Economic growth was possible even if it wasn’t for Park Chung-hee? That is the rhetoric used by ignorant jwajoms instigated by the Fraser report.

1. It was originally planned by the Chang Myon administration?

The Chang Myon government’s economic development plan was based on democratic principles. The plan was flawed because of the limits and delays in the democratic process of embracing lots of oppositions and various opinions. The [democratic] ruling party at that time led by Kim Dae-jung insisted that Korea should foster agriculture and SMEs. It was Park Chung-hee’s iron-fist dictatorship that created enormous industrialisation momentum based on forceful resource distribution, labor regulation and loan freeze. The export drive of the Park regime came from a new plan that modified the existing economic development plan in February, 1964. If you can achieve economic development just with good plans, why do you think numerous developing countries in the world are struggling with poverty? It was possible because of Park Chung-hee’s leadership and initiative.

2. The US did all the job for Park Chung-hee in economic development?

Korea emerged with heavy industry. America strongly opposed Park’s plan to promote heavy industry and recommended him to focus on light industry. When Korea was planning to foster heavy industry, the international community was very skeptical. Despite the opposition, Park pushed it forward and put all in heavy industry building the foundation of economic development. Korea is the only country that aids other countries now among the countries that were aided by the US.


Proof that Ilbe = facts and Today Humor = rumors: On the presidential election day, both Ilbe and Today Humor users were confident in victory with the high turnout. Today Humor was captivated by the notion that a high turnout means Moon’s victory but Ilbe objectively analyzed the fact that Daegu and Kyungbuk’s turnouts were similar to Jeonnam and Gwangju’s turnouts and predicted Park’s victory.


You don’t write an article about Today Humor, a hangout for senior-bashing reprobates, because they are on your side? Lefty media’s at it. They can’t do instigations like the mad cow hoax any more so they go apeshit.


Hey writer, go check Daum Agora and Today Humor, ke ke ke. I’d like to know why you bash only Ilbe. I want to ask you Kyunghyang whether you are neutral, tsk tsk.


Jeolla-do sites are full of North Korean IPs. Skates go hand in hand with them. Today Humor and Daum are skate-only sites, ke ke ke.


Why are Jongpuk lefties afraid of a humor site Ilbe? Because Ilbe values facts.


Most online communities are full of leftists and one of the few sites that can be called rightist is Ilbe. These days, it seems the leftist media is trying to suppress Ilbe. I thought they were only nasty netizens when I first heard bestiality, Ilbe bugs and such but they aren’t that different from other communities. You get ridiculed if your argument isn’t based on facts so when they post, they bother checking data. This is better than baseless rumor-mongering. It seems Ilbe kids are on the offensive these days so the left side is making a fuss. Is it wrong to have one rightist forum among numerous online communities? Ilbe looks better than rumor-mongering Nakkomsu guys.


They bash and diss Ilbe bugs but in reality there are many women who lurk and take materials from Ilbe.


Look at the scene of a presidential candidate [Moon] of a nation posting on a jwajom site [MLB Park] before the election, tsk tsk. If Park Geun-hye did the same thing, I would’ve retracted my support for her. Shame on you.


At least, Ilbe doesn’t do the people’s court. Today Humor is spine-chilling, ha ha.


Agriculturisation? They came in droves to terrorise Ilbe but only got ridiculed after doing nothing but petty things. Then they bullshitted that Ilbe must be supported by the National Intelligence Service, ke ke ke. The Ilbe admins put up a notice post for Ilbe bugs but don’t twist it as if they expressed some formal stance, you writer bastard, Anyhow, these jwajom bastards think the world revolves around them. Pathetic.


Bullshit. They recite the mantra for the freedom of speech but I guess it’s only for jwajoms, tsk tsk.


Ilbe is trashy but jwajoms are even more trashy.

Share This Article
Help us maintain a vibrant and dynamic discussion section that is accessible and enjoyable to the majority of our readers. Please review our Comment Policy »
Personals @ chinaSMACK - Meet people, make friends, find lovers? Don't be so serious!»