A poster entitled “How are you doing?” by a 27-year-old Korea University student has sparked a youth movement in South Korea. Business student Ju Hyun-u’s handwritten poster struck a chord with many young people who were disenchanted with the Korean government’s treatment of recent political issues. In response to charges that the National Intelligence Service (NIS) interfered in the 2012 presidential election, that the government is preparing to privatize the national railway and healthcare, and the Miryang electricity tower controversy, his poster asks, “I just want to know, are you okay with ignoring these things because they’re not happening to you, or are you hiding behind the self-justification of political apathy?” His concept has spread like wildfire, resulting in the creation of a Facebook page with over 260,000 likes, poster “replies” and rallies at schools all over South Korea.
However, not all of the response has been positive. At the conservative Internet community Ilbe, users have drawn attention for tearing down some “How are you doing?” posters at universities, and putting up photo evidence of the damaged posters. They have also organized a counter-protest, one which will publish their own posters stating that students don’t have their facts straight about the railway strikes and Miryang controversy. The majority of netizens are outraged at these actions, calling Ilbe users cowardly for hiding behind their screen names on the Internet, and not daring to protest in public.
From Yonhap News:
Ilbe Netizens Organize Counter Movement Against “How Are You Doing” Posters
On December 10th, a Korea University student’s “How are you doing?” poster quickly spread to every school; this led to a movement by Ilbe against the poster.
In the poster, Korea University senior Ju Hyun-u mentioned the railroad strike, Miryang transmission tower problems, and suspicions that the presidential election was rigged, urging students to pay attention to these issues.
How are you doing?
1. Yesterday, after a strike that lasted just one day, thousands of workers lost their jobs. It was simply because they opposed the privatization of the railroad that 4,213 people were removed from their positions. Isn’t Park Geun Hye’s claim that she will not push forward without consulting with the people just an excuse to take disciplinary action against those who oppose railroad privatization?! In the past, young Jeon Tae-il set himself on fire to protest for better laborers’ rights, but at this rate, the right to strike may disappear!! Because strikes against the government and capital are all defined as unlawful! Despite the suspicions of a rigged presidential election and a national institution’s unprecedented election intervention, a member of the National Assembly that has the right to impeach the president is at risk of getting expelled for telling the president to resign. This makes me question whether this is indeed the 21st century.
In a rural town, construction of electricity transmission towers have led to a resident committing suicide by drinking poison. For the sin of resisting the “ripoff” capital and management, fired workers were charged with thousands of millions of won in fines and imprisonment. When they asked for job security, they were given temporary jobs. In these strange times, I don’t know if everyone is “doing well”!!!
2. As a member of the so-called 880,000 won generation, they say we don’t know anything about poverty in the world. We grew up in a generation of abundance, so they say we don’t understand the politics, economy, or worldly affairs. But after the 1997-98 IMF’s intervention, our generation, not even understanding the circumstances, had to keep our houses warm while both parents were out trying to bring home double paychecks. Wasn’t it our generation that was pressured to be silent about the students who commit suicide every year after the national university entrance exam? It’s not that we don’t care or know about the politics and economy. It’s just that we were not encouraged or allowed to ponder such issues and voice our opinions!! We just believed that we would keep on living like this without any big trouble.
But now, we can’t even be like that. Because this world I have described is the one that we live in. I just want to ask. Are you “doing well”? Are you living free of trouble? Are you okay with ignoring other people’s issues because they are not your problems?! I just want to ask, are you okay hiding behind political apathy to justify yourself? In case you are not doing well after seeing all these problems, then say something, don’t try to stifle your cries—whatever they may be. So I want to ask you one more time! Are you all doing ok!
Business Management, Class of 08 [entering year]
The movement spread quickly, leading to response posters put up at other domestic universities such as Seoul National University, Yonsei University, and Sogang University, but also at foreign universities such as UC Berkeley. On December 14th, in response to the poster, 200 students rallied together and participated in the railroad labor union’s candlelight vigil at Seoul Station.
On December 14th, around 7:32 p.m., a confirmation photo with the caption “I ripped up a poster at Korea University about the railroad strike” was uploaded on the Ilbe website.
After damaging a poster written by a student in Korea University’s math department, this member explained the reason behind it: “I hate to see commies dishonoring the school like this.”
The torn poster led to controversy on social media, and the writer of the post on Ilbe apologized on the Korea University online community “Ko-pas” around 4:00 p.m. on December 15th.
In his apology, he wrote “When I saw the poster, I disagreed with it, I tore it in half” and “I apologize, and seek forgiveness.”
Afterwards, the poster requested “the safekeeping and the deletion of the post out of concern for legal action” from Ko-pas’s system administration; thus the apology can no longer be seen online. The relevant post on Ilbe is still available.
Similar things happened at Sogang University and Konkuk University.
On the same day, at around 4:00 a.m., a post along with a photo titled “I democratized a poster at Sogang University” was uploaded to the Ilbe website. At Konkuk University, there were also posters damaged by Ilbe members.
Ilbe also had members who planned to make their own counter posters.
The counter poster contained a draft proposal titled, “How are we doing? I am doing well!” and stated “The government said they have no plan to privatize the railroad” and “non-stakeholders, don’t exaggerate things.”
That morning, a photo titled “Catholic University counter poster” was uploaded onto Ilbe.
The member who uploaded this message wrote “Because of the people constantly asking “How are you doing?” I am not doing well” and “If you support the railroad strike, you’re seen as being concerned, but if you don’t support it, you’re seen as being indifferent.”
Also on this day, the conservative student group “Alliance for Free College Students” came forward in an open call against the “How are you doing?” poster.
The alliance announced that they are recruiting people who can reveal their real names and affiliations and put up posters. These people would write a declaration of their identity and objective on the poster and leave empty space at the bottom for the participants to write their own comments. The alliance will also cover expenses and provide legal service.
Some say it is ‘ghostwriting’.
The alliance responded, “It’s not ghostwriting” and “our affiliations and names of our writers are on the poster, if it was ghostwriting, there would be no reason for us to reveal our affiliations.”
At Kyungbuk University, in response to the “How are you doing?” poster, a counter poster was put up in the name of “Mr. Park, a Business Management senior.”
On December 12th, on the official “How are you doing?” Facebook page, there was an unending stream of posts depicting “response posters” that were put up at each school. As of 5:30 p.m. on December 15th, there were over 168,000 “likes” on the Facebook page.
Comments from Naver:
Down with Ilbe.
As citizens grow increasingly apathetic, the government becomes more corrupt.
Let’s behave sensibly so that we don’t have to call Cesco [pest exterminator].
I guess bugs wriggle when you step on them? Ilbe bugs!
Ilbe bugs: “Don’t ignore us because we are bugs!! We are not lonely! We…are not…lonelyㅜㅜ. I’m not lonely but why these tears… In fact, I’m lonely, really lonely. People’s anger, actually, I enjoy it. So I became an Ilbe bug.”
When I see Ilbe people in real life, they all seem normal. They cannot say that they are Ilbe members in front of other people so they know that it’s embarrassing, and only become warriors when they are in front of their keyboard.
Wow there is such a difference in standards among students at the same college. Instead of tearing the posters, they should put up counter posters with clear arguments and real names.
If you don’t like their claim, then write an opposing piece and put it on a poster. You shouldn’t tear up the posters-it doesn’t make sense, it’s pathetic and dirty.
So they damaged the posters first before anything else… That’s so like them, Ilbe bugs.
So there are still people who have the delusion that Ilbe is conservative. Ilbe is not conservative and they are not being criticized for being conservative.
There isn’t an appropriate cause to rally around, and there’s no logic to their opposition, so there’s no point…
I will acknowledge them if they go public with their real names and put up opposition posters. They are entitled to their opinion, but they shouldn’t rip up others’ posters to live up to being Ilbe bugs. It’s pathetic;;;
Judging by their actions ant words, isn’t Ilbe the true den for commies? What they do is more of a commie act than praising North Korea. If you cause internal divisions and emotional battles that result in the country being overthrown from the inside, you are the real spy. In South Korea, if you directly praise North Korea, there will be immediate repulsion, so pretending to cuss out North Korea while dividing South Korea into enemies is the main method used by spies. It seems to me like Ilbe is taking this path…
Why are Ilbe bugs still living, tsk tsk.
Photos of “counter” posters were also posted on Ilbe. The following posters were posted at Korea University where the movement first began.
How are you doing?
A few days ago, a brave Korea University senior student posted a handwritten poster at the back of the politics & economy department building. He was wondering how anyone can be okay in these strange times where thousands of employees opposing railroad privatization got removed from their positions, illegal interference was involved in the last presidential election and a resident of Miryang killed himself by drinking poison. The message went viral, gathering support from many other students, some of whom put up their own posters.
The poster controversy continues, but one thing is certain, the Republic of Korea is a free democracy. Anyone can express their thoughts in spoken or written form. Therefore, I have no qualms about putting up posters to share ideas and taking action together. Expressing opinions is essential in a democracy.
However, I want to ask you a question. The senior student claimed that he wrote the very first poster purely out of personal interest. But when the Korea University student protesters headed to the Seoul Station Square, there were already protesters from the Korean Confederation of Trade Unions, the railroad labor union and civic groups demanding that President Park resign. I want to believe that he started his campaign out of pure passion. However, I cannot get over the feeling that this poster movement turned into yet another political tool of the old factions. I think they are undermining our students’ true intentions. What do you think about this?
I want to ask you one more question. In these strange times where one of our current lawmakers planned to stage a rebellion, there is controversy about the air defence identification zone between Korea and China, and North Korea regularly abuses South Korea’s government and military, I dare ask you how anyone can be okay. Along with the issues the student brought attention to, these are also our social problems. It seems our students are very vocal about the former but turn a blind eye and remain silent on the latter. I want to ask you whether this is real justice.
The true “socially aware citizen” is an individual who critically and independently judges and takes actions with clearly defined values regardless of their political orientation. But these days, only those who criticize the government and the ruling party while supporting the opposition party are regarded as “aware citizens”. “Lee Myung-bak-geun-hye” is almost treated like an “axis of evil”. When you agree with the Conservative voices and show a favorable attitude towards the government and the president, they ask, “are you an Ilbe bug?” If you question or criticize the opposition party or the Progressive’s claims, you are accused of being a part-time employee of the NIS or the Saenuri party. That saddens an ordinary student like me who isn’t an Ilbe user and has no relation to any political group or national institution.
The true Progressive is supposed to be considerate to social minorities and respect diversity, but young Conservatives who have become minorities are despised by young Progressives in this land. The young Progressive voice is so much louder than the young Conservative voice. It is helpless. We have no power. I have no desire to overturn or run away from this harsh reality. I just want to ask you whether you are all “okay”. Whether you ignored others’ opinions or called them conservative idiots to their back or whether you’ve been a young Conservative who’s been marginalized with no proper voice.
Therefore, I want to ask you for the last time. How are you doing?!
From the Korea University Class of 2013, Lee, who wants to be okay
Your own “How are you?”
Upon seeing this poster, you might have gladly assumed that there is yet another socially aware student on campus. However, this poster is directed not to the government that you guys bemoan, but to those “socially aware” students. I guess there might be some who wonder what I’m on about while everyone is marching against the “evil” government. The righteous march to fight a boogeyman that was mad cow disease. The disciples of the truth who fought against scientific evidence of the Cheonan sinking with their intent to reveal the truth. The defenders of freedom who have incessantly claimed that the presidential election was rigged. After having seen them, I cannot help but doubt the good intentions of the “are you okay” protesters. No, I stand corrected. I do not doubt your good intention and passion. I can feel that from numerous posts on Facebook. But I’m worried whether your self-righteous path is in fact leading to Hell. In other words, I want to know whether you are tilting at an evil giant or a harmless windmill.
Rumors about privatization are relentlessly being posted on social media by those “aware” people. I smell a hint of another mad cow disease incident. I predict there will be claims that Korean public companies are more prone to privatization infection than foreign counterparts or that mutant privatization prions can be spread through the air [echoes 2008 claims made about mad cow disease infecting South Koreans]. While reading numerous posters and supporting arguments for the railroad labor union’s strikes, I kept coming across the claim that “history repeats itself.” I want to ask you. In that history, is the shameful history of the Progressives not included? Is that your version of history where the inconvenient part is selectively forgotten? If that is what you mean by history, then maybe I will have to rethink myself for underestimating the risk of mad cow disease that indeed made holes in your brains.
If you guys are truly defenders of freedom, justice and truth as our school motto says, I wonder whether you have rightfully felt disturbed by the lawmaker’s rebellion scandal. If you refrain from jumping to conclusions because his trial is still in progress, I wonder why such cautiousness is not applied to the privatization controversy. That’s why I cannot help but doubt the direction as well as the destination of your good intentions. If your good intentions, passion and courage mean changing your picket sign from “Lee Myung-bak OUT” to “Park Geun-hye OUT” and labeling the heathen corrupting the holy creed as “Ilbe bugs”, I would not be hesitant to become jaded. When you guys come out to the streets and chant “All for one!”, what it reminds me of is unfortunately not beautiful solidarity but the madness of totalitarianism.
In the first poster that sparked this “How are you?” movement, he said we’ve been pressured to be silent. I would rather ask you whether you aren’t asking us to voice one opinion while suffocating all other voices. Also, I want to ask you whether you aren’t unfairly calling other people ignorant or indifferent cowards while you praise your awareness and courage. Through this poster, I wanted to tell you that not everyone is marching together to the beat of your drums. There are other voices out here. Thank you.
Artsy 2013, Seong-min
Jay.h also contributed to this article. koreaBANG will soon cover the railroad privatization controversy which sparked the initial fierce debate online.