Netizens Divided over 5.18 Gwangju Uprising

Article from Yonhap News:

Why is ‘Ilbe’ attacking the 5.18 Democratization Movement?


5.18 Gwangju Democratization Movement is frequently disparaged and ridiculed in the online community ‘Daily Best Storage’ (Ilbe). Ilbe users put down 5.18 as a riot and ridicule the victims by likening them to ‘bottom-dwelling fish’. They distinguish 5.18 from other democratization movements and attack it. A research paper analyzing their discourse is receiving attention.

On the 18th, according to the 5.18 Memorial Foundation, Professor Jeong Geun-sik from the Department of Sociology at Seoul National University presented his paper “The changes in the online discourse about 5.18 led by Daily Best Storage” in an academic seminar held by the foundation commemorating the 34th anniversary of the 5.18 Democratization Movement. Prof. Jeong analyzed words used in 101,116 posts on Ilbe’s politics forum between June, 2011 and February, 2014. According to the analysis, on Ilbe, 5.18 is understood as a ‘riot’ where the protesters pointed a gun at the army which was enforcing martial law to serve the nation. Ilbe users claim that the 5.18 protesters were indulging in violence and looting. They praise the army for successfully suppressing a rebellion that intended to overthrow the nation.

If you look at the highly up-voted posts on Ilbe, Jeong explained, they show a unique ‘sense of justice’ about the compensation issue for 5.18 “men of merit”. It is hard to find the sense of indebtedness towards the 5.18 victims, which is common among older generations. In their view, even though 5.18 was a riot, the men of merit received excessive compensation compared to the veterans who got injured in the Korean War. They argue that even if it was a democratization movement, any debt owed to them has expired because their honor was restored during the democratization process in the 80’s and 90’s. On the other hand, they claim that there are still debts to be paid to the injured Korean War veterans who fought against North Korea’s invasion and became part of the low-income elderly today while the North Korean regime is still threatening South Korea.

They also show deep-rooted regionalism and a distorted sense of empathy. Ilbe users express their disgust and cynicism by defining Gwangju as their enemy and regarding Jeolla-do as a foreign country. They associate 5.18 advocates with the progressive camp. They regard the “progressives” in Korean politics as “pro-North Korean”. They support the “5.18 North Korean intervention” theory. They think of themselves as democratic crusaders who are correcting distorted modern history. They express sympathy for the martial law military who suppressed the 5.18 protesters.

Prof. Jeong explained that their sentiment stems from the elitist belief that common people cannot think for themselves and the jungle law that young people have internalized. He warned that this phenomenon is not only confined to Ilbe. He said, “It could be a consequence of laziness by everyone who pioneered our democracy. Marginalizing Ilbe as a ‘haven for losers or psychos’ is a poor excuse to avoid responsibility.”


Note: Popular comments on Naver for similar topics can be vastly different at different times whereas popular comments on Daum show a very consistent orientation with few exceptions when it comes to political subjects. According to Internet Trend and Korean Click, Naver is the most used web portal among Korean netizens.

Comments from Naver:

I don’t agree with disparaging 5.18 itself but I do think those politicians who are still exploiting it deserve to be mocked.


If Honam [Jeolla-do] people want to be respected, they shouldn’t act like they saved the Republic of Korea through 5.18 and demand compensation. Otherwise, it becomes less genuine.


It’s not just Ilbe. All others dislike them, too;;


There is reasonable possibility that it was an “incident” rather than a democratization movement. Minority reports are alive and well. How can we only blindly call it a democratization movement?


Only Ilbe? You must be kidding. It is everyone who’s not from Jeolla-do.


Saying it was for democratization is bullshit…. It was the Gwangju incident at best…


Thank you martial law army for protecting our country.


We all know these so-called experts hardly make sense. This is just ordinary citizens’ backlash against the leftists who have been acting all righteous with their own standards. As you know well, those leftists bullshit that there wouldn’t have been democracy if it weren’t for them and insist only their claims are the absolute truth. They force their own idea of democracy on you. It’s so annoying.


It is Ilbe’s overall opinion that 5.18 was a riot, but it was just one user who likened the dead protesters to bottom-dwelling fish. Let’s not exaggerate.


Then what about the 1992 LA riots? Was that also a democratization movement? Professor Jeong Geun-sik, please answer.


In what’s supposed to be a democratization movement, how could they kill policemen, set fire, attack prisons, steal armored vehicles and weapons to fight the army??? Someone should knock some sense into them.


Look at how Gwangju people are protesting with torches on the streets right now. [Protesting against the government’s handling of the Sewol ferry accident.]


They should be able to explain how they stole 5,000 guns and 300,000 rounds of ammo to stage an uprising.


‘Movement’ is a non-violent method that Mahatma Gandhi advocated to realize social justice. 5.18 was not a movement but just a ‘Gwangju incident’. It was never a movement because they attacked prisons and stole guns from police stations. Gwangju people should stop distorting history and be honest.


If I say “In my opinion, the Gwangju incident was absolutely not just for democratization”, then would Gwangju people kidnap me and beat me? I was really scared when I heard on the news that a Gwangju person went all the way to Busan to kill someone by stabbing. [Referring to the “DC Inside Politics Gallery murder incident“.] I guess they just kill you if you have a different opinion, ke.

Comments from Daum:

Ilbe? They do idiotic things to draw attention and it’s natural for them because everyone is like that there. Aren’t they competing for who’s the most trashy? The best trash becomes the best posts.


Those bugs couldn’t develop a sense of empathy they should’ve learned by age 7. Trash.


Because it’s Ilbe. They are crazy.


Why?? Because they are Ilbe bugs~ Attention-seeking brainless insensible trash in this society~~ If Korea was a normal country, the authorities would shut down Ilbe and punish the users to warn people~ But the Republic of Korea is abnormal~


There is no great reason. They are just idiots. They just want to bash it for the hell of it.


It’s funny that even Yonhap News is bashing Ilbe, ke ke ke. Lee Myung-bak-Geun-hye also acknowledged 5.18 as a democratization movement. The purpose of Ilbe is to divde the nation by bashing Jeolla-do. Look at how they criticize using non-existing facts, ke ke.


Just what you would expect from Ilbe bugs. But the reality is that the site is a haven for unemployed losers. They were even punished for making fun of the Sewol ferry victims.


First, let’s talk about the Ilbe bug government that lets Ilbe bugs prosper.


Why don’t we just have a devastating civil war? You dirty Gyeongsang-do species and old conservative nutjob New Right bastards. Such trash. Let’s talk about national politics again after we wipe you off the map. /spit!!!

let it go girl님:

This issue should be in the public discourse through public media to help young students grow with a normal way of thinking… Currently in this country, that is hard to happen… Lack of a sense of debt and empathy…that is right!


The traits of Ilbe users, according to professor Chin Jung-kwon: “Social losers are frustrated by their desire for power. They begin to identify themselves with powerful people. In that delusion, they voluntarily become hunting dogs that attack socially weak people for the powerful even if nobody told them to do so. In other words, since they have nothing to be proud of themselves, they create a delusion where they can feel proud of others’ status.”


Ilbe trash is cancer that would learn only after getting beaten, stabbed and shot just like what happened in Gwangju during 5.18.


Simply because they are bugs.


Ilbe is literally full of bugs. Whatever comes out of that site is all bullshit that doesn’t even need to be taken seriously.


If it weren’t for people in Honam [Jeolla-do] during the Imjin War, Korea wouldn’t even exist today, you bastards. Well, these SOBs probably wish Takagi [Park Chung-hee] was a governor-general of Korea during the Japanese occupation. Then he would not even have had to stage a coup, right?

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  • I LOVE K-POP!!!….it’s my life

    • Boris

      I thought it was bukkakke?

      • I don’t mix my cultural references….my BUKKAKE comments are for your enjoyment at JAPANCRUSH only

    • bang2tang

      surreal fong

  • Joey

    Why are there so many people who have this ridiculous idea that a movement should be non-violent? Resistance against the government is futile if you just sit there and let yourself get mowed down.

    • bballi bballi paradise

      Ghandi, Martin Luther King, …

      • jg29a

        MLK was *one wing* of a large movement that very much did involve violent uprisings, without which he could not have successfully been defined as the voice of reason.

      • Insomnicide

        And I have a counter for you: Malcom X, George Washington, Sun Yat-sen.

        • David

          Malcom X renounced violence in the end. Washington was a soldier fighting in a war not a reform movement. Dr. Sun was also in a revolution not a democratization movement. The people in Gwangju was not trying to overthrow the dictator in power, just wanted some reform of the government.

          • 于丹尼

            Just a note, but Malcolm X wasn’t the only “violent” part of the movement. There were also the Black Panthers who continued the movement…until the US government took them out.

          • David

            Yes, I grew up on the south side of Chicago in the 60’s where the ‘panthers were very active. There was plenty of violence in the civil rights movement in the 50’s and 60’s, some of it justified in my opinion but most eventually came to realize violence lost them more friends than it gained. The real violence by minorities came in the early 70s. That period was not about reform or equal rights much more about revenge. But history is full of that.

      • A Touch of Sin

        As Gandhi said, we should chose the path of least violence. He was not categorically “anti-violence” as is popular opinion today.

      • Anonymous_Joe

        Non-violence movements only work against fundamentally civilized people. Ghandi’s non-violence worked against the Brits because the Brits were civilized, and Ghandi (much to his credit) played off the Brits’ civility. Stalin would have mowed ’em all down.

    • Black_Plague

      I shudder when I think what could have happened in Gwangju if Park Chunghee was still in power i.e. was never assassinated by Kim Jaekyu or even survived.

      With Cha Jichul at his side all the time, it’s very certain he likely would have ordered more excessive force to suppress that kind of dissent a.k.a deploy even massed formations of conventional troops to level the city.

  • Insomnicide

    Don’t Ilbe users use democratization as a slang for something?

    • bumfromkorea

      Yep. In fact, the “Dislike” function in the website is labeled as “democratization”. One of the simpler ways of understanding what your average ilbe bugs are like.

      • Arendelle

        They would also say the word as a meaning of being ruined up or hurt too. Like “My leg got democratized when riding a bike.” or sth.

        • Insomnicide

          Wonderful, intelligent human beings. Mutilating and distorting word and the concept behind it to suit their agenda.

  • Chucky3176

    The better question is, why does the Korean media put so much ire and focus on a web forum where politics isn’t the only subject area?

    • guest

      It’s easy to blame the users of some faceless site for all of your societies ills rather than just acknowledging that people say shit online all the time, laugh, and just move on.

      • CoCorea

        just chucky being a typical korean, where everything is someone else’s fault, and any moving on is not part of the language

        • ifkfeaw85weiewafwaefaw


  • bigmamat

    I’m not sure that a lot of these Ilbe users actually believe any of this stuff. I think a lot of it is trolling and for shock value. Problem is every now and then you get a true believer that takes a lot of this shit seriously. They’re the guys that blow up trains, run their cars over crowded markets, and gun down people from towers. Anyone that’s ever engaged someone like this knows that the more you challenge them their ideology falls apart and they resort to personal attacks. That’s because their narrative isn’t based on fact nor is it even well contrived.

    • KCdude

      A lot of Ilbe members who got arrested for openly harassing other people online mostly did this crazy stuff to gather attention. They’re basically Korean men in their 20s and 30s who act like 8 year old girls.

      • jajas

        You mean they are basically korean men acting like korean men

      • Arendelle

        Please do not degrade 8 year old girls…

      • bumfromkorea

        To put it more succinctly…

  • Science Patrol

    As long as we have academics willing to tackle the tough issues, like internet forums, we’ll be OK.

    • Sillian

      Because this is the only topic tens of thousands of academics work on.
      Because the internet has no influence in Korean politics.

  • MeiDaxia

    Anyone else feel moved by the pictures, and that sea of people? Kinda puts the modern protesters to shame, in my opinion. Where are the mass protests against the Chaebol? Ah, right, the one true problem with Korean government is also the lifeblood of every Korean working man and woman. Ouch.

    • MikeinGyeonggi

      I certainly hate the Chaebol system in Korea, but I wouldn’t quite compare it to Chun Do Hwan’s government. And as much as many Koreans despise the oligopolies, they are still proud of their products, particularly how they have been displacing Japanese products.

      • bumfromkorea

        CDH is infinitely more evil, but Chaebols are infinitely harder to displace.

  • Black_Plague

    My solution is to gather every single hardcore conservative and progressive in the country, put them in an area and let them duke it out one another gladiator style till none are left standing while everyone else watches it being broadcast on national TV.

    As a Korean myself, they’re a rather embarrassing sight.

    • Insomnicide

      This should be done all over the world. It would solve everyone’s problems and make great entertainment.

  • Bryan Cheron

    Why does everyone talk so much about Gwangju but no attention is paid to Jeju? Don’t say it’s because it’s so long ago; people still talk about the March 1st Movement (1919) and, occasionally, the Donghak Peasant Revolution (1894)

    • Jeju Island

      Jeju is rapidly becoming Chinese who’s buying up all the land and get permanent resident papers, so it’s no longer Korean, so not many care.

    • Vasilios81

      The issue is that Jeju hasn’t been worked into the historical narrative. Doing so is a very delicate process for two-reasons. A. It would force the acknowledgement that the ancestors of today’s conservatives dealt brutally with the residents. (more brutally than the Japanese- where most Jeju refugees fled, btw). and

      B. That from a certain point of view, many of those who rebelled in Jeju could have been legitimately viewed as “traitors” trying to overthrow the government or secede to join the North, This questions the legitimacy of the South Korean government (though I don’t think they realistically need to vie for legitimacy with the North any longer. Furthermore, this might reflect negatively on later uprisings as well, such as Gwangju.

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