Digitalization, Hate Culture, and Media Globalization

Digitalization and the ensuing rise of online hate culture have further complicated the geopolitical situation in East Asia. It is indisputable that the development of communication technologies and the availability of digital media platforms have promoted the exchange of ideas and interactions among cultures and have facilitated the organization of various types of social activism, thereby effecting meaningful social change. At the same time, however, online spaces have also mediated and fostered hate culture and cybercrimes and the spread of misinformation, including rumors and “fake news,” and propelled the (systematic) organization and development of hate groups that target individuals on the basis of gender, sexuality, race/ethnicity, and/or nationality. It is not surprising, given the transnational flow of cultural content discussed above, that similar types of online forums have emerged across East Asia for individuals, especially young, digital media-savvy users, to express extreme hatred, anger, and discontent largely unfiltered.Thus libe in Korea, Nicltannem (2-channel) in Japan, Tianya in China, and PTT in Taiwan are representative of websites that have served as arenas for hate speech.

Under conditions including the neoliberal transformation of East Asia, the rise of China as a world power, and the growing influence of Korean popular culture in the region, then, nationalistic antagonism has been especially apparent in the online spaces inhabited by young people in China, Japan, and Korea (see Takahara, 2006/2007). A telling example is Zaitokukai, a citizens group that formed to oppose the ostensible granting of special rights to ethnic Koreans residing in Japan and has in fact become the most popular and the largest anti-Korean organization in the country. The group grew rapidly online, attracting members through the effective use and mobilization of digital media content (Hall, 2018; Yamaguchi, 2013). Other studies have similarly revealed ways in which online spaces and digital platforms serve to nurture cyber nationalism and channel nationalistic antagonism. Thus Liu (2006) examined Chinese netizens’ active engagement in an anti-japan movement in 2005 in response to what they perceived as Japan’s irresponsible attitude regarding colonial rule, and Qiu (2015) investigated image-driven cyber nationalism among mainland Chinese students in Hong Kong, while 1 (Ahn, 2019) in an earlier study explored the collective expression and circulation of anti-Korean sentiment by Taiwanese netizens that resulted in the creation of an (online) affective community. These studies corroborate the conclusion that the de- and re-territorialization of nationalism have been taking place at the juncture of the burgeoning development of new media technology on the one hand and increasing geopolitical tensions on the other.

As another contribution to inter-Asia media/cultural studies, I have also been researching the rise of anti-Korean sentiment across East Asia. More specifically, I take a transnational approach to anti-Korean racism by studying the creation and circulation of anti-Korean sentiment in online and offline spaces and the politicization of this sentiment in ways that channel racial antagonism in distinct ways in China, Japan, and Taiwan. In particular, I have examined the framing of anti-Korean racism by mainstream media and popular online forums and the channeling of nationalistic aspirations to form a particular type of ethnic nationalism. Based on my fieldwork in Taipei and Tokyo, 1 have concluded that anti-Korean sentiment in East Asia should be understood within the broader context of the shifting media landscape, which is characterized by interdependence among China, Japan, and Taiwan, as well as the evolving geopolitical situation.Thus, for instance, I have found that the increase in anti-Korean racist comments in online spaces in both Taiwan and Japan is partly, if not primarily, due to the fact that Korean national daily newspapers have started to provide both Chinese- and Japanese-language services online. This seemingly paradoxical finding points to the multi-layered nature of the problem. In some cases, the translations were inaccurate; in others, anti-Korean groups in Japan and Taiwan purposely quoted out of context the original articles in order to slander Korea and Koreans; these malicious users’ postings then circulated widely in online spaces with little in the way of filtering or fact-checking. What 1 want to emphasize here is that, in the absence of a transnational perspective on the interdependent and changing media environment across these nations, it is difficult to capture the dynamics of the formulation of anti-Korean sentiment across “old” and “new” media platforms.

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