|▲ The logo of IlbeStorehouse (photo by IlbeStorehouse)|
The Korean government recently received a petition to shut down the Ilbe Storehouse (llbe). Ilbe is a radical right-wing website in Korea that acts as a platform for users to share their opinions regarding regional conflicts, gender conflicts and crime in the country. The petition to shut it down was signed by more than 200,000 people and the government has promised to investigate the issue. Proponents of the shutdown want to see an end to its forum of radical right views and expressions of hate and discrimination towards certain communities. However, National Assembly member Na Kyung-won argued that shutting down the strong right site is not the answer. As a result, the petition to close Ilbe has only intensified the divide and heightened the controversy in Korea. However it is clear that the Ilbe has to be shut down in order to stop the spread of discrimination and hate in this country.
The Ilbe is a self-proclaimed extreme right site. They argue that the left is resentful of the country’s right-wing who, according to Ilbe, is responsible for making this nation better. For this reason, they are a group of people who are proud to introduce themselves as the far right and believe their actions are unconditionally correct. It may not seem fair to simply shut them down, but if you look a little further into their site, it is easy to see why many are against this right wing forum.
|▲ The picture on the left is a cover from the Times, and the picture on the right is a photo fabricated by the members of Ilbe Storehouse. (photo by mbn)|
Their style is to describe the left using hateful words such as zwazom (meaning left-wing zombie) and users refer to the left-leaning South Korean President Roh Moo-hyun as “Ko Moo-hyun”. In Korea, 'Ko' is usually used before a name when refereeing to the deceased. They also sometimes edit his photo using a koala to disrespect him.
While the site originated as a right-wing political forum, it has since expanded its reach into areas that have nothing to do with politics. This extension of their market is what pushed the public to call for a complete shutdown. First of all, Ilbe users detest women. They upload real photos and videos of women being sexually molested by other users. In fact, the misogynistic killer in the Gangnam murder case was a member of Ilbe. What’s more, they often disrespect the deceased and bereaved families posting ‘jokes’ about them. For instance, after the huge tragedy of the Sewol disaster on April 15, 2014, when more than 300 of young and innocent people died in the sea on their school trip, users in the Ilbe referred to them as ‘fish cake’ because the victims drowned. Almost every incident is problematic because Ilbe users make fun of real tragedies in Korea. Despite these serious actions, Ilbe has no yet been subject to regulations, as it operates under the pretext of freedom of expression, without any thought being given to the protection of the victims from this form of harassment and hate. This means freedom of expression is being protected at the expense of the site’s victims.
|▲ Na Kyung-won, a NationalAssembly member disagrees with shuttingdown Ilbe Storehouse. (photo by YTN)|
The main argument among those fighting against a shutdown of the Ilbe is that the problems are with certain individuals, not with the group as a whole. However, contrary to this claim, the developer said that he wanted to create a site where extreme right-side groups could gather because there were no sites where they could discuss their ideas. In other words, the developer intended this site to be a forum for strong right-wing views from the very beginning. Given that a lot of the site content includes its own made up slang and deals with sensational topics, it encourages people to visit, just for fun. While it may have been created as a forum for like-minded right wing thinkers to chat about policy issues, it has now turned into a hate site where the individuals that are tied to it, more often than not, share similar characteristics with the group. The site is public and after a simple subscription process that anyone, even a child, can complete can gain access to it. However, it runs on the strength of anonymity. Users don't have to write down their real names to sign up. This is a good feature, as negative views towards Ilbe dominate the news in Korea, users tend to shy away from revealing themselves in real life. This commitment to anonymity implies that these keyboard warriors know what they are doing is wrong, but continue to do so under the protection of obscurity. In other words, because of its anonymous and controversial structure, coupled with its simple registration process, the size of Ilbe continues to grow in membership and in scope, while their inconsiderate pranks continue to go too far, upsetting too many people.
What’s more is that there are no legal issues with shutting down Ilbe. According to a Constitutional Court ruling, shutting down a single site does not infringe excessively on the fundamental rights of the public. Of course, one's freedom of expression should be respected because it is a basic human right, but when it violates the human rights of others, it should be restricted for the good of the population. With the number of users and followers showing no signs of slowing down, the Ilbe must be shut down to establish a healthier Internet culture for all.