Citizen Newspaper Advertisements in Contemporary South Korea: Analogue Protest Media in the Age of the Internet
Olga Fedorenko, Associate Professor, Seoul National University & Visiting Scholar, Columbia University
Moderated by Theodore Hughes, Korea Foundation Professor of Korean Studies in the Humanities and Director of The Center for Korean Research, Columbia University.
Tuesday, October 8, 2019
4:00 PM – 5:30 PM
International Affairs Building, Room 918
As South Korea geared for the thirteen weeks of protests that would eventually impeach the corrupt president Park Geun-hye (2013-2017), it also witnessed a proliferation of a new kind of activist image. They were full- or half-page opinion advertisements in the mainstream newspapers, paid with individual citizens’ donations coordinated via civic organizations or social media. During the first month of protest, over a dozen of such ads—by alumni associations, churches, and other civic groups—appeared just in the two biggest left-leaning dailies. It was puzzling to encounter those newspaper ads in twenty-first-century South Korea, where newspaper readership had plunged years ago and wi-fi and smartphones are ubiquitous. Often the ads reproduced the slogans from the downtown demonstrations, but their most striking visual element was the printed names of the ad donors, which appeared in small font as a background—sometimes up to eight thousand of them. This paper explores the performative efficacy of such activist images. Specifically I argue that it was the spatial presence of the words on the newspaper page, particularly of the citizen donors’ names—their embodied visuality— that made those ads a locally meaningful protest practice. My analysis foregrounds the physical presence of analogue media in space and teases out its implications for protest. Exploring the symbiosis of the digital and analogue that powered those citizens’ ads, the paper contributes to the scholarly conversation on how the Internet has remediated traditional media locally and globally.
The Academy of Korean Studies, Seoul Korea; Columbia Alumni Association, Korea; the Department of East Asian Languages and Cultures