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Korean nationalism and user-created content media

December 18, 2009

from An Anthropologist Goes Techno blog

‘Dokdo Island Dispute: Korean Reconstruction of History and National Identity in User-Created Content Media.’ In Digital Memories: Exploring Critical Issues, edited by Anna Maj & Daniel Riha, published by Inter-Disciplinary Press, 2009, pp. 179-187.


Japanese colonization of Korea (1910–1945) had an immense impact on Korean society and culture, and on a symbolical level, on what being Korean means today. The traumas of colonialism are still being widely discussed in Korea and there are certain key discursive nodes stemming from the colonial history that present Korea‟s concerns of contemporary Japan-Korea relations.

One of the discursive nodes is Dokdo (which the Japanese call Takeshima), a small and remote rocky island between the two countries in the East Sea (which the Japanese call the Sea of Japan). Both Japan and Korea lay claim to Dokdo, and both claim a long historical and geographical connection with the islets. In addition to traditional media, both have harnessed the cyberspace to support their cause. As both countries seek support from the international audience, the amount of Dokdo-related websites and online news in English is relatively high. Thus, the issue has turned from a small border dispute to a rhetorical fight between two nationalisms that use historical evidence to buttress their claims. The purpose of this paper is to examine how Koreans represent Dokdo, a disputed island in the sea between South Korea and Japan, to an international audience in user-created content media such as YouTube and Facebook. Moreover, the paper analyzes the ways the dispute is further used to reconstruct the history of South Korea and strengthen the national identity of Koreans. Theoretically, the paper refers to Anthony P. Cohen‟s analysis of the symbolism in community making as well as Benedict Anderson‟s thoughts on nations as imagined communities.


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