Social media has been a growing impact on people in the modern age. As access to mobile and other electronic devices grow, people are more connected worldwide through social media. With more access to such devices and with the growth of the internet, people are becoming more aware and are getting faster access to information.
This widespread outreach and the quick spread of information became a valuable tool in politics in the Republic of Korea. In October 2016, a Korean news agency called JTBC aired their daily evening news program “JTBC Newsroom” and the host Sohn Suk-Hee broadcasted nationwide the scandal behind President Park Geun-Hye and her cabinet. Up to October 2016, there was growing criticism of President Park’s term in office, as the Sewol Ferry Disaster of 2014 and the deployment of THAAD missiles on the Korean peninsula raised questions regarding President Park’s intentions and policies in office. Questions and criticisms continued to flood throughout the Republic of Korea until Sohn Suk-Hee announced nationwide on “JTBC Newsroom” that President Park had in fact been communicating and discussing policy decisions with a non-government affiliated individual named Choi Soon-Sil, which was illegal under constitutional law. This broadcast sparked outrage among the Korean people and protests started to flood the streets of Korea, notably on the streets of Seoul, the capital.
Soon after the broadcast, people swarmed the streets and started peacefully demonstrating the removal of President Park from the Blue House (Chungwadae), the residence and office of the President of the Republic of Korea. At first, a crowd of a couple hundred people gathered, but within a month, the crowd grew up to over 5 million people just in Seoul. This expansion of the protest was thanks to social media, namely KakaoTalk, Twitter, and Facebook, three of the most commonly used social media and chat networks in the Republic of Korea. People were communicating with their friends, acquaintances, and fellow citizens on news threads and on posts made by numerous news agencies, non-governmental organizations, and other activist groups online. People were seeing that others were sharing the same sentiments as them and this brought solidarity among the people and brought people together in the effort to do what is right for the nation. This solidarity eventually sparked the growth of the hashtag #NotMyPresident in the Republic of Korea. With this hashtag, millions of Koreans were brought together and this allowed for information regarding protests to be shared quickly to those interested.
The spark of #NotMyPresident online showed that people were able to express their political sentiments and anger collectively online and eventually in real life. The frustrations among Koreans were eventually expressed and many news agencies and activist groups caught on to these sentiments and made arrangements for citizens to express their feelings. At the protests, famous celebrities often made appearances for free to create an environment for people to express themselves, such as Kim Jedong, a famous comedic MC in Korea. With this collective effort, the Korean citizens were able to express themselves freely and were able to release their frustrations to the nation. In the end, the protests deemed successful, as President Park was impeached on March 10, 2017, following a 8-0 unanimous verdict for impeachment by the Constitutional Court of the Republic of Korea.
Political statements and the expression of political ideas was not new through this Korean case. Social media played and continues to play a major role in political activism and sharing of political sentiments. This is still relevant now in the United States of America, as US citizens voice their concerns and disagreements regarding President Donald Trump’s decisions and policies in the White House. The same hashtag #NotMyPresident and other similar hashtags are circulating social media pages in the US and this is bringing US citizens sharing the same sentiments together in a collective effort to challenge President Trump’s policies in office. By forming solidarity under the same hashtag, US citizens disagreeing with President Trump’s policies are finding space to talk to each other and organizing ways to express their frustrations to a larger audience.
The people are not isolated from politics. Through social media, people can impact political decisions and can play roles beyond exercising their right to suffrage.