Participatory Democracy or National Schism? Online Political Communication and Shifting Modes of Activism in South Korea


Dr Kim Hyejin
Lecturer, Department of Political Science and the Global Studies Programme,
National University of Singapore


Tuesday, 19 November 2019, 3:30 pm – 5:00 pm


EAI Conference Room
NUS Bukit Timah Campus
469A Bukit Timah Road
Tower Block #06-01
Singapore 259770


South Korea has a proud history of popular political movements. Under authoritarian rule, mass movements were crucial to forcing political change. Thereafter, civil society activities continued as a distinguishing feature of South Korea’s democracy. More recently, in 2016-17, pressure on the streets contributed to the removal of the now-disgraced President Park Geun-hye. In 2019, Seoul witnessed another wave of demonstrations. Do these movements indicate division deepening in the country, or are they evidence of a healthy democracy? The speaker answers this question by drawing attention to a shift in the most prominent modes of activism. The past 15 years have seen a shift in organisation, demonstration style and methods of participation, even as the fighting spirit of movements has been preserved. In this talk, the speaker gives special attention to the role of online political communication in generating this shift.

About the Speaker:

Kim Hyejin was founding convener of the Global Studies Programme at the National University of Singapore where she is currently a lecturer in Global Studies and Political Science. She holds degrees in Global Affairs, China Studies and Cultural Anthropology. She has written six books, four in English and two in Korean. International Ethnic Networks and Intra-Ethnic Conflict: Koreans in China (Palgrave, 2010) is based on her fieldwork in China with various Korean groups. Her most recent book is How Global Capital is Remaking International Education (Springer, 2019). She has also written a fieldwork-based fiction, Jia: A Novel of North Korea (Cleis, 2007), which has been discussed in The New York Review of Books. Her recent articles include “‘Spoon Theory’ and the Fall of a Populist Princess in Seoul” (Journal of Asian Studies, 2017) and “Online Activism and South Korea’s Candlelight Movement” (Made in China, 2018). She is preparing a co-authored book on social movements in South Korea. Hyejin previously served in management for international education organisations and was international relations director for a peace project adjacent to the Korean Peninsula’s De-Militarised Zone.

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