In politics of South Korea, social media campaigns become a watershed for the elections, given the rising influence of the Internet on young voters.
A case in point is the former president Roh Moo-hyun’s surprise victory in the 2002 presidential election. Roh was a trailblazer in using the Web to get his message out, a strategy recently perfected by U.S. President Barack Obama. At that time, Nosamo – an online-based supporters’ group for Roh – also played a key role in garnering votes from young people via the Internet.
* Roh, playing guitar. From the online advertising in 2002 presidential election.
Since then, politicians in South Korea have turned to online politicking to reach people. According to Joongang Daily, in 2008, one in two lawmakers have a weblog, a kind of online journal, or personal homepage, including a mini-homepage on Cyworld.
Some critics say social media campaigns would help “rich parties” gain an unfair advantage against minor opposition parties suffering financial difficulties. Yet, I think minor parties can rather take a financial advantage of social media in political campaigns.
The minor opposition Democratic Labor Party and Democratic Party have recommended their candidates use online campaigns, but have had difficulty pursuing such campaigns because of a lack of money. However, the main problem of online campaign budget is online advertising, not social media management.
Under the revised Election law passed 2006, parties can advertise their candidates or election pledges on Internet portal sites. Thus, major parties have launched online advertising for each election on popular portal sites Naver and Cyworld. The parties post candidate profiles and policies as banner ads on the Internet. According to National Election Commition, online advertising costs between $16,000 and $21,300 a week to use portal sites’ advertising banners.
When it comes to social media, however, the budget can be cut. In South Korea, the main communication channel between politicians and voters are mini homepages in Cyworld. For deeper relationships with potential voters, more and more politicians started to spend more time as well as care into not only building their homes on the Internet, but keeping them attractive and maintained, too.
Take the case of the main opposition leader Park Geun-hye, who set up her mini homepage in 2004 for younger generation. Park had ‘the first date in her life’ with a 17-year-old, who was countered as the 1,000,001st visitor to Park’s mini homepage and took the prize of a public date Park. In addition, she keeps posting photos from her private life, including those of her family.
Responses have been huge. Now the page view is running up to 2,600,000 with Park. In addition, there are a lot of text, video and music files about her that are being created by the Internet fans, and her speeches are also popular content. Recently, she also joined in Twitter and has sent out her messages in a daily basis.
Although social media seems a tiny portion in political campaign, these are powerful tools to promote individual candidate and his/her campaign pledges in a long term.