Monday, June 28, 2004

two interesting observations

bush-munchingly scrumptious

In reading around about the censorship flap, I came across two interesting observations:

1. Over at the comments section of Todd Thacker's OhMyNews article on the subject, a couple people are discussing the possibility that the Korean government is using the beheading video merely as an excuse to shut down the expat blogging community, which tends to write critically (heh) about Korea.

Personally, I disagree, though I'm open to discussion about this. My feeling is that the expat Koreablogs, even when taken together, don't have nearly enough of a readership to draw this kind of attention from the government. Maybe I'm being naive, but if I might use myself as an example, I don't see how someone who averages only 150 unique visits a day (according to SiteMeter)-- most of which are repeat visits by a small core readership-- could possibly catch the eye of the Orwellian Hyeong (Big Brother, from a little brother's perspective). 150 unique visits, many of which are repeats and random search hits (including the inevitable porn hound searching for "Big Hairy Asses"), boil down to a core readership of, at a guess, no more than a couple dozen people-- barely enough to fill a standard-size high school classroom in America. Some of the bigger Koreabloggers, with their more muscular traffic, might average five to ten times what I get (or more!), but even with them, when you account for repeats and randomness, we're only talking about a readership you could fit into a large lecture auditorium on a university campus. How many people do we really reach? Not that many.

True: a single person performing a single act can make the news, even if that act (say, setting yourself on fire on the street) is actually witnessed by only a few dozen people. But the English-speaking Koreablogosphere is largely unexplored by the Korean Netizens; that, at least, is my superficial impression of the matter. We reach each other and people in the States and Europe, but we aren't exactly penetrating the Korean Netizenry. Wherefore government concern? (Yes, feel free to write in and tell me I'm full of shit, but I do think the current ban has more to do with the Kim video than with a governmental urge to suppress blogged foreign criticism.)

It might be interesting to see some "bridge" blogs, though: something along the lines of Merde in France, where every single post is published in both English and French-- hipster English and French, no less. If my Korean were good enough, I might try that, though I'd have to make every post pretty short-- of necessity, since I'd be translating the whole time. A "bridge" blog would have a lot deeper penetration into Korean cyberspace, and would serve as a great ambassador for Western thinking. Instead of pulling random quotes from an English-language blog out of context, a Korean Netizen might be motivated to read an entire blog post, from start to finish, and would then come away with a better overall idea of where the Westerner was coming from.

But this would be a new frontier, and I don't know how many Western expats in Korea feel confident enough to blog fluently in Korean (fluency would be important, I think). In the blogosphere, there are arguably more Koreans who've mastered English than there are English-speakers who've mastered Korean, so I nominate Wooj as our first bridge blogger. Westerners will follow, if only because so many do speak and write Korean well these days.

2. A comment, by a Blogger Who Shall Not Be Named (but Who Will One Day Return in Clouds of Glory to Claim His Own), that the Western blogosphere has done a good job of ignoring the Korean censorship issue. I was happy to get my letter published by as high-profile a blogger as John Moore of Useful Fools, but other biggies like Andrew Sullivan, Steven Den Beste, and Satan's Anus either haven't caught on or don't want to, for whatever their individual reasons (I also sent a cc of my letter to Kevin Drum).

Yes, overall, there doesn't seem to be much interest in our plight in the Western (read: American) blogosphere, so I think BWSNBN is on to something. This is unfortunate. I hope more America-based bloggers take the meme and run with it.


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