[2010-#1] Mobile Communication, Political Participation, and the Public

Mobile Communication, Political Participation, and the Public

Hyun-Chin Lim
Department of Sociology
Seoul National University
Seoul, 151-742
South Korea

Joonkoo Lee
Department of Sociology
Duke University
Durham, NC 27708
United States


How does mobile communication affect ourpolitical life? How does it change the way we engage in public debate and political action? This paper attempts to answer these questions by examining South Korea’s experiences. Over the last decade, Korea has been transformed into a mobile-rich society, and at the same time growing political participation, emerging social movements, and heightened public awareness of individual freedom and free speech have energized the public sphere. The paper argues that the explosion of mobile use in Korea was deeply embedded in the country’s political and economic structure. On the one hand, the “government-industry ICT complex” played a critical role in the introduction and diffusion of mobile communication. On the other hand, the political use of mobile communicationand its impact on the internal structure of the public sphere largely depended on the way the burgeoning civil society responded to the technological opportunities emerged from newly introduced mobile services. Three political events of the last decade the 2002 presidential election, candlelight protest rallies, and the 2008 protests against U.S. beef import are discussed to highlight the evolving relationship of political and media development over time.