Author:Hakjun Kim (M.A. in Sociology, Seoul National University)
* This paper is a Master’s thesis for the Department of Sociology, Seoul National University.
This study analyzes the Internet community, Ilbe-Jeojangso, [Literally translated as “daily best post storage”] (“Ilbe” in this paper), which has recently shocked Korean society because of its particular brand of violence and vulgarity.
This study is divided into three sections.
The first examines the context and history of Internet culture in South Korea, from DCInside (“DC” in this paper) to Ilbe (Chapter 3). The second section focuses on apprehending the structure of extreme hatred which exists on Ilbe by analyzing posts posted on the website (Chapter 4). The third section investigates how Ilbe users feel about the targets of the Ilbe community’s hatred by interviewing them, according to the sociology of emotion (Chapter 5).
Through this, the study insists that the seemingly erratic rituals of Ilbe are actually results forged by the social reality in which Ilbe users are situated. Because Ilbe comes from a substructure of the neoliberal process of subjectification, which has been intensifying since the 2000s and is itself built upon the deep foundations of a divided state system, regionalism, and patriarchy, Ilbe possesses a distinctiveness which cannot be characterized in a way that accounts for each branch of its tradition by using previous models. That is to say that one cannot revert to prior frameworks, such as “fascism” or “radical right wing,” when viewing Ilbe, thus the creation of a new frame of understanding is both urgent and necessary.
Here, the sociology of emotion provides a solid framework for understanding and explaining the Ilbe phenomenon.
< Theoretical Framework >
The anxieties and fears that have emerged as a result of the social mobility have dispersed across much of contemporary society, and like others, contemporary lack of Ilbe users have been swept up in that emotional climate. From there, their fear and anxiety is either introjected as shame or extrojected as resentment--most Ilbe users interviewed for this research indicated that they introjected. Shame, as introjected anxiety, leads to the action strategy of conformity, where the most important point is that the logic of conformity is reinforced by a “narrative of normality,” which, in this case, could be summarized as “everyone is in pain.” This narrative of normality makes the struggle for recognition impossible because it regards one’s own pain as normal and generalizing the pain of others as well, making all pain homogeneous. By situating those who claim to feel pain in the position of the defeated, this “narrative of normality” becomes a mechanism by which the subjectification of others is entirely frustrated and it regards conformity as its absolute value while simultaneously reconfiguring the pain of Ilbe users as something that is normal, rendering impossible escape from the structural anxieties of modern society.
This study focuses mainly on the fact that for Ilbe the “others,” which are typically left-leaning people, people of Jeolla-do, or women, are commonly assumed to be exploitative or hypocritical. Resentment as a form of social sentiment occurs when power is unreasonably taken away by other people. In this regard, the rage of Ilbe users is built on a logical “sense of justice” in its own way. However, since the 2000s, when neo-liberalism began its rapid spread, ethical rage, which had become the emotional territory of the middle-class which was represented therapy culture or healing discourse, largely faded away from or was kicked out of public discourse. Therefore, rage is suppressed rather than expressed outwardly. Rage withdrew back into private spaces or it was expressed within cyberspace, which, before long, had become a kind of backstage for real life. Rage in Ilbe is displayed as a form of cynicism. As a matter of fact, considering that Ilbe’s criticisms and attacks toward others always end up being linked to the target’s perceived “ignorance” their rage is a form of true cynicism. The core of the Ilbetic mentality is, in recognition of the reality of each individual’s powerlessness, internalizing the narrative of normality and emphasizing a practical conformity. Thus Ilbe users have no choice but to discourge each attempt for subjectivation or struggle for recognition by revealing one’s own suffering and pain, and instead they must become an avatar for defending the system, enforcing the obligation to conform with the truth that pain is normal. Thus, Ilbe users do not harbor sympathy for the victims of violence, their sympathy is inverted into sympathy for assailants and agents of governmental violence.
Therefore, this study claims that Ilbe or Ilbe users are subjects that can only be created as the result of a successfully operated system, rather than some “freak” mutation of Korean society or by people on the fringe of society. Additionally, and above all, enthusiasm in the context of Ilbe cannot bring about the solidarity described by Emile Durkheim insofar as it is intermediated through cynicism. This study suggests we conceptualize this kind of enthusiasm, which cannot manifest itself as solidarity, as “cold effervescence” and that this is the bare face of Korean society that Ilbe represents.
Keyword: Ilbe-jeojangso, DCinside, Sociology of Emotions, Efferverscence, Hate Speech, Radical Right, Narrative of Normality, Internet Community, Cyberspace