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Title:Netizenship Politics: Youth, Anti-Americanism, and Rhetorical Agency in South Korea's 2002 Candlelight Vigils
Author(s):Kang, Jiyeon
Doctoral Committee Chair(s):Cara Finnegan
Department / Program:Speech Communication
Discipline:Speech Communication
Degree Granting Institution:University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Subject(s):Anthropology, Cultural
Abstract:This study offers a rhetorical analysis of the 2002 South Korean Candlelight Vigils [ch'otpul siwi] with a focus on the role of the Internet in public opinion building, the rise in anti-American sentiment in South Korea, and rhetorical agency residing in the collective. In 2002, two South Korean schoolgirls walking along a rural road near Seoul were hit and killed by a U.S. military vehicle. The country's Internet users (called "netizens") belatedly learned of the incident and mobilized themselves for nation-wide candlelight vigils that were held nightly during the winter of 2002-2003. The vigils not only commemorated the deaths but also protested the U.S. military presence in the country, which netizens viewed as the fundamental cause of the tragic incident. In December 2002 Presidential election, the vigils further contributed to the election of the liberal candidate, Roh Moohyun. By analyzing online postings before and during the 2002 vigils and interviewing vigil participants in 2006, I examine how a seemingly depoliticized Korean younger generation produced a critique of Cold War politics remaining in South Korea and developed a distinct generational and political identity. I study arguments, styles, and underlying national imaginaries of relevant Internet discourse. The chapters in this study are organized chronologically. In the aftermath of the deadly incident in June 2002, South Korean Internet users constructed the girls' deaths as a "national tragedy" by situating it in the historical narrative of the U.S. presence in Korea, and created a collective identity of netizens by circulating affective responses to this tragic event. Based on this nascent collective identity, netizens became involved with the Presidential election in December 2002, transferring their newfound political agency at the vigils into participation within the dominant political realm. The final chapter presents personal and political reinterpretations of the vigils by vigils participants and observers as they looked back on their experiences in 2006. In this study, I demonstrate that rhetorical criticism provides a useful tool for understanding national imaginary in the context of contemporary netizens collectively shaping and reshaping it. I also argue that the candlelight vigils warrant scholarly attention about the role of "non-rational" rhetoric in civic discourses and collective performances through which group identity and agency take shape.
Issue Date:2009
Description:295 p.
Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, 2009.
Other Identifier(s):(MiAaPQ)AAI3392085
Date Available in IDEALS:2015-09-28
Date Deposited:2009

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