internet etiquette education in Korea

i enjoy reading korean news online whenever i have leisurely time at home, though it happens rather sporadically nowadays. what caught my attention today was an article (in korean) about the new morality class text book content for elementary schools.

with the majority of its citizens having embraced lifestyles which internet is an indispensable part of, korean government’s march on adjusting its policy and legislation for the digital era is quite thought-provoking, to say the least. when camera phones came out, it was quick to mandate all camera phones’ shutter sound to be at least 65db years ago. more recently it is considering making it mandatory for GPS navigation device manufacturers to provide software update facilities in gas stations or convenience stores so that consumers do not become a victim of outdated map databases and map software on the road. not long time ago, a government organization, IAPC (internet addiction prevention center) also started running the bootcamps for internet addicts, a program to help serious internet/computer game addicts rehabilitate. the program made participants totally disconnected from the internet but instead engage in several physical and social activities in the real world. this organization was established in 2002 and has been doing research on koreans’ internet addiction. according to their website, it also conducted research on students’ mobile phone addiction and resulting behavioral changes as well.

it is not surprising to see the government’s effort to educate children about the right and wrong in the digital world early on, as the age when people first start to use internet is getting younger. morality classes start in the first school year for everyone in korea. according to the article, the current morality class text book has the following internet-related content:

4th grade (age 9)
danger and harm of hacking
immorality of illegal content downloading
5th grade (age 10)
respecting others in the internet
6th grade (age 11)
harm of cracking (malicious hacking)
telecommunication etiquette

the new text book proposal will have more pages dedicated to internet behaviors:
2nd grade (age 7)
preventing internet addiction
using polite and appropriate language in internet
4th grade (age 9)
moral problems children experience in internet
problems caused by improper netiquette
what netiquette is and how to behave accordingly
5th grade (age 10)
understanding the danger of computer game addiction
reflection of my own computer game usage behavior
desirable way of enjoying computer game

i believe these topics were chosen reflecting what has been researched well and emerged as patterns of problems like online gaming. It may have been that the article simply did not mention it, but I hope they would touch on identity related topics as well. many children including myself go through the phase when they relate their identity to imaginary or fictional characters. i am no expert in this area so i do wonder how future children would discover and exploit the fact that they can be the imaginary character to a certain extent if they want to, aided by other ‘people’ in the digital world, not just by their own imagination while they are going through the blossoming age of developing their social perception and individual identity. it is up to whether the child will be able to master the delicate skill set of constructing and maintaining the perception of a world in a non-physical form. there was an incident in korea last month that a girl in her early teens left her home for a few days trying to find her ‘virtual husband’, a 30 something years old guy she got to know through online chatting months ago. he had told her that he cannot be ‘with’ her anymore. heartbroken, she wanted to go and look for him even though she had never met him before as the real life form. even for adults, it is not easy to define what is real and what is not nowadays. more embarrassingly, we may have to be in the position to explain to younger people whether what is not real is good or bad.

while i am being a novice fascinated by the potential of education here, i am curious how much of korea’s move is shared by other countries. as far as i have experienced, most mobile / internet cultural norms people tend to be aware of are mostly based on or affected by the immediate communities they belong to. korea has always been a patrimonial society so their approach of institutionalized education and preventive legislation against mishaps and misbehaviors in the internet era seems appropriate.

considering the internet can be catalyst for globalization, how will we come to terms in establishing the desirable behavioral norms in years to come, and from what motivation? if we look a bit farther into the future, internet globalization will be advanced and hence we will have to come up with desirable norms.

there is a downside of authorities acting too fast without the reliable foresight: because korean government’s legislation on the internet banking security was made such a long time ago when there were only a few internet browsers were around, korean online banking systems do not allow access via newer internet browsers, according to a friend working for mozilla.

lastly, there was a very good talk at the new yorker conference in 2007 on morality by Jonathan Haidt, if you want to continue pondering on the topic.

the first picture was taken in tokyo underground in 2006; the second picture is my 3yo nephew watching the animation ‘cars’ on my sister’s laptop.

8 thoughts on “internet etiquette education in Korea

  1. AG

    This is fascinating to me. I just cannot even imagine any such curriculum making any headway in the US, and not simply because it’s hard for me to imagine there being any default consensus on what constitutes “good” and “bad” ways to live online.

    I view this kind of thing as a marker that a society is at least engaging contemporaneity, warts and all, and failure to do so as a frank admission that the society in question just isn’t up to the task. American administrators might as well hang up a banner reading “*All* Children Left Behind.”

  2. Jofish

    Younghee —

    This is an interesting point, and clearly something about which there will be much more interest in the future. I agree with the poster AG above; there’s also the question of timelyness, which is often an issue in IT education. I’m trying to think what such a curriculum might look like today if it had been written, say, ten years ago. Clearly, some of the issues remain the same — questions of identity and presentation and privacy. But what of warnings to, oh, make sure you log off the BBS every half hour or so so you don’t block the phone line coming into the house, or the unethicalness of wardialing, or the need to write webpages that only use HTML 2.0 so that Internet Explorer 4 can read them, and so on. That sorta thing. While clearly the morality questions are constant, it’s hard to extract them away from the technology in a way that they’re still meaningful and relevant to kids and yet they see the connections to whatever technologies they’re currently using.

    Jofish

  3. CHAPLIN

    Totally. I think no one can escape from technology nowadays, and it’s very important to make kids involved in technology. Even now, we can’t live without out mobile phones or laptops, everything we do is through them, payments, conversations, etc. I think that all countries should follow Korea.

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