Power struggles in Korean cyberspace and Korean cyber asylum seekers

Song, Dong Hyun. 2012. Power struggles in Korean cyberspace and Korean cyber asylum seekers. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis examines the potential power of internet users to use the internet in the conduct of their everyday lives by discussing the impact of state and non-state actors on cyberspace. The debate about ‘who controls the internet?’ has avoided the question of the power of internet users, which is needed to understand the character of cyberspace. Theoretical debates identify the overwhelmingly territorial nature of cyber governance through nationally developed and enforced legislation, which is in direct opposition to the power of transnational ICTs. This thesis contributes to this theoretical debate through the use of the concepts of alternative and radical media, which are usually categorised as anti-establishment resistance strategies. I use Michel de Certeau’s notion of the heterological practice of everyday life to develop a perspective on the power of the powerless on the internet. I also adopt Franklin’s theoretical stance on the relations between state, non-state, and social actors, which is influenced by de Certeau’s ideas about the plurality of space.

In order to illustrate this argument, I discuss the Korean ‘cyber asylum seeker’ phenomenon, which arose when Korean internet users migrated from local web portals to global corporations, such as Google and YouTube, who had refused to comply with the restrictions that the Korean government policies imposed on the local internet. This development allowed Korea cyber asylum seekers to become power holders, thus expanding the reach of Korean cyberspace. The Korean cyber asylum phenomenon was a result of both the Korean government’s cyber intervention following the 2008 Candlelight protest and Korean web portals’ compliance. I therefore understand the Korean cyber asylum seeker phenomenon from the perspective of a tripartite inter-relationship between the Korean government, the web portals, and internet users. This tripartite approach sheds new light on current debates about the questions: ‘Who controls the internet’, ‘Why is it controlled?’ and ‘How is it controlled?’ by adding the question, ‘What other groups have had an impact on power formations in cyberspace?’

My field research points to the significance of internet user mobility for a more complete understanding of the effect of the Korean government and the web portals on the expansion of Korean cyberspace. The research project is based on an analysis of the Korean government’s internet policy, business reports of Korean web portals, and interviews with officials from government bodies, the Korean internet industry, activists, citizens and online community members, as well as online community observation.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)


cyber control and internet governance, internet users and Korean internet culture

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies


July 2012

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

09 May 2013 10:35

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 08:40



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