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Candidates for April Election Kick Off Cyber-Politicking

By Shim Jae-yun, The Korea Times, 3 January 2000

Prompted by the rapid increase in Internet use and computer communications, a rising number of politicians are rushing to set up their own homepages on the Internet to woo support from netizens in a bid to brace for April’s general election.

Lawmakers from the three major political parties, and maverick hopefuls, have begun to employ cyber-politicking, judging it is the most efficient way of enticing the netizens, mostly in their 20s and 30s, who make up 57 percent of all voters. Currently, the number of Internet users is estimated to be 6.5 million.

So-called cyber-politics is about to sprout here and is expected to burst into full blossom ahead of the election, opening a new political era, replacing traditional electioneering characterized by direct contacts with voters by taking to the streets and marketplaces.

Hopefuls preparing for the Assembly elections have become increasingly eager to garner support from netizens as they tend to be seen as undecided voters, often favoring independents and less subject to regional antagonism.

Currently, the number of lawmakers with Internet homepages amounts to 150, about six times more than in 1997. Polcom, homepage maker for politicians, said it has received three to four inquiries for setup every day.

Utilizing cyberspace will be one of the most effective means of attracting the `apolitical’ young generation to the political scene.`Cyber-electioneering fever’ will increase, as it is less expensive and enables bilateral communications with the voters, said Rep. Chung Dong-young of the ruling National Congress for New Politics (NCNP).

He foresaw that this year, the first year of the new millennium, will see the practice take firm root.

Many of the homepages contain free-for-all bulletins, online surveys, chat rooms, cyber-assistance clubs and so on, mostly designed to realize bilateral communications with the netizens.

Political Internet sites include emocracy, which means electronic democracy, offering information on candidates and cyber mock balloting and pib (political information bank) korea, providing up-to-date political news.

A university student opened posdaq as a cyber stock market for leading politicians, while some cyber political parties have begun operation with the aim of winning seats in the April election.

Fourteen lawmakers have been raising political funds through an auto response system (ARS) on the Internet, developed by Media 2000 Institute. Rep.Lee Yoon-sung of the opposition Grand National Party collected 4 million won last month alone through the new system.

Fifteen civic organizations recently set up an alliance with the aim of defeating some disqualified lawmakers through campaigns in cyber space. But the Central Election Management Commission (CEMC) ruled that the civic bodies’ drive violates current election laws, heralding increasing conflict between the two sides.

An increasing number of lawmakers have begun to employ aides exclusively in charge of homepage management. Rep. Noh Moo-hyun of the NCNP has recently recruited 98 cyber aides.

Rep. Kim Moon-soo of the GNP said he had received more than 200 e-mails since he opened his own homepage last month.

Rep. Hong Sa-duck plans to hoist the flag of a new party in the middle of this month under the motto of cyber politics. He is seeking to set up an Internet broadcasting network at the central party which will coordinate the homepages of each regional branch.

Some experts have expressed concern about the possible adverse effects of cyber-politics, mainly due to difficulties in controlling illegal electioneering.