Digital Populism in South Korea. From Hell Joseon to the #metoo movement

Activity: Academic talk or presentation typesInvited talk


Populism is widely acknowledged to define this early 21st century. Arguably, one of its defining features is its extensive reliance on technology. Nowhere is this more evident than in South Korea. The ties between internet and politics in Korea date back to the Roh Moo-hyun presidential campaign of 2002, when young campaigners effectively pushed Roh to the presidency. Months-long candlelight vigils in 2016 and 2017 were enabled by social media – mobilising Korean citizens against then president Park, ultimately leading to her ousting and impeachment.

Korea’s populism has found a fertile terrain on the combination of growing economic inequalities and deepening social polarization, which has led some to refer to the current moment in Korea as ‘Hell Joseon’, as it bears some similarities to the class-based society of the Joseon era.

The paper zooms in on two examples of feminist movements since 2017: the #metoo movement and ‘Womad’. Since late 2017 the #metoo has first shocked the world and then highlighted both the empowering potential of this movement and, in some cases, its limits. The paper also examines the case study of ‘Womad’. Womad is a women’s online discussion group, whose name integrates women and ‘nomad’. Womad – and the role in the background of far-right websites like ILBE - illustrates the logic, narratives and framing strategies of this online group.
The paper shows how Korea’s highly polarised environment accounts for the recent backlash experienced by the movement. The paper draws from frame analysis to highlight both the agency of Korean women and the way in which the Korea has drawn on and contributed to the global #metoo movement, while focusing on distinctively local issues.
Period25 Mar 202028 Mar 2020
Held atInternational Studies Association, United States
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Korea
  • Asia
  • populism
  • activism
  • misogyny
  • androginy
  • gender
  • feminism