Political carnivalism: digital media use and a new political participation in South Korea

Carnival not only is characterized by festivity and laughter but at the same time creates an arena where people can resist against dominant power and even mock the governing power. The expression of resistance in carnival employs very entertaining formats such as humor, satire, and parody. The carnivalistic participation culture of South Korea may portend a new evolutionary form of political communication. In the last Seoul Mayoral Election, a political neophyte, who was supported by a variety of Internet users, beat his ruling-party-backed competitor. During the election, the Internet, especially social networking sites, was abundant with carnivalistic postings that included humor, satire, and parody to deprecate the political parties and candidates.
The blossoming of carnivalistic participation culture in South Korea may be attributed to the historical and social context. The 2002 World Cup was the watershed which planted the seed of carnivalistic action culture. The massive cheering was organized thanks to the voluntary participation of individuals. The bottom-up cheering festival, which had long been severely prohibited and censored under the authoritarian governments, was successfully transformed into a citizens’ cultural festival independent from capital, professional journalism, and government power. Similar cases resembling the 2002 World Cup cheering rallies occurred occasionally since then up to the end of the 2000s. South Korean accumulated the experience of unconventional form of political participation, by taking an effective advantage of the Internet as a new public sphere of carnivalistic activism.