Monday, June 16, 2008

Where's the Beef? It's in the Images

One thing is certain. The current political uproar in South Korea over the import of American beef has produced a flood of visual images of all kinds. They include the placards held by participants in candlelight vigils which, although individually small, create quite an impression when carried by thousands or tens of thousands of vigil participants. Images circulating on the internet range from still photos through doctored photos, cartoons and caricatures. Of course, the most powerful images of all are probably the live or timely video portrayals of events. To see a representative sampling of such images, check out one of South Korea's major internet portals such as Daum , or the site of an organization promoting the anti-beef-import campaign, , or search the many videos that have been uploaded to YouTube.
Still photographs are very easy to distribute via e-mail and the internet. They are routinely used by print media, in both their print and web editions, and by the major international news agencies. A recent photograph by Reuters is included here as an illustration. In this connection, it is worth noting that major search engines, such as Google, provide an image search option for quickly locating photographs and video images on the internet. Despite the obvious origin of most images in Korea itself, mostly from Seoul and other large cities, the anti-beef protests quickly generated a response in the U.S. and in other countries around the world, as illustrated by the image of Koreans in France staging a sympathetic protest near the Tower of Eiffel.
The main media outlets in South Korea today are reporting that the number of people participating in anti-beef import vigils decreased notably over the weekend. Some of the articles attribute this to the fact that the "anti-U.S. beef" movement is being politicized to include anti-FTA concerns, the concerns of labor unions, broadcasting and other media concerns, and so forth. However, one of the most interesting images from today's news in South Korea was a before/after shot of Seoul Plaza, showing the wear-and-tear on grass that is an inevitable effect of the nightly vigils. Another powerful visual image emerging from this month and one-half long political movement was the construction of a barrier made of shipping containers on the north side of the Kwanghwamun intersection, right in front of the statue of Admiral Yi. Although the barrier itself was short-lived, the image was extremely powerful. The first image included here is a photo taken as the barrier was being constructed. The second shows how it was used during that evening's protest.
Finally, please take a long, hard look at the final still image included here. It says volumes about the role of the internet and new media in South Korea's current political situation. The image is a photograph of a reporter broadcasting the anti-beef protests live over the internet via his notebook computer.

No comments:

Post a Comment