Monday, December 2, 2013

The Eastern Connection

When people first start hearing about the "depths of the Internet", they inevitably start hearing about 4chan. 4chan has recently passed its tenth birthday, and is one of the biggest social hubs that exists on the Internet.

And then some!

However, the website's concept was never original. 4chan's founder borrowed the website's format and style from 2channel, an imageboard in Japan. 2channel is just as big in Japan as 4chan is in America, if not even bigger.

As it turns out, we can trace a lot of online phenomena to the Far East - particularly Japan and South Korea, who have been functional on the Internet for as long as the West has. Today, we'll explore how Japan and South Korea have impacted our online culture, and how the tide for cultural dominance may be shifting in the coming decade.

Unlike China, a lot of East Asia has been online for a very long time. If you look at archives of Alexa's top 500 websites from 2002, you'll spot a lot of Korean websites in the top 100 alone. In these early days, Seoul - South Korea's capital - was called the "bandwidth capital of the world". That position has yet to be conceded - in 2009, South Korea topped the world in Internet speed, with Japan coming second, and the United States coming in 18th place.

From our faraway perspective, the online landscape of these countries mirror our own. The Japanese have their own online personalities, social networking services, video hosts, and online hubs. South Korea's most visible websites are Naver and Daum, which are comparable to our Google and MSN, and offer a familiar scope of features.

I wouldn't be able to say anything interesting about their online culture, though. I face the same conundrum as I did when trying to talk about China's Internet. I don't participate in it and I don't know anyone who does, so I couldn't possibly do it justice. I can, however, talk about how their online cultures have colored our own. To do that, we have to start with Japan.

Pastels of collective embarrassment.

Even before the rise of the Internet, Japan had already been exporting its culture to the West. The NES came out in North America in 1985, and set the foundation for modern gamer culture. Other media like anime and manga grew popular through the '80s and '90s. There consumer goods were coming during a time that was very crucially shaped by increasing consumerism. A whole generation was defined by it.

This generation - my generation, the Internet generation - would grow up to learn that these beloved consumer products came from this faraway little island country. They act different, they have their own history, and their culture is wildly different from our own, but they're producing all these amazing things that we like to consume! The result is a genuine fascination with Japanese culture and its many quirks. To many, Japan is this strange "other" world, where the pop culture is an intriguingly different flavor than Western pop culture and the technology seems wildly ahead and wildly imaginative.

There are a staggering number of nerdy subcultures that revolve around the consumption of Japanese media.  Any gaming news outlet is going to have some portion of it devoted to Japanese news. Hell, one the more famous gaming news sites is named Kotaku - you don't need too much imagination to wonder where the inspiration for that name comes from. It's a Western-made site, too!

You can also find a number of online hubs with heavily Japanese inspired content. 4chan was mentioned above, but we see the same general fixation on Japanese culture in places like DeviantArt, where every other submission is some hackneyed attempt at anime. TV Tropes has sections upon sections devoted to trope entries in anime, manga, and video games. The Anime News Network is a website that is devoted to all things anime. Gaia Online is an anime-themed forum that would get millions of unique visitors in the mid-2000s.

Have you forgotten what it was like to cringe?

It is no stretch to say that a lot of online culture during the 2000s was defined by a fixation on Japan. There was even some reactionary backlash to its prevalence. The term "wapanese" was coined to describe white people (of which there are a lot on the Internet) who were obsessed with all things Japanese. Eventually the term evolved to "weeaboo", and is almost always used pejoratively.

For a lot of people, Japan seemed like this place where their nerdy consumer habits were not only accepted by greater society, but encouraged. Lots of Japanese consumable exports during a time of heightened consumerism meant that some of those consumers were going to try to find an identity through Japanese media, just like any other nerd.

There are some problems (besides the shallow consumerism) that come with that - some regressive aspects of Japanese society begin to leak into our own. Japan's gender roles come in a different flavor than Western gender roles, and it can be seen in their media exports. Japan also currently has a problem with hikikomori, young Japanese people who withdraw from society and stay holed up in their room all day. Perhaps as a result of Japan's own societal problems, you see a lot of strange products that seem to encourage personal isolation and objectification of other people. These products suddenly find an audience in the West, and suddenly these people have products that encourage their bad behavior.

Here, cringe some more.

But lately, tides have seemed to shift. The Internet in the 2000s may have been marked by Japanese culture, but I get the feeling that the 2010s Internet have been increasingly shaped by South Korean culture.

Th eSports scene is a subset of gaming culture that describes video game competitions in organized tournament settings. Through the 2000s, eSports were a very niche interest in the West, but were extraordinarily popular in South Korea. The non-governmental organization KeSPA was founded in 2000 to manage South Korean e-Sports. The video game Starcraft, released in 1998, had sold 9.5 million copies by the time of Starcraft II's announcement, with South Korea accounting for half of those sales. South Korea was the undisputed eSports capital of the world, with prominent eSports athletes commanding massive resources and cults of personality.

Nowadays, eSports popularity has begun shifting to the West. Games like League of Legends, DotA 2, and Starcraft II are all very popular in the West. The company behind League of Legends, Riot Games, has been very public about their desire to push eSports to new levels of accessibility. The website Twitch has brought eSports spectating to new levels worldwide. The US visa bureau even recognizes professional League of Legends players as professional athletes for visa purposes, as of July 2013.

Korea remains the leader, and stands as a mecca of eSports. This puts Korea in a uniquely powerful cultural position as the West increasingly embraces eSports. Large American companies like CBS Interactive have begun putting stakes on eSports success. As they embrace the new medium, they will find a lot of wisdom from the already-established Korean eSports scene.

Aside from all that, let's talk about Korean pop music.

Psy's Gangnam Style was the surprise meme of 2012. As of this writing, it sits at 1.8 billion views on YouTube. Somehow this Korean pop song has managed to top every individual Western pop song in online viewing and penetrate into mainstream Western society. There's more where that came from, too - several other Korean pop groups are finding global popularity. In 2011, one such group - Girls' Generation - became the first Korean group to perform in the Late Night Show with David Letterman.

There has been no Japanese pop equivalent to Gangnam Style or any of these bands. South Korea is wholeheartedly embracing a role as an exporter of popular culture, a role that seemed to firmly belong to Japan only ten years ago.

So what's going on here? Did we collectively get bored of Japan's quirks? Has Japan's international audience stabilized into niche subcultures that hardly get any public attention? Is liking Japan too stigmatized with the pejorative "weeaboo" label?

Asian nations have long been known for their "soft power", or their ability to influence foreign entities through the allure of their culture. Japan's worldwide cultural contributions span a long and colorful list dating back decades. It isn't as though their influence is suddenly waning, either - people are still excited for Pokemon and the PlayStation 4, and big names in anime can still get big Western names like Disney to back anime releases. Manga sales are dropping, but that may reflect a change in publishing trends than it does a change in interest. And of course, things like sushi are still going strong.

Perhaps Japanese culture has become a "normal" thing to us Westerners. Japan might not be the conscious focus of our attention right now, but it's still there, in the background, providing very important components of our culture. For a little while, with the Internet allowing us to talk about shared interests in Japanese products, we started placing Japan on a pedestal of novelty. But the novelty has worn thin, and Japan has reverted from being the shiny new thing back into the old reliable thing. Weeaboos still exist, but perhaps we're too used to their brand of consumerism to care.

Korea is the new novelty. Perhaps the 2010s will be marked by increased imports of Korean culture.  What lessons can we learn from the Internet's former love affair with Japan, as Korea enters into our public conscience?

Compared to Japan, Korea's got a homophobia problem. The culture around K-pop promotes this, and I'd be willing to bet that the eSports scene in Korea doesn't have particularly progressive views on the subject, either. For anecdotal evidence, I've known homosexual Koreans who are here because they were no longer accepted in their own country because of their homosexuality. If we've had to contend with problems in Japanese media, then we'll certainly have to contend with problems in Korean media as well, and homophobia is very likely to increasingly be in the spotlight.

But, in the meantime, maybe we'll have to come up with a new pejorative to make fun of white people obsessed with Korean culture. Worean sounds weird, and "gorean" is already taken by a really creepy fanbase around some mediocre science fiction. What would you suggest?


  1. I got a job offer from another state after 4 months of our marriage, the job offer was too great that I can’t turn down, even though it’s 5 hours’ drive from our house. I asked my husband for his opinion, it was welcoming, he understood and accepted my decision. Despite all the odds, I still drive back home every weekend because I don’t want distanced marriage.
    It was October 2015 that my husband started acting strange, he will never let me read his email or text, I keep wondering if he has an affair outside our marriage, I keep investigating for evidence until one morning I did laundry and found used condom, I was broken and asked him, he admitted and promised to change. But he can’t leave her even though I have already quit my job to resolve my crashing marriage. We keep fighting and he keep falling deep to her.
    I was hurt because all my effort to be a good wife was in vein. I almost lost hope until I found Dr. Wakina via ( The spiritual father showed me compassion after doing some reading with the info I provided. Story short; Dr. Wakina cast the love spell and changed my husband, he made him a better man and distanced all his secret lovers. Dr. Wakina also cast a spell that gave me job in my area, I was paid double compared to the previous job. I am happy to have a united family, it couldn’t be possible without the effort of Dr. Wakina.

  2. Thank you for your miracle Doctor Osemu Okpamen

    This article is dedicated to the Doctor Osemu Okpamen. I have been married with my wife for 5 years and recently she broke up with me and it hurt me deeply when she told me to leave her alone and that she does not love me anymore when i was always faithful and honest to her. I tried all the ways to get her back buying her what she wants like i always did and she still left me heart broken and she even has a new boyfriend which destroyed me even more until a friend of mine from high school directed me to this genuine spell Doctor called Osemu Okpamen. This man changed my life completely. I followed everything he told me to do and my wife came back begging for me back. I was stunned everything happened exactly like he told me. I had faith in everything he told me and everything was true. Also he was there every moment until i got my happiness back and he also provides spells that cures impotence, bareness, diseases such as HIV/AID E.T.C You can contact him via email at { } or visit his website He will help you in anything you need and quick to answer once you contact him or call me for more info +1 (914)-517-3229.

  3. My broken relationship has been restored by Dr.Unity the best spell caster online that is powerful and genuine. My boyfriend of 4yr broke up with me i have cried my self to sleep most of the nights and don’t seem to concentrate during lectures, sometimes I stay awake almost all night thinking about him and start to cry all over again.Because of this I end up not having energy for my next day’s classes ,my attendance has dropped. Generally he is a very nice guy ,he ended it because he said we were arguing a lot and not getting along.He is right we’ve been arguing during the pregnancy a lot .After the break up I kept ringing him and telling him I will change.I am in love with this guy and he is the best guy I have ever been with.I’m still hurt and in disbelief when he said he didn’t have any romantic feelings towards me anymore that hurt me faster than a lethal syringe.He texts me now and then mainly to check up on how am doing with the pregnancy,he is supportive with it but it’s not fair on me, him texting me as I just want to grieve the pain and not have any stress due to the pregnancy.i was really upset and i needed help, so i searched for help online and I came across a website that suggested that Dr Unity can help get ex back fast. So, I felt I should give him a try. I contacted him and he told me what to do and i did it then he did a spell for me. 28 hours later, my bf came to me and apologized for the wrongs he did and promise never to do it again. Ever since then, everything has returned back to normal. I and my bf are living together happily again..All thanks to Dr Unity. If you have any problem contact Dr.Unity now and i guarantee you that he will help you. Here’s his contact.Email him at: ,you can also call him or add him on Whats-app: +2348071622464 , His website: .Thank you so much for reading Sonia Williams from England.