The importance of Internet safety takes on even more urgency in the country called the most wired place on the planet. South Korea has one of the highest rates of Internet penetration in the world, and its capital, Seoul, has been called “the bandwidth capital of the world.” By some estimates, 90% of Korean children use the Internet in their daily lives, especially with the pervasiveness of smartphones. For the most part, a highly connected society is a benefit for Korea and other countries.
However, wide spread availability can have downsides. It is not uncommon for some teenagers in Korea to spend more than 8 hours a day playing online games—an occurrence that some regard as just as problematic as accessing illegal or illicit content.
In fact, Korea is one of the few countries to treat “Internet addiction” as a psychiatric disorder, and the government has established “Internet Rescue Schools” to provide free, multi-week treatment for young people who are obsessed with being online.
“Of course, generally speaking the Internet has created a variety of new opportunities and enhanced the life quality of people,” says Ji Hyun Shin, a manager for corporate citizenship and corporate affairs for IBM Korea. “Yet, we also realize that our children should receive attention in how to protect themselves and others in the digital culture.”
Translation, then action
Volunteers from IBM in Korea translated three Activity Kits from IBM’s On Demand Community—Control Your Online Identity, Cyber-bullying, and Internet Safety—to participate in helping address some of the challenges of Korean’s young people and the Internet.
With the kits modified for their audience, IBM then teamed with two agencies in Korea—the Korea Internet and Security Agency (KISA) and the Online Privacy Association (OPA)—to develop an “Internet Safety Day.”
Ji Hyun Shin helped spread the word inside IBM by announcing the program on IBM Korea’s employee communication channel called e-Culture Plaza. Along with other IBM volunteers who played various roles during the day, HyungKeun Park, an IBM security technical team leader, agreed to present the main messages—keep your online information private, safely use personal computers and smartphones, and help reduce cyber bullying.
Pledging to join the Korean Internet Dream team
In January, 2013, Ji Hyun Shin, HyungKeun Park, and twenty-five other volunteers from IBM, KISA and OPA provided an interactive and engaging Internet Safety Day for almost 100 students aged eleven to fifteen. The session was held at the National Youth Center of Korea, centrally located in the country to allow students from remote areas to attend. The students came from 45 different elementary and middle schools. OPA arranged bus transportation for students in Seoul and Incheon, while others, such as those coming from Busan, traveled as much as three hours by train or car to attend.
At the end of the day, the students were asked to agree to pledge that they will participate in establishing a healthy digital culture as leaders of the Korean Internet Dream team. One student was very clear, declaring that he “will use information and photos after checking the copyright, use multiple passwords instead of just one, not get involved in cyber bullying, and not post malicious comments”—acknowledging all the messages in HyungKeun Park’s presentation.
Based on this experience, Ji Hyun Shin hopes to use the material to prepare online videos to reach more students from remote areas. “We were very proud and pleased to be a part of this education,” says Ji Hyun Shin. “What we can show our children today will help them when they are our leaders tomorrow.”