A false rumor, posing as a news report attributing the source to Japan’s NHK, said: “South Korea sent a rescue team, consisting of five workers and two dogs. After arriving in Tokyo, one of the dogs went missing. Now, the five rescue workers are still searching for the dog. Japan has more than 100 million dogs, so it won’t be an easy job to find the dog.”
“Actually, this is not the first time that South Koreans have made fools of themselves,” it then said. “During a Taiwan earthquake, Koreans brought with them a large team of journalists, who acted as if they were filming entertaining news. They also used heavy equipment on rubble under which victims were buried.”
It also falsely denigrated South Korean rescue team’s work during the 2008 Sichuan earthquake in China. “The South Koreans behaved the same way as they did in Taiwan. As a result, the Chinese government became enraged and sent the Koreans back home,” it claimed. It added in parentheses that the news was not reported inside China, implying censorship.
The false report is “crazily circulating” on China’s web forums, said a Chinese editor, who alerted this reporter to the matter.
A query on Baidu.com, a major Chinese Internet portal, on Friday yielded 246 results. On the djs365.com forum, it was even ranked as the most popular news.
Due to the way it was written as a genuine news item, a Chinese netizen later posted an online inquiry, asking about whether the missing dog had been found yet.
Korea currently has 107 rescue workers in Japan’s earthquake-ravaged area, according to Seoul’s foreign ministry.
Xu Ruokan, a graduate student at Tsinghua University in Beijing, who read the false report on the Internet, said while some Chinese people mistakenly believed the rumor as true, “many people actually knew it was fabricated yet still enjoyed spreading it.”
“I think it’s important to understand why Chinese do this,” Xu said.
Some analysts attribute the problem to rising national pride and historical animosity common among some neighboring countries, for example.
Beijing has become Seoul’s largest trading partner since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1992, and the latter, the former’s third biggest. But cyber maligning has been a pronounced thorny bilateral issue, with almost ubiquitous access to the Internet today.
South Korea is the most wired country in the world, and China has the world’s largest number of Internet users. Naturally, cyber space has often become a battle field between the Internet warriors of the two nations, when they want to vent.
Last week, the East Asia Institute in Seoul issued a “warning about China’s anti-Korean sentiment,” saying the Chinese people’s negative views had increased alarmingly by 30 percent, in just one year over its previous “Global Poll,” which it jointly conducted with the BBC and GlobeScan, a polling firm.
Yet the anti-Korean sentiment by Chinese people is often discounted among South Korean policymakers, since the very act of “acknowledging” the presence of the sentiment could worsen the situation. Some also claim it’s natural for two neighbors to quarrel once in a while, proposing that to “look the other way” is the best policy to deal with cyber libel.
As a consequence, “How Chinese view South Korea has not been examined sufficiently,” observed Lee Sook-jong, president of the East Asia Institute and a professor at the Department of Public Administration at Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul, in her latest research paper, published last week.
Some argue that the views on the Internet are mostly those of young and uneducated people, not representing those of the elite or opinion makers.
Yet what is surprising in Lee’s paper is that the Chinese elite actually get information on South Korea mostly through the Internet (46 percent).
Others also say that Beijing, which has the ability to police the anti-Korean sentiment, is not doing enough. For example, they pointed out the it enforced a tight gag on any online discussions about the Jasmine revolution, suggest Beijing is selectively allowing the anti-Korean sentiment as an avenue for Chinese people to vent.