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South Korea's wired youth prefer social networks to social outings

Young South Koreans who played a pivotal role in the nation's development into an electoral democracy are shunning campus organizations and reaching out to peers via Facebook instead.

By
Elizabeth Shim
South Korean undergraduates are turning to Facebook groups and trendy mobile apps like Kakao Talk to chat with “cyber friends” while shunning campus organizations. Photo by JaysonPhotography/Shutterstock
South Korean undergraduates are turning to Facebook groups and trendy mobile apps like Kakao Talk to chat with “cyber friends” while shunning campus organizations. Photo by JaysonPhotography/Shutterstock

SEOUL, March 3 (UPI) -- South Korean university campuses that once bustled with student-led activities are growing quieter with the rise of social networking, and memberships in popular clubs have dwindled drastically in the last few years, South Korea's Herald Business reported Tuesday.

South Korean undergraduates are turning to Facebook groups and trendy mobile apps like Kakao Talk to chat with "cyber friends," many of whom they have never encountered.

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South Korea has been consistently ranked one of the world's most wired countries. According to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, more than 97 percent of households have Internet access.

The wild success of connectivity in the world's 14th-largest economy has given rise to a young generation of tech-savvy, smartphone-wielding 20-somethings.

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But the Internet's powerful presence in the lives of South Koreans is taking a toll on their social lives.

According to the Herald Business, a long-established culture club at one university in Seoul now has only two members.

An undergraduate with the surname Sohn was quoted as saying the club, dating back to the 1960s, boasted 30 members as recently as 2011.

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An English-conversation group at another campus was active in 2011 with 30 to 40 members. Now only a single member remains, the Herald Business reported.

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Student organizations have played a crucial role in the development of South Korean democracy. Peaceful student protesters were quelled during the violent Gwangju Uprising in 1980, and student demonstrations forced an authoritarian government to hold nationwide elections in 1987.

Chun Sang-Jin, a sociology professor at Seoul's Sogang University, said the young generation is overwhelmed by face-to-face interactions, but online they can "curate information that reflects what they want."

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The trend hitting South Korean campuses reflects global trends.

According to a 2011 book authored by Sherry Turkle, a professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, young people are more comfortable with their virtual identities because their online lives are "more satisfying."

"We look to technology for ways to being relationships and protect ourselves from them at the same time," she wrote.

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