Baseless rumors about new technologies spreading cancerous radiation. Politicians condemning negative stories as “false” or “defamatory.” Deepening polarization amid constant online manipulation. These might sound like recent episodes in U.S. public life. But they in fact come from South Korea, where rumormongering and manipulation of public opinion have become key features of its politics.
Although South Korea consistently tops indices measuring a country’s digital maturity, digital disinformation is changing its politics. Despite evidence to the contrary in the United States, South Korea’s experiences suggest that political polarization is not the death knell for the state’s ability to address domestic disinformation and provide clear guidance during crises like COVID-19.