In December 2015, professor Cho Sung-kap was appointed as the 4th chairman of the Korean Ethics Council on the Internet. Chairman Cho currently serves as a visiting professor at Korea University and head of the Korea Lifelong Education Center.
His previous posts include head of the Korea ICT Export Promotion Agency, president of the Incheon Information Service (INIS), chairman of the Korea Information Processing Society (KIPS) and chairman of the Korean Federation of Information Technology Societies.
In a recent interview with The Korea IT Times, Chairman Cho talked about ways to address various dysfunctions undermining cyberspace and the importance of teaching cyber ethics.
The pros and cons of ICTs
According to The Chosun Biz, a local media outlet, the number of US companies listed in The Financial Times (FT) Global 500 has risen from 197 to 209 over the past 10 years while that of Chinese companies has jumped from zero to 37 during the same time period. Meanwhile, the number of Korean companies on the list has fallen from 9 to 4. New US entrants include Apple, Google, Verizon Communications, Oracle, Facebook, Amazon.com, AT&T, etc.; eight new Japanese companies, including SoftBank, KDDI and FANUC, also made the list, according to The Chosun Biz’s report released on Dec. 4, 2015. It is very worrisome to witness such a decline of Korean companies vis-à-vis the rise of their Chinese and Japanese counterparts.
However, more worrying than such an industrial issue is that South Korea has continuously flunked national ethics. The nation leads other OECD member nations in the number of suicides caused by malicious online comments, defamation, technology theft, low childbirth and depression. Finding solutions to those issues has become an urgent task for this nation.
Q: Specifically, what kinds of dysfunctions are there in cyberspace
First of all, intellectual property infringements are among those dysfunctions in cyberspace. In this information era, the issue of intellectual property infringements not merely affects individuals and groups but also comes to the fore as a serious national problem. Software piracy, unauthorized access to data and data tampering and distribution of user-edited multimedia contents are common violations of intellectual property rights.
Second is online gaming addiction. When kids use computers for their entertainment, kids can easily improve their computer literacy and develop their intelligence. Yet, these days, teenagers, undergraduates and even adults are increasingly addicted to online games, consequently suffering from social phobia, obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), paranoia and chronic fatigue.
Third are leaks of personal data, such as resident registration numbers, IDs and other personal data, which result in receiving lots of unsolicited marketing emails or emails containing sexually explicit materials.
Fourth are websites encouraging suicide, violence or bombmaking. Today, cyberspace is so infested with such websites that Korean society’s standard of value is being shaken. As suicide websites were ordered to shut down or shut down voluntarily, anti-suicide websites sprang up, which, however, ended up shocking Korean society by serving as a breeding ground for violent crime, such as mass killings.
Lastly, cyberspace is inundated with abuse of language, abusive language, slangs and verbal violence. The language teenagers use while chatting online or in writing email is somewhat different from the language they use offline. They tend to use more swear words, sexually explicit words and slangs to express themselves in an unbridled fashion once they hide behind the computer screen.
Since their real identity is not disclosed in cyberspace, people are tempted to use bad language when they go online. Such a behavior is the nastiest verbal violence that people can engage in in a situation where anonymity is ensured and physical contact is impossible.
Q: How should schools and parents teach kids cyberethics
To solve ethical problems in cyberspace, we need to teach kids from an early age how to think and behave prudently based on four basic principles of cyberethics -- respect, responsibility, justice and non-malfeasance.
Misuse of personal data is a dereliction of responsibility. Distribution of cracks and viruses, online scams, antisocial websites encouraging suicide or bombmaking violate the principle of non-malfeasance. Therefore, to help our children use the Internet in the right manner, parents should pay closer attention to the way their kids use the Internet at home while schools can teach students cyberethics by including it in their curriculum, which is now possible because teaching computer coding at elementary, middle and high schools has become mandatory in South Korea. By doing so, we can lay the foundation for building a sound Internet culture in this nation.