Top Twitter keywords in Korea for 2019 (with my analysis)

Twitter put out a blogpost (in Korean) highlighting some of their top content for 2019, including the top keywords for the year, the most talked about public figures, etc.

Like usual, I thought I'd take a few minutes to go through a couple of the lists and highlight what these were, with some of my own background info (in English). This post will be heavy on politics issues, so buckle up.

I'll start with the top 10 "social keywords." These are the top ideas, concepts, events that shaped Korean society in 2019, based on Twitter engagement.

Please note: I don't know the official titles for some of these things, so my translation may be different from what you'd find in the news. I've tried to explain them as simply as possible, but be aware that many of these are complex political laws and issues, and I am not a political analyst nor a native Korean speaker. Most of the information here is gleaned from some cursory Naver searching and some quick questioning of my coworkers' knowledge. In other words this is just FYI. Don't sue me if I didn't explain completely accurately. That being said I'll do my best. Here we go.

Top social keywords in Korea on Twitter in 2019. Image: Twitter

Top "Social" Keywords in South Korea for 2019

  1. 검찰개혁
    Prosecution Reform

    A cornerstone of the current Moon administration has been to enact a major reform of the Korean prosecutors office. This is a major and complex issue. As far as I can tell, right now Korean law stipulates that criminal trials (as opposed to civil trials) can only be brought by the prosecution. Like in Law & Order when the cops have to get the smoking hot Assistant D.A. to agree to press charges in the case. If she says "no" or "get more evidence first" the cops have to do as she says. The police therefore are "checked" by the prosecution. Moon's administration hopes to expand this ability so that the police can pursue criminal charges themselves without "permission" from the prosecution. The overall point then is to weaken the prosecution, which depending heavily on your political leanings is either a necessary step to prevent corruption and hold high officials more accountable, or else an erosion of the checks-and-balances system to make it easier to target and destroy political enemies. Basically, the Prosecution is run by political conservatives who stand in the way of Moon's anti-corruption goals, but the opposition side believes these reform measures are a way of consolidating even more power with Moon and his party to have total investigative/judicial control. Like I said it's a complex issue and probably the top issue of domestic politics this year.
  2. 불매운동

    Korea began a fairly long-term boycott of Japanese products this year after Japan removed Korea from it's preferential trading list in a number of key products, but as with anything Japan related there are historical issues in the background. Generally speaking when a liberal administration is in power, issues with Japan tend to flare up again. They boycott affected several major industries including high tech component production, but for the man on the street, the biggest effects were probably reduced tourism to Japan, a public need to stop shopping at Uniqlo (which led some to simply shop online), and an almost total absence of delicious Japanese beers from store shelves.
  3. 자유한국당
    Liberty Korea Party

    The current major form of the conservative opposition party in Korea. They've been facing a tough time since the downfall of Park Geun-hye and this year has been no different. Moon and his party have swept many positions of power, and the LKP have been fighting tooth and nail for any scraps of power they can maintain. Probably their greatest success so far was the removal of Cho Kuk as justice minister though technically he stepped down.
  4. 미세먼지
    Fine Dust

    Forever on the list of problems affecting Korean society, the fine dust pollution won't be going away anytime soon. Tackling the fine dust problem was a campaign promise of President Moon, but there's really only so much I think any president will be able to do about it. There's some debate about how much pollution Korea itself produces and how much blows over from China. We could always just hire this air-cleaning car to drive around beside us as we walk down the street.
  5. 패스트트랙
    Fast Track

    Another complicated topic, the "fast track" is a plan that has been being pushed by the current administration to, you guessed it, fast track the passing of certain laws and resolutions. The "fast track" is meant to bypass some of the "trivial" processes, requirements, and committees that normally need to sign-off on laws, in order to get needed legislation passed and not just stuck in committee purgatory. You can see why this would be controversial. The liberal party believes its efforts to pass anti-corruption legislation are being thwarted by vested conservatives who want to keep the status quo that unfairly benefits them. Conservatives see this as skirting the rule of law and a blatant attempt to make the National Assembly just a rubber-stamper for Moon. The administration is eager to "fast track" several proposals mainly because of the general election next year, will will affect many things including the 검찰개혁 (see above #1), and voting reform that will expand the system of proportional representatives, which in theory would help minor parties to get more people in power and reduce the grasp of the one still-in-existence conservative party. Conservatives see this as a de-facto kind of gerrymandering designed not to expand democracy but to crush the conservatives out of existence. You can see why for a lot of the LKP and their followers, these are dark times where the self-broadcasting YouTubers and USA/Korea/Israel-flag waving crowd all feel like they're fighting for their lives.
  6. 정상회담
    Summit talks

    I'm not sure if this specifically refers to the summit talks between Moon and Kim Jong Un this year, or those between Kim and Donald Trump. Either way, it was a momentous year for North Korean dialog, though whether anything comes of it, who knows. See tweet embedded under this list.
  7. 최저임금
    Minimum wage

    Korean minimum wage received a large hike this year, with more raises planned. This was another major campaign promise of President Moon, along with establishing the 52-hour workweek. The minimum wage is now relatively high at 8,350 won/hr though there is plenty of debate over whether this has actually improved incomes and employment and what role temporary workers play in the numbers.
  8. 촛불집회
    Candlelight protests

    Not to be confused with the candlelight protests that brought down Park Geun Hye last year, this year a similar protest also brought down Moon's candidate for justice minister, Cho Kuk, amid the corruption scandals of him and his family. This was also meaningful given that media coverage of these massive protests was relatively mute, with much fodder being made over that fact in conservative alternative media outlets. #fakenews etc.
  9. 김지영
    Kim Ji-Young

    The title character in the novel Kim Ji-young, born 1982 (in Korean as 82년생 김지영). The book came out a few years back and documents a "typical" life and discriminatory pressure a woman of that age group would face as a kind of amalgamation of things many women face. I haven't read it to be honest so I can't offer much. But it being released as a movie this year of course gave it a bigger and more mainstream audience of opinionated netizens with debate raging about just how feminist and how accurate it is. In light of recent events, the timing of the film seems very relevant (see below).
  10. 페미니즘

    With the suicides this year of K-pop starlets Goo Hara and Sulli and the treatment they tended to receive online, plus the continued aftermath of the Burning Sun nightclub scandal and #metoo, and the release of the Kim Ji-Young film, it was a big year for feminist issues in Korea, and we saw the rise of the "4B" women (no dating, no sex, no marriage, no children) which doesn't bode well for Korea's already dismal birth rate which hits new record lows every single month. The battle of the sexes didn't show any signs of abating this year. 

Next up is Twitter's top 10 list for the most mentioned politicians in Korea for 2019.

Most mentioned politicians in Korea on Twitter for 2019. Image: Twitter

Most mentioned politicians in Korea on Twitter in 2019

  1. 조국 전 법무부 장관
    Ex Justice Minister Cho Kuk

    One of the most controversial figures of the year, President Moon nominated him to be justice minister as part of a sweeping plan of reforming the country's justice and prosecutor services. But after a lengthy confirmation hearing filled with dirt and protests over his alleged family financial corruptions and "golden spoon" favoritism for his child in getting into a good school under questionable conditions, Cho ultimately withdrew from the post after just a few days. In a year of almost nonstop wins and gains for Moon, this particular issue was probably the most public and well-discussed black eye of the year for him.
  2. 문재인 대통령
    President Moon Jae-in

    I  don't think I need to include any commentary on him.
  3. 윤석열 검찰총장
    Head of Prosecution Yoon Seok-ryul

    Yoon was one of the key players in revealing the corruption issues faced by Cho Kuk (not to mention those faced by Park Geun-hye too). Prosecutors at his level are appointed for I believe it's 2 year terms during which they can't be fired. This is meant to protect them and their investigative/judicial work from being unduly influenced but the flip side argument is that these guys are nearly untouchable and this immunity gives them leeway to go after high level people (including sitting or former presidents). Yoon is a very interesting figure and I don't feel knowledgeable enough in the politics here to place him but just for a taste read this from an article this year:
    Yoon, 58, has a track record of challenging authority. The chief of the Seoul Central District Prosecutors' Office has arrested and indicted two former presidents for corruption, winning sentences that put them in prison for decades. In 2013 he also accused his own boss of attempting to influence his investigation into allegations that South Korea's spy agency had meddled in the 2012 presidential election. Now the maverick prosecutor appears to be targeting the most powerful businessman in the country, Samsung Electronics Vice Chairman Lee, who relies on Chung to help him run the conglomerate. [South Korea's maverick prosecutor takes aim at heart of Samsung - Nikkei Asian Review]
    Here's another good article on him:
    [Kim Myong-sik] Defender of justice or enforcer for power? - The Korea Herald
  4. 황교안 대표
    Representative Hwang Kyo-ahn

    Former prime minister and former justice minister, Hwang went on a hunger strike this year to protest the Moon administrations "Fast track"ing of legislation that Hwang's party (conservative opposition) feel are political targeting tools against themselves. Not just a hunger strike, but he also shaved his head resulting in netizens being shocked at his handsome rugged look, saying he looked like actor Gary Oldman. I featured him on my Lookalikes series at the time.
  5. 유시민 작가
    Writer Rhyu Si-mi

    Rhyu (not sure why the internet spells it like this instead of just Yoo) is a former politician and Minister of Health under former president Roh Moo-hyun, now turned journalist. He's worked for a variety of liberal newspapers and hosted political TV talk shows. He's well known as very outspoken proponent of President Moon and his liberal party ideals including being a notably strong advocate for Cho Kuk. He's either passionate, or loony, depending on your political leanings.
  6. 서훈 국정원장
    Director of National Intelligence Service Suh Hoon

    Head of the Korean version of the CIA basically, he was another controversial but important figure this year. He's had a long history as the brains behind many of the summit meetings with North Korea both this year and well into the past, though some on the right accuse him of being a little too pro-North and don't like seeing such a figure leading the South Korean NIS which in theory should be staunchly anti-North, but that all depends on your political leanings. Another figure with an amazing and storied life. A good article on him is here: A Look at South Korea’s Top Spy and Negotiator With North - WSJ
  7. 여상규 법사위원장
    Chairman of the Judiciary Committee Yeo Sang-kyoo

    Lawmaker who has been an outspoken opponant of Moon and his administration's plans to reform the prosecution among other things. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that he was most notable this year for shouting the B word (byeongshin! ~"stupid retard") to a ruling party member. Conservatives don't have a lot of heroes right now but I guess this would be one of their guys.
  8. 김정은 국방위원장
    Chairman Kim Jong-un

    I don't have to say much. Leader of North Korea who got a lot of facetime with major leaders this year.
  9. 김경수 경남도지사
    Governor of South Gyeongsang-do Kim Kyoung-soo

    Really a spillover from last year. Early this year his role in the "Druking" scandal broke and the case has been ongoing since. You may recall that Druking involved illegally rigging social media engagements to favor liberal causes, but issues crept up that ultimately turned the project against them and in the irony of ironies the Moon administration's own anti-corruption crackdown on this "fake news" ended up revealing the original pro-Moon connection. It's likely Kim will be seeing some jail time soon.
  10. 이낙연 국무총리
    Prime Minister Lee Nak-yeon

    I can't think of any especially interesting news about him this year. He played a role in trying to patch up relations with Japan. Maybe you can find something more interesting about him. I always think he looks like a Korean actor but I can't put my finger on which. 

There we have it. Remember most of these figures are major public figures and while the information is sometimes scant in English there is informative content out there. Just search their English names. It was a very wild year for politics coming off a very wild 2018 political year. Who knows what 2020 will bring.

If you enjoyed this, you can find my other top lists from this year, and past years, here at this label:
 🔗 10원 Tips: Year in Review