Digital Feminism and Affective Splintering: South Korean Twitter Discourse on 500 Yemeni Refugees

Do Own (Donna) Kim, Nathaniel Ming Curran, Hyun Tae (Calvin) Kim


This article examines Korean Twitter discourse surrounding Yemeni refugees in South Korea. Sequestered on Jeju Island since their arrival in 2018, the 500 refugees have prompted enormous public debate in Korea, which has until recently defined itself in terms of a mono-ethnic identity. Grounded in the literature on Korean digital feminism, this article conducts a thematic analysis from a corpus of more than 8,000 Korean-language tweets. The refugees and their situation are found to be appropriated by different segments of South Korean society to make broader arguments about gender, nationalism, and economic insecurity. This article finds that prorefugee and antirefugee arguments draw on identical themes to draw opposite conclusions predicated on their different understandings of “Koreanness” in increasingly multicultural South Korea. The article suggests the notion of “affective splintering” to make sense of the lack of cohesion among individuals within superficially ideologically aligned groups, such as conservatives or digital feminists. Similarities and differences with Twitter discourse on refugees from other contexts are discussed.


refugees, South Korea, Twitter, digital feminism

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