This project examines the effects of South Korea’s Covid-19 pandemic response on the Korean nation, governance, and citizenship. In particular, it examines how the surveillance technologies and techniques, lauded by many around the world as a template for contact tracing elsewhere, deliberately target non-normative behaviors and practices of Korean citizens (such as collecting financial data and tracking mobile phone GPS). We explore the social costs of mass surveillance with the case study of the May 2020 outbreak within Korean queer communities and subsequent nationwide homophobia. In addition to collecting and recording a multitude of private information about those who test positive, the Korean government reports much of the individual’s movements, general employment status (e.g., an office worker at a medium-sized textile firm), age and gender, and living conditions to the general public. With the May 2020 outbreak, sharing such personal information about the initial patient led to media reports outing the individual as gay, implicating queer spaces and communities based on the patient’s movements. In response, queer and human rights activists quickly denounced the homophobia, taking aim at the media’s blame of queer communities and the lack of privacy around testing. This project interrogates how these technologies and techniques create images of healthy bodies and good citizens by conducting digital ethnography of queer activism and communities as they respond to being blamed because of their non-normative behaviors and practices.
Postdoctoral Fellow, Society of Fellows in the Humanities, University of Hong Kong
Research Professor, Sookmyung Women's University