Live Korean viewer comments during the Hanoi summit

I watched a bit the US-DPRK Summit of yesterday, towards the end, after people had left for the expanded meeting and reporters were wondering why they were getting delayed beyond their original schedule, until the no deal debacle that followed soon thereafter.

I watched it on JTBC, one of Korea’s post-media reform (2009) TV channel on their YouTube livestream. Unlike last year, they enabled viewer comments (I don’t remember exactly but last year in Singapore I think they didn’t enable it?) 19,000 viewers were watching at that point. I thought the lively live comments were pretty interesting.

First, there was the continuous political spam of people both in support and opposition of Korea’s Democratic Party and the current president Moon. These looked almost like copypastas given how long they were, with a healthy dose of seemingly typed ones as well. Things like “Moon is a commie, just give the country to Jong Un ee” (against Moon), “Abe equals Park geunhye equals the Liberty Democratic Party equals Hong Joon pyo equals Choi Soon Sil equals extreme right equals Abe Shinjo equals sellouts” (for…?), “Just send the army and conquer North Korea” (against), some rants on current political developments in South Korea, etc.

The political spam was not enough to overwhelm non-spammy comments, who were typing what they felt or their critique. A lot of people sounded pretty angry on both sides.

When the broadcast consisted of four panel members from JTBC, who had flown to Hanoi and set up a mini outdoor “studio” atop the roof of some tall building, overlooking Hanoi’s city skylines, in a manner similar to how Son Suk Hee had flown to Singapore and set up a similar outdoor studio last year. So instead of having the panelists comment from the indoor studio, they would be quasi “reporting”, “from the front lines”. Maybe it would also help with the 1-2 second awkward netwotk comms delays that happen when the studio panel is trying to talk to the reporter from the field? Some of the viewers were a bit perplexed by this unusual choice of venue.

People sounded pretty hopeful in the beginning, saying things like “well I have a hunch that things will be spectacularly good”, “you know what? the peace declaration is already a done deal. SK and NK declared it last year in April, China declared it too, now all that is left today is the US and North Korea”, or asking other viewers “hey, i just came in, what’s going on? And what’s with the view of the empty room?”. The panelists didn’t seem to be monitoring the YouTube comment (almost no TV channel does that yet) but the viewers would talk to each other. Praising Moon, insluting Moon, etc.

Viewers were also upset with the panelists, as some of the panelists apparently had a cynical tone towards the whole event. “Hey who is that guy panelist, he keeps talking about the summnit as if wishing ill to it”, “these panelists, man, they talk about this as if it wasw sone random country unreklated to us”, “god i hate this panelist”, “well, this can’t be helkped because JTBC felt they needed to represent “all political spectrums”, “Panelist X is so talkative now that he’s not with Son Suk HEe (the CEO of JTBC and renowned liberal/progressive commentator – Son Suk Hee led the panel in the Singapore summit’s broadcast)

As the delays started coming in, people started wondering “hey what is this delay about”, “isn’t a delay a good thing? it means that people got inmmnerse in the negotiation talks, there is serious talk going on”, “I’m not sure this is a good thing”. Or even “This is the usual Trump surprise show thing – they want to put some tension first, then surprise their audience with an unexpected good outcome”. Panelists were also worried and were starting to take guesses on the reason and asking reporters on the field “do you see ANY sign of anything, cars moving, white house staff said anything, any of the non-korean reporters there saying anything, what is the mood in the press pool”

Then the news broke that a CNN reporter had tweeted “the expanded conference lunch may get cancelled and there may be no signing ceremony, just heard from the white house”, which drove panelists and viewers even more nervous. One panelist remarked “hey, isn’t it disrespectful to diplomatic customs to give any word about the negotiations when the negotiators are still in the room talking to each other?”. Viewers were worried. Some were typing frantically “Guys, don’t believe the media. Only trust the primary sources. All of this media blabla is bullshit”. There was a lot of chat throughout and peoples’ chats were only visibile for 0.5 second before it would slide up wioth the new chat. So sometimes people would copy their chat and paste it multiple times (like every 2 seconds or something) to try to be read by more viewers. The above “don’t trust the media” was one of them. The pro Moon and anti Moon spam was still mixed in with the chat. Some of the political spam was evolving “Omg, President Roh please come back from the dead and save us!” (I assume mocking tone), “Moon is screwed now. Impeach Moon!”

Throughout the next 20 minutesthe panelists frantically tried to get any information they could get from all their sources – checking pasts statements from KJU and DJT, asking repoirters they had places around the hotel for any movement, any mood from other reporters, anything unusual, was security moving in any direction, etc.

Then it was finally announced that the signing ceremony was cancelled, that both presidents had left the hotel, and it was unclear whether the press conference was happenning. News also broke that there had been no deal. Vieweres could see in the screen that some reporters were pakcing up ready to leave the press conferenhce location.

Then Trump showed up for his press conference. And as he talked through the talking point and answered reporters questions, the viewers just exploded. Korean viewers are used to watching highly nuanced press conferences when it’s a delicate topic, where everything is the topic of analysis, by viewers and pundits alike: what is the color of the tie, is the speaker agitated or calm, do they look relaxed or upset, what word was chosen as the opening sentence, what types of key words are emerging, etc. I guess some of the viewers were watching Trump speak live, unedited, for the first time. “Holy shit he’s talking US domestic politics”, “here he goes bragging again”, “just get to the point”, “What does Venezuela have anythinhg to do with this”. Viewers were very upset that Trump kept mentioning Abe Shinjo, since that would seem to indicate Abe had orchestrtated this outcome. “Wow, Abe had this much power? damn”.

Viewers were also surprised at how fast the Korean translation was. There was both a word-by-word typed interpretation going on in the screen, whiel also a spoken interpreter was talking at bullet speed.

More later..