Digital Risk and Corporate Social Responsibility

When NCsoft, the video game company famous for Lineage, made the decision to start up a pro baseball team, the reason behind it was obviously founder Kim Taek-jin’s love for the sport. But there was some-thing else he told Korean Baseball Organization commissioner You Young-koo: “We’ve kept young people cooped up for too long. I want to set them free to run around on a wide-open field and develop their spirit.” 

On its home page, NCsoft writes that its ultimate goal is to “make the people of the world happier.” In founding a pro baseball team, it sought to extend this happiness from online to offline platforms, offset-ting negative effects of online recreation such as addiction and isolation. The company looked at these issues from the perspective of corporate social responsibility, or CSR. 

The reason NCsoft’s decision is drawing so much attention is because such side effects are increasing as a social environment takes shape in which digital media are seen as a sine qua non, and the company’s role in managing this is assuming greater and great importance. Responding to the negative effects of a com-pany’s products or services is also the duty of its citizens and the first step in CSR. 

South Korea has an ultrahigh-speed Internet penetration rate of nearly 100 percent. By the end of 2011, there are expected to be some 16 million smartphone users in the country. Meanwhile, the scale of the gaming industry is expected to grow to 9.6 trillion won—three times the size of the domestic film indus-try. This quantitative growth has been accompanied by increased activity in new services like location-based services (LBS), app stores, cloud computing, and social networking services (SNS), leading to an ever greater digital presence in daily life. 

But these changes have brought with them the dark shadows of the digital society. Recent years have seen growing demand for the development of search technology and the use of personal information for cus-tomized advertising. Details about personal behavior patterns, including people’s likes and information on how they spend their time and with whom, are being exposed to the eyes of others. As seen in the case of Park Jae=beom, a member of the popular music group 2PM whose posts from back in his apprenticeship days came back to cause him no end of trouble, the Internet can also be a digital “branding iron” whose marks are never expunged. Extreme cyber violence, exemplified by the harassment of the singer Tablo and the late actress Choi Jin-shil, has sparked terror among people who have no way of knowing whether they, too, might be targeted next. In meeting rooms across the country, participants are distracted by smartphones. Teenagers and their parents fight“living room wars” over cell phones, games, and the Inter-net. Digital media users are inundated by viruses, hacking, and spam. These are some aspects of the digi-tal risk society we live in today.

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