This week, we spent some time with WikiProject Korea. Started in September 2006, WikiProject Korea covers the history and culture of the Korean people, including both countries that currently occupy the Korean peninsula. This task has proven difficult with North Koreans notably absent from the Wikipedia community due to tight control over access to external media. The project is home to over 16,000 pages, including 15 pieces of Featured material and 66 Good and A-class Articles. Project members work on a to-do list, create requested articles, update articles that are missing Korean script, and maintain a variety of working groups. We interviewed Ed! and PeanutbutterjellyTaco (PBJT).
What motivated you to join WikiProject Korea?
Ed!: I actually started out in MILHIST covering U.S. military units, and I slowly transitioned into the Korean War. Nowadays, I improve everything on that subject; battles, people, units, and events.
PBJT: I'm from South Korea, so that was a part of the reason why I joined the project. Another reason was that modern Korean history is a very interesting topic: Korea used to be a land of Morning calm, which is the literal meaning of its old name Joseon(朝鮮), but now it became a land of Contrast. The North built a communist government, while the South pursued a free-market economy. This stark contrast can be summarized in an satellite image of Korean peninsular. While other parts of world is becoming more bright, North Korea is remained isolated.
In social science, you rarely have a control group and experimental group. Interestingly, however, the two Koreas have been a control and experimental group in their race to modernization. And the South Koreans proved they were right. One of the misconception about Korea is that the South was always more prosperous Korea, and this was not the case in the beginning.
The project is home to 14 pieces of Featured content and over 60 Good Articles. Have you contributed to any of these articles? What are some challenges to improving articles about Korea to FA or GA status?
Ed!: Of those on the list, I've done five of the Featured Articles and 26 of the Good Articles. Easily, the biggest challenge in Korea-related matters is the absolute lack of good sources pertaining to North Korea. I think my 766th Independent Infantry Regiment is the only North Korean topic ever to reach Featured Article level. On top of that, I don't speak Korean, so some of the better sources about South Korea are harder to track down. At the same time, It's been great collaborating with other Wikipedians who speak the language.
Does the division of the Korean peninsula into two countries impact Wikipedia's coverage of Korean topics? Are there any disagreements that arise from nationalistic or cultural differences between the North and South?
Ed!: Well, the problem is that no one is here to offer a North Korean viewpoint. I've noticed a lot of people who edit Korea-related subject matter are South Koreans who are inclined to a negative view of their northern neighbor. Not that they're vandals or anything, it's just that you really only have one side trying to tell the whole story in the most fair way possible; there's bound to be a systematic bias.
PBJT: Like ED! pointed out, almost no one from the North is contributing to the project. North Korean government strictly control the Internet access, and very few selected elite can have one. That being said, it's true that North Korean perspectives are under-represented in Wikipedia.
That doesn't mean that we have a lack of disagreement: There is a division between the South Korean liberals and conservatives on how to approach the North. It is one of the key issues which divides the South Korean society. People who favor more friendly relations with the North would opposed to opening the domestic market, and believe that the South should strengthen the ties with China, not the United States. On the other hand, People who favor more stern measures toward the North is more likely to be a strong proponent of Free trade, especially the one with the U.S. This division is deep, and you could find it in every aspect of South Korean politics.
Are there any areas of Korean biography, culture, geography, politics, or business that are better covered than other areas? What topics could use some expansion?
Ed!: Absolutely. Just about everything North Korea related could use expansion, and it seems that recent coverage of North Korea has overwhelmingly favored its leaders and human rights violations, as opposed to its culture and historic figures. Some of this is, of course, related to the political situation, but there are plenty of topics that need coverage. As for South Korea, its lifestyle and politics today are very interesting and its history is engaging, but once again the majority of the Featured and Good Content is related to the war.
PBJT: South Korean pop culture articles are better covered than other topics, and WP Korea, pop culture is one of the most active working group within the project. One South Korean band attracted as many contributors as their country of origin, which is somewhat surprising. Many biography, geography and politics pages are at stub or start class, and we need more Wikipedian's participation in those areas. But, Korean movie and music industry is still lacking the ability to make more people genuinely interested in Korea-related topics yet.
The project has a variety of working groups. Have you been involved in any of these initiatives? Do these working groups collaborate with any other projects for which there is some overlap in subject area?
Ed!: The Korean Military History working group is less active, so WP:MILHIST has handled all of the A-class reviews and peer reviews, and they've done quite a fine job of that.
What are the project's most urgent needs? How can a new contributor help today?
Ed!: I hate to be nonspecific, but just about everything, really. Both Koreas have numerous art, cuisine, entertainment, geography, and politics related articles that need attention. I might add that many of the political articles dealing with politicians and international relations are in decent shape, and a lot of B-class articles show potential, if you're looking for low-hanging fruit.
PBJT: There are not many Wikipedians who can review Korea-related articles, thus many errors are included without proof-checking. In one case, I found mis-translation of a Korean vocabulary which was added years ago and no one questioned about it. In another instance, I spotted a very unlikely Korean last name in Hanja for an actress. I'm not a experienced Wikipedian, but during a short period of time I found some obvious mistakes.
With millions of people actively contributing to Wikipedia, this encyclopedia is mostly free from factual errors. If more people could pay attention to WP Korea, then the project will be in much better shape.