Lessons from the recent influx of teenagers in the Korean Community: How do we deal with them as active contributors?

As part of the ongoing Universal Code of Conduct (UCoC) enforcement conversations, the Foundation reached out to a number of communities to hear their thoughts on potential enforcement mechanisms for the global policy. As a part of this process, I had the chance to interact closely with the Korean community on the subject. 

Korean is generally considered to be a reclusive community that has worked well in developing its policies and guidelines. Korean Wikipedia started on October 11, 2002, and ranks 24 in terms of size. In December 2019, the community observed a new phenomenon. A large number of teenagers from South Korea joined Korean Wikipedia. This happened because the smartphone usage control application ‘ZEM’ supports access to Wikipedia while on restricted mode. Around the same time, a new main page with a direction to contributors was introduced in Korean Wikipedia. This made it easy for new editors to access the community, thereby increasing the number of contributors. 

Expansion of the community was welcome. However, soon it became apparent that the conduct of the teenagers on the platform was different from those of the experienced editors. These new users did not have much information on how Wikipedia, the community and the movement, function. Therefore, their actions in the community are often different from the rest of the Korean community. For example, the Help desk in Wikipedia is traditionally used as a place to ask and answer questions about “how to edit Wikipedia”, but new teenagers took it as a place to ask questions or consult real-life concerns.

There are many examples that show that this teenagers group approaches Wikipedia as a social media platform to build friendships. So that they often lack an understanding of local policies and conduct guidelines. The existing community members could not understand this behaviour. They are still trying to figure out ways to effectively bridge the gap with respect to the correct use of the platform. One of Korean community member mentioned about their behaviour as follows:

“There is a lot of immaturity in behavior due to lack of overall experience in society. The problem is: it is very difficult to cover them since their inappropriate behaviour occurs extensively and frequently, it drains the patience of community users as a result. Since their ages are diverse, they often don’t even know the conditions that must be equipped with common sense in the first place. Besides, they are often an apostle of justice, and they treat their actions as ‘implementing justice,’ and they are often unnecessarily creating the behaviour problems.”

User:Raccoon Dog from the Korean Wikipedia

Now the big question is, how is the Korean Wikipedia community is addressing this unique situation? 

Rather than kicking them out, the community is taking active steps in helping teenagers become productive contributors to Korean Wikipedia. The Korean Wikipedia has established a “Student Camp” project to create a support network for teenagers in the community. These efforts are yielding positive results. Some users were blocked due to multiple policy violations, but many teenagers received help and adapted to the community, and they are currently making a productive contribution. The Korean community member who contributed to start the student camp said following: 

“It is desirable to organize voluntary events or edit articles among them through student camp. […] Also, the content they can contribute to is very limited in Wikipedia, so I think it is important to discover areas in which they can contribute.”

User:Motoko C. K. from the Korean Wikipedia

The rapid influx of teenagers is also possible in any other Wikimedia communities. It is important to remember that these teenagers are potential new contributors to the movement. Teenagers are a part of the contributors of the Wikimedia community. The fact that anyone can freely share knowledge on Wikipedia without discrimination, is at the heart of this moment. Therefore, it is important to remember to be considerate while taking actions against them. We must continue to create ways to encourage them to contribute productively to the project and help them settle in the community. Hopefully, the UCoC will also pave a way for an improvement in this direction.