By Kang Hyun-kyung
It was a 14-minute video that triggered a once-unknown YouTuber to rise to fame after trading barbs with Cheong Wa Dae in a truth game.
That video contained a condensed version of open sessions of the recent G20 Summit held June 28 and 29 in Osaka, Japan. It was uploaded Thursday by the YouTuber "AforYou," short for "Apartment for You" as the channel was created in 2012 to provide "accurate, reliable information on apartments" to help consumers looking to buy new homes.
The video titled "South Korea was Not There in G20" features the leaders of the world's 20 most powerful economies as well as leaders of international institutions who were invited to the summit. President Moon Jae-in is seen from time to time, leaving his seat vacant or sometimes occupied by Finance Minister Hong Nam-ki on behalf of the South Korean leader.
AforYou claims Moon is seen for only 50 seconds or so in what he called the full video, stating the G20 Summit is where a flurry of summits are held among leaders from the world's most powerful countries, and that the key international event became a missed opportunity for South Korea.
Dubbed by internet users as a video file about "President Moon's Whereabouts" or "G20 video," it went viral on the internet as some social media influencers took on the issue.
As of Tuesday, AforYou's July 4 video has collected over 500,000 views, a surprisingly high figure compared to his previous videos about "dull" housing information ― around 10,000 or so on average.
The "G20 video" rattled the local political theater, raising the ire of the presidential staff.
Presidential spokeswoman Ko Min-jung dismissed the YouTuber's allegation that the G20 Summit was a missed opportunity for South Korea, claiming that what he said was "fake news."
Ko alleged the video was edited to emphasize the YouTuber's viewpoint, revealing her guesswork that the length of the video he obtained was not long enough to help him see the truth.
She claims there were "plenty of many mistakes and errors," so it would be too much work to single them out one after another.
To debunk the YouTuber's claim, Ko said President Moon attended the entire first session dealing with the digital economy and even delivered a keynote speech there which the presidential office released to the media.
She went on to say that President Moon had launched "energetic diplomacy" to make South Korea's voice heard in key areas all throughout the two-day meeting by squeezing in eight summits and other summit-like meetings with other leaders into his busy schedule.
In an apparent move to block the fallout of "fake news" on President Moon's leadership, Ko also accused Liberty Korea Party lawmaker Min Kyoung-wook of spreading "fake news."
On Facebook, Min stated the video on President Moon's whereabouts in Osaka had gone viral online and that it made him feel "so ashamed."
Ko said Rep. Min hadn't checked the facts before he uploaded the post.
"He's a former journalist. Then he served as a presidential spokesman," Ko said on an MBC radio show. "I'm curious about how people like him reported the news and gave briefings to the media… For journalists, facts are their guiding light, aren't they? I wonder if he had ever tried to figure out the truth before he uploaded such a post."
Ko's endeavors, however, didn't stop the controversy. Some social media influencers took up the issue, accusing President Moon of wasting taxpayers' money as he missed various opportunities at the summit.
Spurred by the surge in views of his video that also increased the number of subscribers to his channel, AforYou also didn't back down.
He uploaded a fresh video Sunday challenging the presidential spokeswoman's fake news allegation.
Feeling pressure, however, he narrowed his target to the presidential spokeswoman, and didn't touch on President Moon.
The YouTuber said he obtained a 17-hour long video from a Russian TV station and checked all the scenes to count how long President Moon was seen to double check whether media reports about Moon's disappointing summit diplomacy during the G20 meeting were based on fact or not. AforYou said his review confirmed President Moon was seen only for about 50 seconds.
"I guess there would be other videos showing closed sessions, which I regret I couldn't get," he said.
His follow-up video had garnered over 145,000 views as of Tuesday afternoon.
The G20 video has pit the YouTuber against Cheong Wa Dae.
It's rare for the presidential office to react to an ordinary YouTuber through official briefings or interviews with a media outlet.
There are plenty of internet-based conspiracy theories and stories blown up regarding certain political incidents.
For a long time, the presidential office, whether the person at the top of the government was a liberal or conservative, has maintained kind of "benign negligence" toward such content, as long as it didn't pose a threat to national security.
That unwritten rule was broken when the G20 video flared up.
The case appears to imply technology empowers people and even ordinary people can make their voice heard through their content.
This is something unimaginable before when those who initiated the national agenda or issues were limited.
The media, political bigwigs, opinion leaders and sometimes whistleblowers of high-profile cases were the main influencers on policies.
That landscape is changing fast as the digital era unfolds and deepens, and consequently ordinary people are empowered to exert influence through the internet which could open up to policy change in the real world.