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2 years ago
Deepfake Democracy: South Korean Candidate Goes Virtual for Votes

 
Originally published in France 24, Feb 14, 2022. 

In a crowded campaign office in Seoul, young, trendy staffers are using deepfake technology to try to achieve the near-impossible: make a middle-aged, establishment South Korean presidential candidate cool.

Armed with hours of specially-recorded footage of opposition People Power Party candidate Yoon Suk-yeol, the team has created a digital avatar of the frontrunner — and set “AI Yoon” loose on the campaign trail ahead of a March 9 election.

From a deepfake video of Barack Obama insulting Donald Trump to failed New York mayoral candidate Andrew Yang campaigning in the metaverse, AI technology has been used in elections before.

But AI Yoon’s creators believe he is the world’s first official deepfake candidate — a concept gaining traction in South Korea, which has the world’s fastest average internet speeds.

With neatly-combed black hair and a smart suit, the avatar looks near-identical to the real South Korean candidate but uses salty language and meme-ready quips in a bid to engage younger voters who get their news online.

It’s been a huge hit. AI Yoon has attracted millions of views since making his debut January 1.

Tens of thousands of people have asked questions, but it’s not the usual policy-related fare.

“President Moon Jae-in and (rival presidential candidate) Lee Jae-myung are drowning. Who do you save?” one user asks AI Yoon.

“I’d wish them both good luck,” the avatar snaps back.

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