Overcoming the Pandemic through Viral Poetry Games: The Phenomenon of Coronavirus-Inspired Digital Acrostic Poetry in South Korea


  • Christina Han Wilfrid Laurier University




Covid-19, Pandemic, Digital Poetry, Acrostics, Poetry Games, Social Media, Wordplay, Viral Language, Social Activism


Following the outbreak of COVID-19 in South Korea in winter 2019, acrostic poems on the three-syllable word “Corona” became viral on major search engines and social media platforms across the country. The composition of acrostic poems, particularly in three lines, has been a popular cultural phenomenon in Korea since the 1980s when it became a participatory literary exercise and game featured on television entertainment shows. The digital revolution in the 2000s allowed the writing and sharing of these short and whimsical poems to expand into various digital platforms. Since 2010, PC and mobile games have been developed to further enhance the ludic approach to acrostic poetry composition and contests. While facilitating individual creativity, and as an interactive and ludic way of community building and branding, acrostic poetry contests have also been used to promote social and political campaigns and consumer products.

This paper will investigate poetry games and contests of acrostic poems on the Coronavirus featured on South Korean digital platforms. It will analyze the various games and contests organized by schools, communities, consumer product brands, and social media circles. The poems, composed by children and adults, display a wide range of messages involving self-reflection, social campaign, political criticism, and subversive wordplay. Together, these viral poems and contests promoted values of collaboration, competition, and social exchange during the pandemic. All in all, the paper explores the viral powers of language and language art in the digital world, as well as digital poetry’s connections to networked self, social mobilization, and online activism.