After garnering an estimated 8 million downloads since its launch, Clubhouse’s popularity continues across the world and even outside of its original tech-focused seed community.
The latest news comes from East Asia, where Korean media reported this morning that the country’s current prime minister, Chung Sye-kyun, has officially joined the social audio app under the username @gyunvely, making him among the most senior political leaders worldwide to join the burgeoning app. His account was created on Valentine’s Day (February 14) and was “nominated” by a user using the name of TJ Park (Clubhouse does not have verified profiles).
South Korean Prime Minister Chung Sye-kyun on Clubhouse this weekend. Screenshot by Danny Crichton.
So far, the prime minister has garnered slightly fewer than 500 followers and is following a bit fewer than 200 accounts, perhaps indicating the app’s current reach in one of the world’s most mobile and connected digital economies. His Clubhouse bio reads “노란잠바 그 아저씨” or “That Yellow Jacket Guy,” a reference to the Korean civil defense uniform worn by politicians in times of crisis (such as throughout the COVID-19 pandemic) and which currently serves — in cartoon form — as Chung’s profile picture.
South Korean politicians often wear yellow civil defense uniforms in times of national crisis. Image Credits: South Korean Presidential Blue House / Getty Images
According to local media reports, Chung spoke in a Clubhouse room for over an hour with fellow Democratic Party of Korea member Jung Cheong-rae. In a public Facebook post yesterday, the prime minister said that “I heard this [app] is ‘hot’ these days so I tried it as a nighttime walk.”
He further said “I was a little startled by the unexpected questions and reactions but the new experience was enjoyable. I think I’ll participate from time to time in the future.” Elaborating, he said “the fact that it’s audio-only and everyone can have a conversation without reserve made me think that it’s a better communication tool than any other social media platform, especially since currently we’re living in the age of non-face-to-face communication.”
Discussions in the Clubhouse room included questions asking whether it was really him, to more bread-and-butter policy issues like the high price of real estate and physical abuse in the sports world, which has dominated headlines in recent weeks in local media.
While Clubhouse has become something of a fixture for techies and every form of hustle culture connoisseur imaginable, the app has increasingly made forays into politics that are hardly unknown to other social networks.
Miami’s mayor Francis Suarez has been on Clubhouse to sell his city’s potential for the tech industry. San Francisco district attorney Chesa Boudin joined a “debate” on the platform about the future of SF, while NYC mayoral aspirant and all around UBI nerd Andrew Yang joined a discussion about … himself. Meanwhile, Bitcoin aficionado and itinerant Tesla leader Elon Musk has even proposed bringing Vladimir Putin onto Clubhouse for a live fireside chat.
Yet, as the platform expands globally, the challenges to its open and free-wheeling if somewhat moderated conversations are coming under closer scrutiny. China has now blocked Clubhouse within its borders after a brief period of uncensored conversation.
As Clubhouse continues to garner mainstream legitimacy and interest, questions continue to percolate on the future of the app’s success, such as how it will fund creators and continue to thrive once the world opens up after COVID-19.