Thursday, June 26, 2008

[The Hankyoreh, June 25 2008] [Editorial] Universities need a stronger stand against broadcast control

Dong-eui University’s board of trustees has fired one of its professors, Sin Tae-seop, someone who has worked to oppose the dismissal of KBS President Jung Yun-joo. The biting teeth of power in the pursuit of control of broadcasting are scary indeed.

In firing Sin, the university cited three reasons, one of which was that he was a member of the KBS board without the university president’s permission. This is enough to make a cow laugh. Sin was appointed to the board of KBS a year and a half ago. The university made no issue of that fact during all that time. Then President Lee Myung-bak took office and the pressure on Jung to resign from KBS began, at which point the university suddenly told Sin to resign from his position on the KBS board. It threatened him, saying he would be disciplined if he didn’t resign from the board. Is this how a university pursues conscience and truth?

[The Hankyoreh, June 23 2008] [Column] When consumers are treated as criminals

Kim Gi-chang, Professor of law, Korea University

There are news reports that the Minister of Justice has directed the prosecution to investigate citizens boycotting companies that advertise with the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, and DongA Ilbo, and is demanding that those advertisers stop advertising with them. A lot of things came to mind. You can feel how the world has changed, since the prosecutors are dutifully doing what they’ve been told. Under the last government, they resisted then Justice Minister Kang Geum-sil’s use of her authority to make appointments, and they challenged the president at the time to a debate. When the minister recommended that Professor Song Du-yul be investigated without being put under arrest, they ignored the recommendation and indicted the professor while keeping him behind bars. When Justice Minister Chun Jung-bae used his authority to order the prosecution to investigate Professor Kang Jeong-ku without arresting him and went as far as explaining his legal basis for doing so, the nation’s top prosecutor resigned in what was essentially a protest, pretending he had been a failed leader who was unable to defend the honor of the members of his organization.

These days, those proud and energetic prosecutors are nowhere to be found. The Chosun, JoongAng, and DongA used to praise them for their strength as they shouted out for prosecutorial independence. Now it’s as if they’re looking at the suddenly obedient prosecution with warm affection.

[The Hankyoreh, June 23 2008] KBS labor union launches new campaign

Union still opposes KBS president, but shifts focus to advocate for appointments of ‘politically-independent staff’

The labor union of the Korean Broadcasting System, which has been trying to oust KBS President Chung Yeon-ju, announced that it will stage a campaign against what it says are “parachute appointments,” referring to government attempts to control the press and including the recent promotion of an aide to President Lee Myung-bak to the position of some public media’s chief. Union members have removed all placards around the KBS building demanding Chung’s resignation.
[The Hankyoreh, June 21 2008] [Editorial] FKI, the assistant to ChoJoongDong

The Federation of Korean Industries and other business organizations are volunteering to be a fighter against Koreans online who are pressuring advertisers in the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, and DongA Ilbo. The ruling Grand National Party is joining in the counterattack, working hard to help these three papers.

The three conservative newpapers are the media outlets and leaders of the big companies and the GNP. While you can sympathize with wanting to help them out in difficult times, that is not only the wrong way to go about things, it is also foolish to hurt their own positions.

One of FKI’s vice presidents, in a DongA Ilbo interview yesterday, said pressuring advertisers “is about upsetting the basis of the market economy.” What he does not get is that the market has shifted. The market is no longer a seller’s market; it is a buyer’s market, a market where consumers are at the center.

[The Hankyoreh, June 21 2008] Prosecutory measures taken in ChoJoongDong case

Supreme Prosecutors’ Office attempts to bring Internet campaign under control

The prosecution is taking steps to launch a probe against the voluntary campaign by Internet users which calls on companies to remove their ads from “ChoJoongDong,” an acronym that refers to the three major conservative newspapers, the Chosun Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo and the Dong-a Ilbo. Prosecutors said the probe would focus on information exchanges among citizens which protest against the conservative media’s journalistic stance and make telephone calls to boycott their advertisers. The move is stirring up a controversy of “political prosecution” and the prosecutor is also being accused of conducting an irrational investigation.

In a press conference on June 20, the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office unveiled its plan to crack down on “criminals causing a harmful environment on the Internet, especially including cyber violence.” The Supreme Prosecution ordered its investigators nationwide to crack down on attempts to make collective threats and harsh statements on the Internet, including a call to stop placing ads; an act which defames a person by spreading rumors or posting an insulting reply message; an act which leads to collective threats and slander by publicizing personal information on the Web. Of potential suspects, given their ways of committing crimes and the extent of damage, the prosecution said it plans to detain those who have the possibility of destroying evidence for questioning.

[The Hankyoreh, June 20 2008] [Editorial] ChoJoongDong’s irrational reply to netizens

As if by a coordinated decision, on June 19 the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, and DongA Ilbo all ran articles criticizing the country’s netizens and portal sites. Specifically they were criticizing the campaign to boycott their advertisers. Red baiting with words like “terror” and “leftist” has reappeared in their pages, and there are demands for legal punishment and a crackdown. The Chosun Ilbo has sent a warning letter to various internet sites calling the boycott illegal. This is a blast-from-the-past “opinion herding” move that attempts to strangle the Internet.

It is quite pathetic. Even if they were to be in desperate straights because of less advertising, they still should not be treating people like criminals and threatening them. The reason netizens and citizens online and offline are criticizing these newspapers is because they think that instead of acting as news media the papers are distorting the truth and being misleading. This is a criticism and action for goals that are in the best interest of the public, and it is a media consumer movement of sorts.

These newspapers need to listen to the criticism and take the opportunity to look at themselves and examine their own shortcomings. How are you any different from organized thugs if you start wielding your fist because there is less in your rice bowl to eat from? These papers look cowardly for the way they changed their tone in covering the candlelight protests as they grew in scale, only to jump on what seemed like a good opportunity to mount a counterattack.

[The Hankyoreh, June 20 2008] ChoJoongDong's ad revenues fall to 50 percent

Due to netizens protest on the coverage over U.S. beef imports, 10 companies withdraw their ads from the three dailies

A grassroots protest against companies which have placed their ads in three conservative newspapers, called “ChoJoongDong,” an acronym that refers to the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo, is increasingly gathering strength. The protest was launched on May 27, when an Internet user posted a list of ads in the three newspapers on an Internet site and proposed to “make a call to protest.”

The protest spread among the netizens so quickly due to the attitude of ChoJoongDong’s article dealing with the U.S. beef import agreement. The three conservative newspapers have labeled the candlelight vigils as unsound activities led by leftists.

When the list of advertisers for the “ChoJoongDong” newspapers was posted on an Internet community site of the leading portal Daum Communications, called the “People’s Campaign to Cease Publication of ChoJoongDong at,” Internet users began pressuring the advertisers by spreading the list around other Web sites.

[The Hankyoreh, June 20 2008] Citizens downplay the president’s apology

“Without renegotiation, the candle vigil will continue,” they say

Netizens and the People’s Countermeasure Council against Full Resumption of Imports of U.S. Beef Endangered with Mad Cow Disease downplayed President Lee Myung-bak’s second public apology on June 19. They said that they had expected Lee would come up with a drastic measure but there was no improvement from the current government position.
[The Hankyoreh, June 20 2008] The blame of the president

In the press conference on June 19, President Lee Myung-bak said that “Sitting on a hill near Cheong Wa Dae on the night of June 10, watching the candlelight vigil, I blamed myself for not serving the people better.”

He also apologized for the mishaps of the U.S. beef import agreement. However, the citizens criticized his apology as it lacked sincerity.

Then guess what is his complaint when he is sitting on a hill near Cheong Wa Dae?

President Lee Myung-bak and his pet Mad Cow sit behind the Blue House watching the sky lit up by candles.

“The internet is poison,” he says. “I should’ve cracked down on it before things got out of hand.”

[The Hankyoreh, June 19 2008] [Editorial] The consequences of extinguishing the candles

The candlelight protests are being pummeled simultaneously by the conservative media, conservative commentators and the government. The conservative media, sometimes called “ChoJoongDong,” an acronym that refers to the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-a Ilbo, fired the opening salvo. In the past few days, they have accused the candle-bearing protesters of losing the purity of their original intention because they have shifted the focus of the protests beyond the original goal of opposing the resumption of U.S. beef imports. The candlelight protests now encompass the Grand Korean Waterway project and defense of state-run broadcasters.

Meanwhile, President Lee Myung-bak, who has in the past shown some restraint on the issue, joined the “candle bashing” indirectly when he said, “The Internet needs to be a place of trust. The strength of the Internet can be poisonous instead of medicinal if people can’t have faith in it.” In addition, right-wing journalist Jo Gap-je and novelist Lee Moon-yeol have been instigating the conservative forces to form an “anti-candle army in the name of justice.” How irresponsible they are.
[The Hankyoreh, June 19 2008] [Column] Redesigning Korea

Park No-ja, Professor of Korean studies at the University of Oslo, Norway

Colleagues in Norwegian academia who have seen Korea’s candlelight protests on the Internet tell me they just cannot believe that many people would protest for that long just about beef. They ask me what the more fundamental reason might be. I’m always at a loss as to what to say. It is a difficult task explaining to foreigners how a president inaugurated just a hundred days ago can be facing calls for “renegotiations” and to step down.
[The Hankyoreh, June 18 2008] Prosecution used as a political tool in the KBS case

Some lawyers criticize the summoning of Chung Yeon-ju due to suspicion of political motives

The presidential office, Cheong Wa Dae, is using the prosecution as a tool to control society. Whenever socially or politically important incidents, such as the replacement of the KBS president, privatization of public companies and huge rallies for renegotiation on U.S. beef import rules occur, the prosecution resolves the situation in favor of the presidential office.

Many experts say that the case of questioning of the KBS president is one example where the prosecution have been used as a tool by the president, and that had been a familiar situation in the military backed government in the 1980s. The president of KBS Chung Yeon-ju was summoned rather quickly by prosecutors to be questioned about malpractice in the proceedings of a tax lawsuit with the National Tax Service.

[The Hankyoreh, June 18 2008] Internet free speech to be restricted

Cheong Wa Dae takes steps to decrease negative public online opinion

The administration and the ruling Grand National Party are moving to control public opinion on the internet that is disadvantageous to them.

In the welcome speech at the opening event for a meeting of Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development ministers at the COEX convention center in Seoul’s Samseong-dong on June 17, President Lee Myung-bak said, “Spam mail from anonymous users and the spread of false and inaccurate information is threatening reason and trust on the internet. The internet needs to be a place of trust. The strength of the internet can be poison instead of medicine if people cannot have faith in it.”

As a leading Internet-driven country, Korea is exhibiting the powerful influence of the Internet in all fields, including politics, the economy, society and culture, according to President Lee, adding, “We are experiencing that the Internet is very useful when it works positively, while it has very harmful effects when it works negatively.” Such remarks by President Lee apparently are based on the perception that “false information” spread by the Internet has aggravated concerns about mad cow disease and led to candlelight rallies, consequently shaking the current political situation.

The government and ruling Grand National Party are taking steps to restrict or control the Internet media.

[The Hankyoreh, June 17 2008] Tasty rewards

The members of My Club, a famous Internet portal site for women, sent gifts of bread, fruit, sandwiches and Korean traditional cakes to The Hankyoreh on June 16. Most of the members of My Club are homemakers.

The gifts were sent to The Hankyoreh’s offices in the Gongdeok neighborhood of the Mapo district in appreciation of the newspaper’s coverage of the candlelight protests and the U.S. beef issue.

A My Club member with the nickname “Dim sum” wrote, “The future of Korea is so bright due to your reporting on the issue.”

Another member said, ”I will have The Hankyoreh delivered to my parents.”

Still another expressed the wish to hold shares in the newspaper, which is completely citizen-owned.

My Club members raised funds and put a paid advertisement for renegotiation of the U.S. beef agreement in The Hankyoreh on May 29 and June 11.

[The Hankyoreh, June 14 2008] Stand up act

In the candlelight protests over the past month, citizen reporters have played a major role with individual broadcasters posting live coverage of the demonstrations on the Internet.

But now, we can see a different kind of broadcaster, President Lee Myung-bak.

“Whaddya think? I’m a one-man broadcaster,” the president says, now that he’s running three broadcast networks: YTN, MBC and KBS.

It was reported that Lee has decided to appoint his close aide, Ku Bong-hong, to head YTN. He has also been involved in pressuring the KBS chief to resign.

[The Hankyoreh, June 14 2008] Conservative protesters tried to force their way into MBC and KBS

MBC and KBS have provided incorrect information on U.S. beef, protesters say

Members of conservative organizations held a demonstration and tried to force their way into the Munwha Broadcasting Corporation and Korea Broadcasting System on the evening of June 13. Those protesting argued that the two television stations have reported incorrect information on U.S. beef.

The demonstrations began at 3 p.m., with approximately 7,000 members of conservative organizations, including the Korean Association of Veterans Suffering from Agent Orange and the Free Citizen’s Alliance of Korea, demonstrating in front of Seoul Station. Through the demonstration, they were hoping to convey the message that the candlelight protests “have been made by pro-leftists to incite disrupt society.” Next, protesters marched to Cheonggyecheon Plaza for a 5 p.m. demonstration. They broke some pictures that were exhibited at candle vigil.

An hour later, protesters moved toward MBC and KBS, both of which are located on Yeouido. Of the 500 people demonstrating in front of MBC, 40 tried to go over the wall in front of the building and scuffled with police.
[The Hankyoreh, June 13 2008] Candlelight protests focus on KBS audit

Citizens take up the torch for a new cause: media freedoms

Citizens have started to take action against the government’s attempts to control the media, following an announcement on June 11 that the Board of Audit and Inspection would launch an investigation into the Korean Broadcasting System. For the past two days, netizens have staged candlelight protests in front of the KBS building and posted thousands of articles on Websites of the audit board and the National Tax Service.

The candlelight rallies that were held in front of the KBS building on June 11 and 12 focused on an issue unrelated to U.S. beef for the first time since candlelight protests against the U.S. beef agreement began on May 2. The protests in front of KBS were focused on denouncing the President Lee Myung-bak government’s attempts to gain control of the media.

As with the U.S. beef protests, a broad cross-section of the general public is urging the audit board to put an end to its investigation into KBS and calling for the chairman of the Broadcasting and Communications Commission, Choi Si-jung, who is widely known as President Lee’s mentor, to resign.
[The Hankyoreh, June 12 2008] Barricades that blocked protesters incite widespread resentment

Internet users invent phrases laced with sarcasm to express criticism of gov’t action

The watchword for the huge candlelight protests attended by up to one million people on June 10 was “Myung-bak castle” (Myungbaksanseong). The word combines the first name of President Lee Myung-bak and a Korean word that means “mountain fortress wall,” with the latter part referring to the rows of shipping containers used by police to block protesters from approaching the Blue House.


The term “Myungbak castle” was first used by Internet users almost instantaneously beginning on June 10, and generated a number of derivatives. As police constructed the shipping containers as a way to block protesters, the term “Welding Myung-bak” (Yongjeopmyungbak) was coined just as quickly. This term refers to the method police used to weld the containers together. Tens of thousands of messages with the term “Welding Myung-bak” were posted on the Internet debate site Agora, which is operated by Daum Communications.

Some of the messages left online exude the sense of sarcasm and scorn felt by the majority of the general public toward the government. One person wrote, “Because a huge fortress wall was constructed overnight, it should be designated as a World Heritage site.”
[The Hankyoreh, June 12 2008] Audit board launches investigation into KBS

UDP, civic groups see it as political move aimed at ousting KBS president

The Board of Audit and Inspection launched an audit investigation into the Korea Broadcasting System on June 11, inciting calls of impropriety from KBS, media organizations, civic groups and the political arena.

Later that day, KBS issued a statement criticizing the audit. In the statement, KBS says it is being targeted by the BAI, considering the BAI’s unprecedented request for comprehensive data. The KBS statement also says there is plenty of evidence showing that the audit was initiated by government agencies in charge of managing KBS and others in the political community. This kind of omni-directional pressure poses a significant threat to the existence of media companies that try to be free from money and government power, KBS said in the statement.

A KBS official said, “The BAI has requested data on all of the issues mentioned by conservative organizations. It also demanded that KBS submit data on programs produced by firms hired by KBS that have been under investigation by the National Tax Service.”