Sunday, July 6, 2008

What's New And Different

(Photo from OhMyNews, who really should be winning awards for their photojournalism.)

Well, that took me long enough! At the right, below the regular site list, is a new batch of links to Korean news sites in English. If I'm not paying enough attention here, you can always boldly go to those sources yourself. Which, of course, you should do regardless.

It appears that things are still interesting in Korea, and I wish I could be there. The Korea Times has a strange little article claiming that "Candlelight Vigil Faces Calls For End", a header that isn't even really borne out by its own text. Sure, there have been people (notably President Lee and his supporters in the media) who've been calling for the vigils to end all along, so that bare fact isn't news. On Saturday there was another candlelight vigil in Seoul that drew anywhere from 50,000 (by the police estimate) to 500,000 (according to the organizers) participants. Whomever you choose to believe, that's as large a turnout as any since the vigils began. And those calling for the vigils to end?
On Saturday afternoon, some 400 members of the Citizens Alliance Against Radical Candlelit Demonstrations gathered Cheonggye Plaza, central Seoul, to oppose the candlelight protests. "We should light up candles for North Koreans, not for U.S. beef,'' said Lee Tae-hwan, a key member of the alliance.
Four hundred opponents gathered. (Notice that there are no dueling estimates there.) The tide of support for President Lee and his policies is a virtual tsunami. I guess South Korean patriots are too busy buying US beef to go to Cheonggye to thank Lee for the blessings he's bringing them.
During the rallies, counter-protesters and those against American beef imports exchanged four-letter-words and several physical clashes took place until it was over around 7:40 p.m. despite hundreds of riot police dispatched to the site to prevent potential clashes between the two groups.

The alliance plans to continue organizing the demonstration until anti-American beef protesters blow out their candlelight on their own.
Also worth your attention are the op-eds, "Deliberate Discourtesy?" and "Crisis of Democracy in Korea", the latter by a Korean academic who's determined to show that a research professor and adjunct instructor at Johns Hopkins can be as overwrought as any journalist:
The relentless candlelit demonstration is on its 52nd day in a row at this writing, and unfortunately it is turning violent. We have seen dangerous clashes between angry demonstrators and the police, yet nobody seems to have a good solution to end the populist anti-government protest that started after the government agreed to allow American beef imports.
"Relentless" -- I like that. I suppose it's even true. And then there's this, by an American business consultant (and, he claims, former Peace Corps volunteer):
While pundits and others may celebrate the explosion of information over the Internet, I have serious second thoughts. Consider when Americans such as I were kids. We normally didn't read the newspapers, but we would often sit through the Evening News telecasts from one of the three national broadcasters. These half-hour news summaries generalized their content to meet most people's common interests. As a result, we kids had to sit through some pretty "boring" reports on topics that only later we may develop interest in. In other words, whether we liked it not, we were given a broad, general understanding of the world.
I'm about of an age with Mr. Coyner, and I do remember the broadcast propaganda that passed for news in the Fifties and Sixties (and down to the present). I don't consider it a golden age of adversary media, as today's American conservatives and liberals alike seem to do. Mr. Coyner goes on:
Consider today where most young people get their news. It is the Internet, of course. The news may come via web sites, but usually it is from special interest blogs and email messages with hot links to special focus web sites. In Korea, most young people eschew newspaper sites since they are deemed "conservative" ― but I might add, these newspapers and their web sites provide general news.
Remember the amazing pro-Lee advocacy in the first article I linked, above, and similar articles I've linked before that threw facts and history out the window in the service of their pro-corporate agenda. I don't doubt Mr. Coyner would prefer that Koreans stuck to such sources for the news, but it's precisely because of the bias of corporate media that so many people look elsewhere for information. What you read on the Internet shouldn't be taken on blind faith either, and the big question for me is how much people are learning to read critically, to question whatever they read, wherever it comes from.

These articles invite critical reading. Read them, ask yourself some questions: Do the Korean people owe American corporations and business consultants, or Korean land speculators, a living? Is reshuffling his cabinet and two public apologies (while simultaneously siccing the police and other agencies of control on the protests) convincing evidence of President Lee's contrition for bad policy and practice? Will it really help Lee if President Bush comes to visit? Do a measly 400 pro-Lee demonstrators really constitute a serious call for ending the candlelight vigils?