Korean Media’s Coverage of Middle East Affairs
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이 글은 외교통상부 산하 한국국제교류재단에서 발간하는 잡지 <KOREA FOCUS>에 실린 이봉수 교수의 영문 칼럼입니다. 얼마 전 <단비뉴스>와 <경향신문>에 실린 칼럼을 토대로 외국인이 이해하기 쉽게 약간 고쳐 쓴 것입니다. 게재 청탁을 한 <KOREA FOCUS>는 한국과 국제 문제에 관한 한국 여론 주도층의 견해를 세계에 전파하기 위해 설립된 매체이며, 웹진 등으로 제작돼 국제기구와 세계 150개국의 대학, 도서관, 연구소, 한국공관, 그리고 주한외국기관 등에 배포됩니다.
Korean Media’s Coverage of Middle East Affairs
Dean, Graduate School of Journalism
Albert Einstein the physician, Ludwig Wittgenstein the philosopher and Leonard Bernstein the conductor ― what is common among them? They all were Jews and their names ended in the German word stein, which means “stone” in English. Behind the frequent use of the suffix “stein” in Jewish names is the piteous history of the group.
For the 20 centuries of diaspora, the Jews were treated mostly as second-class citizens who were not permitted to have family names. A German feudal lord decided to allow Jews to have surnames, but on condition that they use a word meaning a natural object like stein or stern (star), hence many Jewish surnames end with “stein” or “stern.” Similarly, in ancient Korea lowly people were given vulgar-sounding names such as Dolsoe, Gapdori and Madangsoe, all including words meaning “stone” or “iron.”
The Jews` solidarity grew stronger under various forms of persecution. But now, Israelis are persecuting Palestinians as severely as the Nazi Germany treated them.
Israeli bombardment on Gaza Strip between July 8 and 17 left 230 Palestinians dead and 1,700 injured. Three-fourths of the fatalities were children and old people. One Israeli died and four were injured in the meantime. This cannot be called a war between states. It is the Israeli version of “ethnic cleansing” reminding us of the Nazi genocide of Jews. Further dismaying is that the global community and most international media are obviously condoning the Israeli atrocity, but also finding fault with both sides.
Robert Fisk of The Independent, one of the top experts on Middle East affairs, deplored that the world was now watching the “replay” of what had happened between the Israelis and Palestinians over the past decades. “Why doesn`t the media ever mention the lack of progress in the Middle East? No one reminds us that today`s carnage on both sides is an obscene replay,” Fisk`s July 13 column said.
The media is less enthusiastic about reporting the cause of the conflict and horrible tragedies than it is in explaining the weapons and operational tactics of the two sides. As the media only updates the rapidly rising number of casualties, peace is becoming more and more remote.
A permanent settlement of peace is impossible as long as the outside world finds both sides at fault for the tit-for-tat revenge over the killing of young civilians. The current crisis was caused by the Israelis` construction of settlements in the Palestinian territory. The United Nations and the Oslo Accords have declared the settlement illegal and an International Court of Justice ruling has ordered their removal. But the Israeli government is completely ignoring them.
Korean news agency Newsis and some broadcasters call the situation a David versus Goliath fight, but they are wrong. David delivered a decisive blow to Goliath`s head, but the Hamas rockets have proved ineffective. The Israeli air defense intercepts most of them. Owen Jones of The Guardian compares the situation to former boxing champion Mike Tyson beating a new-born baby.
However, the mainstream U.S. media outlets generally take sides with Israel over Palestinians. The New York Times published an editorial on July 8 denouncing both sides for starting the bloodshed following the kidnapping and murder of Israeli and Palestinian youths. But the newspaper did not make any editorial comment until today (July 17) about the merciless Israeli airstrikes. Its silence is unusual as we have often been surprised by its expression of concerns about even trifling matters in foreign countries.
The Wall Street Journal, now owned by Rupert Murdoch, published an article on the performance of Hamas` rockets with graphics on its front page, exposing its pro-Israel stance. The Jews have controlled the major media outlets of the world and helped create an international political environment favorable to Israel. The New York Times, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times were established with Jewish capital and their editorial staffs include many Jews.
In the broadcasting media, the legendary Barbara Walters of ABC, Larry King of CNN and Katie Couric of ABC and YahooNews have handled world affairs as news program anchors or talk show hosts. Among major news agencies, the Associated Press and UPI of the United States and Reuters of Britain were founded with Jewish money, so it is obvious which side they would take in their news coverage and commentaries.
In Hollywood, such major companies as Warner Brothers, Paramount, Columbia, Universal, 20th Century Fox and MGM were all established with Jewish capital, which explains the production of movies recalling the plights of the Jewish people, including “Holocaust” and “Schindler`s List.” Stephen Spielberg who directed “Schindler`s List” is a Jew. These Hollywood movies have helped promote a global atmosphere condoning Israel`s many war crimes.
It can be another mistake of racist interpretation to conclude hastily that people of Jewish origin all take pro-Israel views. Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn are among prominent Jewish-American intellectuals who have acrimoniously criticized collusion between the United States and Israel and their invasion of foreign countries. However, it is true that American journalism is not free from Jewish influence on the nation`s political, financial and media circles.
When we consider the U.S. media`s pro-Israel tendency, the Korean media is feared to be seriously biased on the Middle East affairs. The primary problem is the lopsided reliance on American sources and materials by the Korean media for its coverage of the Middle East.
Arab media Al-Jazeera and Al-Arabia make seemingly balanced reports on the conflict through their English broadcasts, but the Korean media shows extreme imbalance in quoting them compared to their use of the Western media. The Times of Israel is known to be making fairly objective reporting but the Korean media rarely quotes it. Most Korean media companies do not post correspondents in the Middle East.
The Chosun Ilbo is the only Korean newspaper that has placed a correspondent in the war zone. But the reporter is isolated, lacking the help of local sources. The Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang newspapers have overseas correspondents only in Washington, Beijing and Tokyo, but none in the Middle East and Europe. Hence they are likely to rely heavily on the U.S. media.
If these two newspapers are to be more faithful to their liberal ideals, it would be a more reasonable choice to assign reporters to the eventful Middle East rather than keeping correspondents in relatively expensive Tokyo which produces much less news. Japan can be covered sufficiently from Seoul by journalists with certain expertise on the neighboring country. We see major Western news organizations cover both Korea and Japan with a single correspondent positioned mostly in Tokyo.
Then there is the question of producing Middle East specialists. The Kyunghyang Shinmun is releasing relatively more news items on the Israel-Palestine conflict, pointedly using the word “massacre” instead of the Western media terminology of “all-out war” or “exchange of fire.”
It was also noteworthy that Kyunghyang portrayed the life in Gaza Strip based on the U.N. Human Rights Center report and prominently carried an article that revealed the Israeli Iron Dome missile defense system was built with U.S. technology and aid from the Obama administration. This was the result of extensive monitoring of international media reports, which allowed the reporter covering the conflict to have a balanced viewpoint.
Editorials on the conflict appeared only in Kyunghyang, Hankyoreh and Hankook, with Kyunghyang making the inadvertent mistake of saying, “if the situation develops into an all-out war….” There are people who question the effect Korean newspapers would have if their editorials commented on the conflict.
Nevertheless, Israel would be deeply concerned about a schism developing in the global media environment. A boycott of the Jewish capital on unfavorable world opinion can be more harmful than Palestinian resistance, so Israeli overseas missions and intelligence agents must be nervously watching public sentiment in foreign societies. The JoongAng Ilbo report on July 12 about “90 percent intercepting ratio of Iron Dome against Hamas rockets” shows the wrong pattern of war reporting. Such articles admiring the high performance of new weapons are often seen in the websites of arms mania.
Negligence not only of the current Gaza Strip attack but international affairs in general is a chronic malady of the Korean media. There are few international news stories and they are placed deep inside newspapers. It is in contrast to British papers which divide news into national and international sections and give considerable weight to the latter every day. France`s Le Monde, with the word “world” in its name, devotes much of the front page to international news, which also appears immediately after the general news section.
Korean newspapers devote so much space to domestic politics and big events like the World Cup soccer that they have little space left for international affairs. They so kindly report which politician had dinner with whom and follow up on the nomination of candidates for a by-election in the Dongjak-B district of Seoul for nearly a month. And they abandon the poor Palestinian civilians dying under bombardments. The Criminal Code provides punishment of those who assist the criminal acts of others.