The Korea Liberator
Journalistic Integrity Thwarts the Thought Police

The Korean press earns heartfelt praise this week for showing courage in its convictions, and refusing to let itself be censored by the North Korean thought police.  If only their government possessed the same clarity. 

It all began with one of those tortuous, strictly monitored “reunions” the North permits between divided families — this one at Mt. Kumgang.  A number of those present on the North Korean side were in fact abducted South Korean citizens, perhaps hoping for a last meeting with their family members before they or their loved ones die. 

The crisis began when one South Korean reporter had the temerity to speak the truth and describe the abductees as what they were, to which the North Koreans characteristically objected.  It nearly ended with the visiting South Korean relatives as the newest crop of hostages.

The imbroglio began when North Korean censors seized some videotapes and blocked the transmission of others to the South. They were angered in particular at two reports, by correspondents for the Seoul Broadcasting System and Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation, referring to one of the North Korean participants in the reunions as a “kidnapped South Korean.” Tensions escalated, and Wednesday night the North Koreans refused to allow a group of 149 elderly South Koreans (not 99 as reported in yesterday’s edition) to return south after the first round of reunions unless the SBS reporter was also aboard.

When the North continued on that course, the reporters in the press pool all agreed to leave in protest, thereby denying the North and its friends in the anti-Unification Ministry their scripted spectacle and heaping on plenty of bad press instead. 

(I’d be interested in knowing whether the pool included those working for such lefty publications as the Hankyoreh Sinmun.  Let’s give credit where it’s due.)

And how did the South Korean governement stand up for the rights of its citizens?

The Unification Ministry stepped in, asking SBS to order the reporter to leave. SBS complied, and the buses finally left Mount Kumgang at 11:20 p.m.

On Tuesday, pool reporters complained that South Korean officials had urged them to comply with the North Korean demands that they not refer to “abducted” or “kidnapped” reunioin [sic] participants.

Yesterday morning, the remainder of the pool reporters caucused and decided to leave the resort.

Seoul’s unification minister, Lee Jong-seok, said yesterday he regretted the delay in allowing the buses to leave and the censorship of the South Korean reporting.

While it’s probably too much to ask that Lee actually grow a pair and stand up for principle, squeaking out his “regrets” is probably more than we’d have gotten from his predecessor, presidential hopeful Comrade Chung Dong-Young, otherwise known as North Korea’s Minister for Southern Affairs.

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[…] Newly installed anti-Unification Minister Lee Jeong-Seok isn’t the fool his predecessor was.  Being as manifestly stupid as Chung Dong-Young carries an implicit excuse for the feeble defense of policies for which a more intelligent man, like Lee, would be called out for deceit.  This week, Lee deservedly gets called out for his vicarious ”expression of regret” for South Korean journalists’ use of the k-word, “kidnapping,” to describe North Korea’s kidnapping of South Korean citizens.  The reporters’ stubborn honesty resulted in a North Korean attempt to censor the South Korean press, which commendably refused en masse to go along and eventually left in protest.  The lingering question is just what Lee and his minions told the North Koreans, which speaks volumes about Lee’s commitment to keeping South Korean society democratic. […]

i am very relieved that people are finally making it clear there is a level at which point the BS has to stop. how refreshing!

[…] I have little regard for any denial by the (anti-) Unification Ministry when it comes to denials that it runs interference for North Korea. Only last week, the papers appear to have caught the Ministry telling a little white lie about an “expression of regret” to North Korea over South Korean press reports that described South Korean abductees as, well, “abductees.” Journalists reported that the Ministry tried to coerce or massage the journalists’ choice of words to avoid giving offense to Kim Jong Il. As a result, the journalists walked away en masse. […]

[…] In contrast to the Japanese reaction, South Korea has neither imposed, threatened, or discussed sanctions to secure the release of its citizens. There is no public outrage on their behalf. And perhaps not coincidentally, South Korea has accomplished much less on behalf of its citizens. Some have been allowed brief, tightly-supervised visits with their family members, an event that was marred by North Korean fury that South Korean reporters dared to call the South Korean abductees, “abductees.” Worse, South Korean officials tried to pressure the reporters to choose false words to soothe the feelings of the kidnappers. […]

[…] South Korea is considering an untried new approach to secure the release extradition of its abductees those who rallied to the workers’ paradise. (We have learned that how such things are characterized in the South Korean press can be a matter of some sensitivity to the governments of both North Korea and South Korea.) And the untried new approach? Paying ransom protection money brotherly assistance. Well, almost untried. […]

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