Down a Media Rabbit Hole

Back Story

This has been a long time coming … I am terrible at keeping things up to date recently. Anyways, back at the end of May MBC’s “Sesangbogi Sisigakgak” (Seeing the World, Minute by Minute) newsmagazine show aired a controversial story  about the “shocking reality” South Korean women face by dating men from other countries. Someone posted a subtitled (translated) version of a video made by MBC, one of the three major broadcasting corporations in Korea. 
And the expat community responded. Facebook was covered with shares of the video, and people started talking. Within days a group on Facebook was made, Action Against MBC Korea and their racist, biased “reporting. It now has over 8,000 members. Strategically, the admin of the group censored some comments deemed as racist or inappropriate so that in case the Korean media actually paid attention, it would not be distracted by silly comments that could be used against us, but actually see our justified perspective. The group  has really moved along – offering resources to educate people of their rights, where to file a complaint to the government and even information on how to reach the producers directly. 


For a further look at journalism in Korea in regards to it’s foreigners, Roboseyo wrote an awesome piece with various other sources.  

 My View

Obviously it’s clear this type of reporting not only insults foreign men in particular, but Korean women as well. As a teacher on the group put it: 
“I find it apalling that MBC has such little respect for Korean women. They are portrayed as being either so weak minded and naive, or so promiscuous, that they cannot help but fall victim to any non-Korean man that happens to walk past,” said English teacher Rick Saint. [source]
Listen, I know some of these people in that video exist. I am out on a Saturday night and see the craziest things, as if these expats are trying to relieve their college years and party like there is no tomorrow. Yes, thoughts like “How are they here teaching?!” and “Who the heck would hire such an imbecile?!” have crossed my mind. BUT … as in all journalism, respectable journalism requires responsibility to its audience and THUS should offer both sides of the story. Respectable journalism plays the devil’s advocate. What about the number of Korean men going to the Philippines or other South East Asian countries in search of a woman? Or how about doing an expose on the sex trafficking of South East Asian women into Korea. Or let’s leep it simple: How about doing the flip side story of this and talking about Korean men and how different some act when dating a foreign girl. Yeah, those stories exists. I have friends here who attest to it.
So yeah, irresponsible journalism can create waves because not only did it open up the issue for discussion,  it brought attention to the broadcasting company – especially how they would react in the face of protests from both foreigners and Koreans alike. 

MBC’s Stance

Korea seeing foreign men as a threat is not new, but MBC’s response just seems so off-colored and irresponsible, as if they just threw their hands in the air and said “What can we do about it?”.  
The producer responsible for the newsmagazine, who asked not to be named, said the story was pitched by an outside production firm, called All That Media, that’s one of seven MBC has been relying on for content since its journalists went on strike.
 “I don’t understand why foreigners get angry about the issue while they are living with their spouses and having no problem,” he said. “Foreigner-Korean women couples are living happily, but why are they angry over an issue that has nothing to do with them?”
He said the piece intended to portray “Korean women who are out of their sense and get involved in these kinds of affairs.”

Media in Korea

This video trending through the net here opened up  a lot of questions for me in regards to the media here in Korea. The problem with not knowing a language is that it makes it harder to understand something fully. I randomly knew these things:
  1. MBC and KBS had been on strike for months now.
  2. MBC had shown a news video about foreigners that an outside company had created. 
  3. There are only 3 broadcasting stations in Korea, as well as a handful of newspapers. 
So what did this all mean now? They are all connected! Maybe I’m posting about this today because my mind has been reeling since I realized these things were all interconnected. The person to thank is non other than the popular blogger, The Korean, who posted on his site not only his response to MBC’s story but also gave us a history about television history in Korea.  

Things I learned that just shocked me (as taken from The Korean): 

  • “Media Consolidation” of 1980 [언론 통폐합] - Chun Doo-hwan (전두환)  was a ROK Army general and the dictator of South Korea from 1980 to 1988, and in 1980 consolidated the media in order to keep order and control what was said about his regime. 
  • Before the consolidation, Korea had 64 media organizations — 28 newspapers, 29 television/radio stations, and seven wire services.
  • After the consolidation, there were only 14 newspapers, three television/radio stations and one wire service
  • Today, Korea today has three major network television stations — KBS, MBC and SBS (which opened in 1990.) And Korean government owns 100% of KBS, and 70% of MBC.
  • And the remaining 30% of MBC?  It is Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation, i.e. the nonprofit foundation to which the late dictator Park Chung-Hee funneled his slush funds, part of which were the shares in MBC. The current presidential forerunner of the conservative New Frontier Party is Park Chung-Hee’s daughter Park Geun-Hye, and she was the chairwoman of JSF until she entered party politics.
  • And by the way … both her parents were assassinated during her father’sreign as dictator. Why she is in politics is beyond me.