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[TODAY]Roh’s strange thoughts on media

June 05,2003
It has been confirmed again over the last few days that President Roh Moo-hyun and his aides harbor a dangerously distorted and undemocratic view of the media. They accuse the media of having intentionally slandered the president during the first 100 days of his office without respecting any “honeymoon period.”
President Roh commented on the reports of the allegations that his brother and a close acquaintance had engaged in real estate speculation: “The media have shown a flippant and irresponsible attitude in a situation where these allegations are yet to be confirmed.” He then demanded that the media report on the matter only when the allegations were confirmed. This shows that the president does not know the ABC’s of the media’s role. The media start the hunt for the truth as soon as they even sense “allegations of allegations” of corruption. This is all the more true when the figure involved is a person close to the president. Seen from the experiences of the past, had it not been the persistent pursuit and watch of the media, investigative bodies would have turned a blind eye to the corruption allegations of those close to the president.
If compared to a disease, the president’s persecution mania about the media is a serious case. Referring to media reports on his rough and provocative comments, the president complained that, “If it had been someone else, these things wouldn’t have been covered by the media.” He is wrong. The people are always watching and listening to the president. The American or European people, not to mention their media, would have accused their leader of polluting their national language had their leaders used the rhetoric of President Roh.
The president’s chief of staff also feels that the media were prejudiced against the president from the start. Moon Hee-sang commented that the reason U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt could achieve over 100 reforms in his first 100 days was because he had the cooperation of the media and the opposition party.
Mr. Moon doesn’t seem to know the whole story. Presi-dent Roosevelt didn’t have an elder brother who was under suspicion of having made illegal land transactions. He didn’t have “colleagues” or acquaintances like Ahn Hee-jung and Lee Gi-myeong, who were un-der suspicion of corruption from the beginning of the term.
President Roosevelt provided a vision to the people who were despairing from the Great Depression and delivered on it through New Deal programs. He only used carefully selected words that could give inspiration to everyone. The 100-day honeymoon that Mr. Moon and Culture Minister Lee Chang-dong are talking about is a myth. Are they ordering the media to turn a blind eye to any allegations that rise during that period? U.S. President Bill Clinton was harried by allegations of illegal land transactions even in his days as president-elect. His friend and White House aide Vince Foster, who was implicated in the allegations, committed suicide.
President Roh devoted one page out of his nearly nine-page speech, delivered at the National Assembly in April, to attacking the media. He said that the media were an un-checked and dangerous power and decried the tyranny of the “clan newspapers,” an emotionally biased term used by certain other newspapers and broadcasting media to refer to the JoongAng Ilbo, Chosun Ilbo, and Dong-a Ilbo.
When President Roosevelt died in 1945, the New York Times said in an editorial that 100 years later people would still get down on their knees to thank God that President Roosevelt had been the president of the United States. Taking from the words of Mr. Moon and Mr. Lee, it seems that the Blue House people have studied quite a lot about President Roosevelt. Yet how is it that the only thing they got out of their studies is the notion of a 100-day honeymoon?
Mr. Roh and his aides seem to envy President Roosevelt as they blame the media for the confusion in government affairs over the last 100 days. It is not too late. Should President Roh discard his populist policies tilted toward certain social groups over others and if he gains the trust of the people by governing and selecting his words discreetly as the president of everyone, the media would be willing to enjoy not 100 days but 1,825 days of honeymoon with him. Even after his retirement, we would be thanking the heavens that he had been our president through the times of the North Korea nuclear crisis, the war in Iraq and the times of labor-management disputes.

* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.


by Kim Young-hie


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