[EDITORIALS]A press leader from Asia

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[EDITORIALS]A press leader from Asia

Hong Seok-hyun, chairman and publisher of the JoongAng Ilbo, has been elected to a two-year term as chairman of the World Association of Newspapers at the association's 55th annual conference in Bruges, Belgium. The World Association of Newspapers, which represents 18,000 publications from 113 nations, is a worldwide association of newspaper publishers.

Being elected as the chairman of such an organization is not only a personal honor for Mr. Hong, but also a compliment to the Korean press as a whole. In addition to the national honor, Mr. Hong is the first Asian to head the organization in its 54-year history. Mr. Hong's selection reflects the growing international recognition of South Korea and the importance of Asia to the association.

As the theme of the conference, "Leading the Newspaper through Times of Uncertainty," suggests, the world newspaper business is confronted with two major challenges. One is defending and fostering freedom of the press from improper outside interference and political harassment. The other is the task of developing new business models that can save the newspaper business from the stiff competition posed by the new types of electronic media.

Violations of press freedom in the form of threats, interference and political suppression, sometimes delicately disguised in national laws, is increasing day by day. Unfortunately, cases of such violations are more often found in Asian countries than in most other parts of the world. It is particularly disgraceful for us that South Korea is a country that has been designated by the International Press Institute as a country to be listed on its "watch list"; a place where the press is in danger of suppression. It is under special scrutiny by that organization and by others.

It is not a coincidence that the publisher of a leading Korean daily has been elected the chairman of WAN under such delicate circumstances. Mr. Hong was once arrested by the prosecution after the tax office targeted him for an investigation. After his election as the chairman of WAN, therefore, people in the press around the world are watching closely developments in the media world in Asia -- and Korea in particular.

We are confident that Mr. Hong will fulfill his duty to secure press freedom using his rich international experience and strong convictions about freedom of the press. He will also contribute to putting the ideals of democracy into practice.

The JoongAng Ilbo has been strengthening its cooperative ties with our colleagues in the region by holding an annual Asia Press Forum. We will accelerate our efforts to promote regional cooperation as part of our efforts to strengthen press freedom and develop the newspaper industry in neighboring Asian countries.

On the occasion of Mr. Hong's election as chairman of World Association of Newspapers, the JoongAng Ilbo pledges to lead the move for globalization among Korean newspapers. We will move ahead, aiming at making our paper a first-class newspaper with accurate, balanced reporting rather than focus on being the largest paper in Korea.

There should be no more need in Korea for collusion between the politically powerful and the press or for targeted investigations of newspaper owners. The government should try to maintain healthy relations with the press because the Korean press has been recognized as a world leader.

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