Wife-beaters get lashedDomestic violence dominated the pages of nearly all of this week’s current affairs magazines. This stems from the recent beating of popular comedian and emcee Lee Gyeong-sil and the ripples of interest that followed. Even if the issue of spousal abuse did not generate above-the-fold headlines, it still was mentioned in a secondary piece.
On the political front, magazines assessed the performance of Roh Moo-hyun’s transition team, speculated who will become part of Mr. Roh’s inner circle and predicted the new government’s future policies.
The Monthly JoongAng also discussed the most influential players of the recent presidential election: the Internet generation and Internet-based news media. Ohmynews, an Internet newspaper founded by a former left-wing magazine reporter, has gained a great deal of clout in a brief time.
For celebrities, the beatings go on and on
Sisa Journal, a weekly magazine, ran a front page story analyzing the sequence of events following the recent beating of a celebrity by her husband.
The article, headlined “Portrait of Shallow Korea: A look at the Lee Gyeong-sil case,” examines three factors to illustrate how domestic violence is perceived in Korean society.
First, it notes how authorities failed to arrest Ms. Lee’s husband on the spot despite obvious signs of physical abuse; he was arrested three days later after she contacted police. Then, Ms. Lee was hounded by the press even while she was hospitalized. Finally, the reporter writes, the public engaged in a shallow, but heated online debate regarding the battle of the sexes. The article’s author scorns the machismo shown by male Internet writers who said it is fitting that women who do not show respect for men are punished.
Women subjected to domestic violence must be protected under Korea’s legal system, argues the Sisa reporter, rather than being ignored in the name of preserving family life.
Korean women who suffer from spousal abuse rarely report such incidents to the police, according to the Sisa Journal, because they fear retaliation from their husbands. When they do report an incident, the men usually end up back home after an hour or two at the police station.
The article points out another alarming aspect of some victims: sympathy toward their oppressor. Abused women rationalize their husband’s violence, thinking they are beaten because they have done something wrong.
Abusive men tell why their tempers fly
The headline of The Hankyoreh 21’s Feb. 27 issue cried out, “The bat speaks for itself,” and included several interviews with men who beat their wives. Retaining anonymity, about 10 men offered accounts of why they beat their wives and what happened afterward. According to research by the Korea Women’s Hotline, almost one third of Korean married men beat their wives.
The abusive husbands who came forward for this article unanimously said that they beat their wives when their spouse acted condescending toward him or his family. The Confucian value of respect for husbands also was regarded as a reason why wife-battering is accepted in Korean society.
The men admit that they cannot control their temper when they feel denigrated by their spouses. Some men say they beat their wives even if they are not insulted, but just to teach them a lesson. One man even admitted to beating his wife when Chung Mong-joon withdrew his support for President-elect Roh during the election last December.
Men who abuse their wives also tend to be married to breadwinners, said The Hankyoreh 21; they are usually dependent people with very low self-esteem. These men also claim to have been victims of verbal abuse and scratching by their wives, but it always turns out to be the women who suffer the most severe physical abuse.
Even when these men beat their wives to the point of being hospitalized, the men later repent; they cannot seem to live without their spouses. The article concluded that no excuses can be made for such behavior.
Roh’s team gets put under a microscope
The main story of the Weekly Chosun’s Feb. 27 edition, headlined “Roh Moo-hyun’s people,” divulged that most of Mr. Roh’s closest advisers fit into one of two categories: They hail from Busan, or are part of the 386 generation, people in their 30s who entered college in the 1980s and were born in the 1960s. And an overwhelming majority of them are progressive individuals, activists and intellectuals from rural areas.
In profiling future Blue House officials who have already been named, the article notes that most of them have long been out of mainstream political circles.
The Weekly Chosun also follows the Lee Gyeong-sil domestic violence story in a smaller front-page feature, titled “Victim of husband’s abuse, Lee Gyeong-sil.”
The piece begins with a quote by Ms. Lee: “I feel burdened by a 37 year-old man who acts like a twenty year-old.” It goes on to review Ms. Lee’s beating by her husband with her son’s baseball bat.
Apparently, when Ms. Lee called the police about the emergency, she did not seek her husband’s immediate arrest. It took her three days ― and persuasion from her own family ― to take action. If convicted, Ms. Lee’s husband, Son Gwang-gi, faces up to three years in jail.
Mr. Son disappeared after the beating. When he was caught, he reportedly said of his wife: “I still love her.” Mr. Son, who has not yet hired a lawyer, is still under police custody; Ms. Lee remains hospitalized. In a hospital bed interview, Ms. Lee said that she will divorce her husband but will remain on friendly terms with him.
‘Guerrilla’ reporting boosts reputation of online paper
The meteoric rise of one Internet news site and its future is the subject of the Monthly JoongAng’s lead March article.
Headlined “The third power of the press: Ohmynews,” the article delves into whether this influential new media will become the alternative press of the future, and includes an interview with company CEO Oh Yeon-ho, a former student dissident and longtime reporter for a leftist magazine.
The online Korean newspaper ohmynews.com was founded in December 2000 with four full-time reporters and more than 700 “guerrilla reporters” ― under the doctrine that all citizens are reporters. In just over two years, Ohmynews has grown to support 40 staff reporters and 23,000 guerrilla reporters, the latter of whom are nothing more than readers who post news they picked up in their daily routine.
This guerrilla reporting method, with readers feeding in news tidbits from every cranny of the country, differentiates Ohmynews from more traditional media formats. And it has enabled this online paper to deliver startling scoops, such as a drinking spree among politicians in Gwangju in May 2000.
The stories Ohmynews posts on the Internet are not limited to the usual national agenda of politics, labor relations and social issues; news pertaining to Koreans’ everyday lives receive equal exposure.
Articles such as “Today our bird died” and “How fathers live their daily lives” are just two of the stories found in this niche news source. Ohmynews also encourages online debate between those who post news and readers with contrasting viewpoints.
Online media’s greatest advantage, the Monthly JoongAng reports, is its ability to create immediate impact: The public need not wait until morning to respond to breaking news events. It is precisely this sort of round-the-clock and on-the-spot reporting that has earned Ohmynews a place among the 10 most influential press organizations in Korea.
Ohmynews appears highly critical of conservatism. Its progressive stance has led the mainstream press to accuse it of favoring leftist tendencies. Meanwhile, some government leaders and academics contend that despite the glut of online news sources,their business growth is limited. That may explain why Ohmynews has added an offline format, publishing a weekly newspaper. Regardless of the effect of Ohmynews and other Internet media, the Monthly JoongAng argues that the Internet revolution’s triumph over the offline press still awaits.
by Choi Jie-ho