[FOUNTAIN]Criticism and the press“I once saw Kim Yoon-sik, a literary critic, borrowing a couple of books from another critic, Paik Chull. Years went by, and I had a chance to read the history of literature compiled by Mr. Kim a few years later. He ruthlessly attacked Mr. Paik’s analyses in his books; it was a ‘constructive deconstruction’ and a march toward enlightenment. I once saw Kim Hyun praise a critique by Lee O-young and then soon attack it mercilessly. Disputes over disgracing one’s seniors in the literary world go on and on. Everyone disgraced and deconstructed others. Lee O-young criticized his senior, Jo Yeon-hyeon. Mr. Jo then found fault with the books of Paik Chull.”
The quote is from a recent scholarly article by the veteran Korean literary critic Kim Young-soo, but it appears that many persons in our literary circles still have a sense of generosity and tolerance toward their peers and rivals. In the same book, Mr. Kim recalled an anecdote about the impressive rivalry between the two representative critics of the 1920s, Yang Joo-dong (1903-1977) and Kim Gi-jin (1903-1985).
The two once met in 1976 and conversed. Mr. Yang said, “Frankly speaking, I used to do my critique using literary techniques and literary skills only. But you had a different approach. You used to talk about such things as socialism, nationalism and capitalism.”
Mr. Kim replied, “Yes, we were very gentlemanly then. I wonder if critics these days are still like us. Even though we fought a lot, we never had regrets or stooped to personal attacks.”
President Roh Moo-hyun said recently, “I have been the victim of unjust attacks from a couple of leading newspapers owned by family interests. The damage they inflicted on me is beyond description.”
If there was a person who was truly victimized by “unjust attacks” by the press, it was Abraham Lincoln, whom Mr. Roh respects. When Lincoln was president of the United States, he was many times called a dictator, a traitor, a monster or a monkey. He once was described as the most dishonest and cunning politician to ever dishonor the public service of the United States.
A New York newspaper even wrote that he should have been displayed in an exhibition as a zoological peculiarity. But Lincoln remained unchanged, confident and full of humor. The newspapers that staged the unwarranted attacks on Lincoln are long gone now.
by Noh Jae-hyun
The writer is a deputy international news editor of the JoongAng Ilbo.