[GLOBAL EYE]Back home to worrisome realityThe annual conference of the World Association of Newspapers was shaken on its opening day in Dublin by a speech by Conrad Black, the head of the Hollinger Group, a British media group. The group owns about 300 newspapers and magazines worldwide, including the British publications the Daily Telegraph and Sunday Telegraph, the Chicago Sun-Times in the United States and the Jerusalem Post.
Mr. Black is known for his earthy speaking style, and he spoke on the subject of anti-American news coverage by the international media. He complained that during the war in Iraq, the European media enthusiastically heaped cynicism on the U.S. efforts and its leader, President George W. Bush. He said sarcastically that the caricature of the United States as a rogue country that emerged in the reporting was a reflection of a European inferiority complex.
The war in Iraq was justified, he said, drawing a mixed chorus of cheers and jeers from his audience.
That speech was the talk of the participants for the entire three days of the meeting, and there were not many voices criticizing the current “Pax Americana.” That was interesting. A large number of leading editors and publishers from 85 countries throughout the world were there at the conference, but no one wanted to try to deny the cold reality of American supremacy.
At the same time, Korea-related news articles from Tokyo described the Korean Peninsula as if it were an island isolated from the world.
The news reports covered President Roh Moo-hyun’s remarks about accepting the communist party and told of massive anti-American demonstrations on the first anniversary of the deaths of two schoolgirls killed by a U.S. military vehicle. Unlike the outside world, we were still shouting anti-American slogans back home.
I had dinner with Janet L. Robinson, the president of the New York Times. She was curious about the Korean media’s reporting on the war in Iraq. I explained the JoongAng Ilbo’s difficult decision to support President Bush’s war against Iraq. I also reminded her that President Roh had to make a tough political decision before he decided to support the war, although he knew well the anti-war and anti-American sentiment of his supporters.
I recalled that the New York Times took a reserved attitude toward the war, offering varied positions until just before it began. But I also know that once the decision to wage war was made, the newspaper changed its stance to support it, devoting its whole editorial section to explain all the reasons the United States had to go to war. That is the way the United States works.
The U. S. media usually distinguish wrong from right very well. But once they face an issue where a national interest is at stake, the media know how to support the leader’s decision, and few Americans find fault with such a turnaround by a publisher. American intellectuals ordinarily insist on their own positions, but when they conflict with national interests, they easily change those positions to side with their country. But once a matter is settled, they again call the decision into question. That is also the way the United States works.
Because such self-purifying efforts are at work in the United States, the country can have a powerful voice in the international community.
I read a press release from Korea on my way back home; it was about the Blue House chief of staff’s complaint that the media here are harrassing the president. I felt sorry for the shallowness of our society, where only a few words of the president or his aides can agitate the whole country. But a presidential aide’s grumbling about the media or the people is certainly far from the people’s expectations.
Our country is lost in a self-destructive controversy with no way out. We do not hear any leaders questioning whether the destination we are headed for with anti-American slogans is really where we want to go.
How can we heal the mental disease that afflicts our youth? More than half make cynical remarks against the alliance and shout anti-U.S. slogans but still dream of emigrating to the United States.
I have returned home to worrisome reality.
* The writer is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Kil Jeong-woo