Past misdeeds revealed ― but with a slant

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Past misdeeds revealed ― but with a slant

Corporal punishment may be one way to correct a child, but from my experiences, writing a banseongmun, or reflection note, works better. My memorable teachers did not brandish the cane of love, but instead had a troublesome child (not the writer of this column) pen a note. No wonder it’s not the most pleasurable thing to do from a student’s point of view.
It thus took me by surprise when I saw such a self-examination program on KBS-TV late last month, titled “KBS, Speaking Out on KBS.” The program cracked the door wide open for the weekly media-criticism program, “Media Focus.”
Following the tried-and-true form of a standard reflection note, the program began with a touch of “On second thought, I guess what I did is not quite right” and closed with “It won’t happen again.”
Setting aside the cliched formula, KBS’s idea to come clean about its dark past on its own will deserves a big hand. Every adult Korean who knows the earth is round is aware that the media during Korea’s military regimes did not play the bad guy role. KBS-TV, then a state-run station, was no exception; the pet of the regimes, it wagged its tail hard to curry favor with the powers. Thanks to my daily dose of TV as a 10-year old, I used to admire the dictator Chun Doo Hwan as the country’s true savior, something I’m not too proud of.
In a documentary, KBS-TV described former President Kim Dae-jung as an unforgivable commie in the 1980s. After Mr. Kim entered office in 1997, KBS-TV took a radical turn, picturing Mr. Kim as a hero who endured seemingly intolerable hardship. Calling itself Sunflower Media, KBS adjusted its inclination toward the sun of power. The program owned up to the past clean and clear. Owing to its harsh self-criticism, the program became the talk of town.
So there I was, all ready to send my kudos to the second episode of “Media Focus,” anchored by Kim Sin Myeong-suk, (who got her middle name from her mother’s surname according to her feminist belief). The show features KBS-TV reporters and journalism professors at the mike.
From the second show, KBS-TV no longer was the sole object of criticism. Two other big TV stations, SBS and MBC, as well as newspapers no longer avoided the arrows of criticism. Coverage like criticism of prejudiced reports on recent labor strikes upheld the reputation established by the first special show. When the show neared its close, however, I started to wonder.
In a section called “Media Watch,” the program dealt with President Roh Moo-hyun’s plan to start weekly talks on KBS radio. Then the reporter mentioned two major newspapers, Chosun and Dong-a, which opposed the idea. He kindly added that such weekly talks are already practiced in developed nations like the United States.
Whether the newspaper editorials slowed the development of the Korean media remains a question. The show producers needlessly hammered on the newspapers with their own reasons and voices. It was like flying into a rage on the slightest provocation in the name of the president. Then I was reminded of a big orchid pot I had seen earlier this year in a hall of the station, bearing the name of the president congratulating the TV network on its anniversary. I wondered how much difference there was in the program from the rotten past it had presented the week before.
KBS-TV may be getting ready for the sequel of “KBS, Speaking Out on KBS,” a wise strategy to raise audience ratings. That is, after all, one thing that KBS-TV seems to be good at.

by Chun Su-jin
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