[INSIGHT]What does he want from media?Why does President Roh Moo-hyun hate the media? Why is the president so obsessed with criticizing the media when there are mountains of important national issues to take care of? What has the media done wrong this time? Perhaps the opinion of some media outlets that the Blue House aide who received dubious services in an expensive room salon in Cheongju should resign has irked the president. Still, what does he mean when he claims that he will not accept the resignation of his aide “because of the media?” The problem was that the president’s aide had received free entertainment and a free overnight stay at a hotel. What do the media have to do with the resignation of this aide? Does the president mean that even when one of his aides is in the wrong, the media should not criticize him and that he would have accepted the aide’s resignation if the media had been quiet?
The president even went as far as to say that because of the media, “The government will not fall apart,” and “The president doesn’t step down.” Why is the president making such angry comments out of the blue? Is he suggesting that there are media organs that plotted to overturn the administration or urged the president to resign?
These comments leave me stunned because I really can’t figure out with what intention and under what circumstances he made such remarks. The media know that they have been censured ― and what censure it has been! ― but have no idea what they were supposedly doing wrong and what they need to correct. Of course the media have faults. They sometimes misreport and they are sometimes driven by their competitive juices to excesses. But these faults of the media are matters that only the media can solve in their own appropriate way.
It is widely known that the president is disgruntled at certain newspapers. It could be that he is all the more displeased these days with all these reports about him and his political entourage. The Goodmorning City bribery scandal involving several of his political allies; the allegations against Chyung Dai-chul, chairman of his political party; the comments Mr. Chyung made about Mr. Roh’s campaign funds; a conspiracy theory involving young presidential aides, and the unsuccessful move to start a new party within the government party are all reports that must have rankled. Also, the president’s popularity has dropped to below 30 percent. The recent news of the improper conduct of a Blue House aide must have also been hard to take. Nevertheless, how could the media not have informed the public of such news? Whether it makes the president happy or not, these are things that must be covered by the media. Surely, the president himself isn’t saying that it is wrong for the media to inform the public of such news? Even the pro-Roh members of the Millennium Democratic Party are criticizing the president these days and all the popularity polls show that the biggest reason people don’t support him is because of his “un-presidential manners.”
President Roh has pointed, as an example of media wrongdoing, to a discussion session with the government officials; the media, he complained, ignored all the content of an hour-long speech he made and only reported the fact that he had used the phrase “S.O.B.” in it. Let’s think about that. What media in the world would not report on an truly important speech by the president of their country? If the speech were important, the media would even print the full text. So why was the speech not covered? It wasn’t covered because it wasn’t news. It is not as if only the three major newspapers, that the president so strongly dislikes, did not cover the speech. It was widely ignored.
On the other hand, it is certainly news when the president uses a vulgarity in public. It is wrong of the president to criticize the media for reporting a piece of news that he himself presented to it. Two thoughts came to my mind when I saw the television news last weekend about the president’s attack on the media. One was that it was incomprehensible that not one of the high-ranking officials at the debate stepped forward when the president was in a towering rage to tell him, “Mr. President, that’s not true. There is another side to the story.” Of course it is difficult to contradict a strict president who was making such vigorous comments, but it is a pity that no one thought of trying to soften the president’s words a bit.
Another thing on my mind is how those outside Korea would see these comments of the president. the United States President George W. Bush, China’s President Hu Jintao and Japan’s Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi have all met Mr. Roh. What must they have thought when they heard about this? And the foreign press?
I’d like to ask President Roh: What do you want from the media? What is your problem with the media? What kind of media do you want?
* The writer is a senior columnist of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Song Chin-hyok