[FORUM]The nexus of the public and mediaIf you walk around the fountain in front of the Blue House, you will see several demonstrators every day. They approach the spot, only 40 meters from the front gate, and present their opinions without hesitation. One woman demonstrator has been there for almost a week.
On their picket signs are slogans proclaiming injustice in the selection of members of certain committees or the corruption of judges and prosecutors. The pickets offer views on various matters ranging from criticism of a specific media outlet to the naming of new harbors and piers.
The proximity of these demonstrators to the Blue House has been permitted since last spring. Before then, they were stopped at a control line about 300 meters from the front gate. Now the barricades that had been set up at the front and rear gates have been removed. Everyone is enjoying freedom of expression, as individuals can even hold one-man demonstrations under the nose of the Blue House.
Some demonstrators in front of the Seoul City Hall decorate their picket signs garishly, while others appeal with infuriated looks leaning on the wall at the entrance of powerful government agencies such as the National Police Agency.
It is hard to tell whether these appeals even reach the person in charge of an agency or whether they are completely ignored. But people linger at the front gate of powerful agencies when problems that they think are undeserved or unjust are not solved.
In a participatory administration that is pursuing “electronic government” and emphasizes the rapid processing of civil appeals, the proliferation of one-man demonstrations may result from people’s desire to speak directly with the person in charge and to let an issue that is thought to be unjust become widely known.
People require more information about world affairs, and they are pressing hard for the assumption of responsibility for problems. The role of the media as a public organ cannot help being increasingly emphasized.
A high public official said that if government policy is to be fully known and people’s understanding about problems in putting these ideas into practice is sought, frequent contact with the media will be inevitable.
As seen in the United States and Europe, media people sometimes are described by people in power as “mobsters,” “wolves” and “ferocious beasts,” but democracy needs the media. Given the reality that people’s interests often sharply collide, a simple media briefing or the supplying of raw data makes it hard to convey even half the picture.
The Blue House “code” toward the media has actually reduced official contacts or blocked unofficial contacts with media people. The more closed and negative the media policy of high public officials is, the slower and more distorted the delivery and understanding of information is likely to be. And the media avoidance practices among managerial-level public officials seem surprising enough.
The confusion of management in the Blue House, each government agency and various committees is having no less impact on people’s lives. The management that gave priority to industrial competitiveness or farmers hurt their pride, and so did media people. Some ministers feel frustrated because their announcements did not have an effect on the market, and they are indeed gloomy.
“The Change Monster,” by Jeanie Daniel Duck, published in the United States in 2001, analyzed the tangible and intangible obstacles that interrupt and prevent reform whenever it is attempted. It advocated solving the problem in the framework of human relationships and emotional relationship dynamics. The book emphasized direct talks between leaders and members of a group, and advised dropping abstract visions or slogans. It said that today’s reform should not be transformed into tomorrow’s sanctuary, and every issue should be questioned, but “champions” should be encouraged.
Then why are ministers, the champions of participatory government, gloomy? Give them courage and authority so that they can proudly confront the media. The media also mean numerous one-man demonstrators.
* The writer is a senior editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.
by Choi Chul-joo