[EDITORIALS]Misguided ‘information’President Roh Moo-hyun said, “Demanding that the government stop making publicity is the same as demanding that it not work.” The remark seems to have been made in protest against recent criticism of government officials in charge of public relations and the opposition Grand National Party’s presentation of a bill to abolish the Government Information Agency. But President Roh’s claim is wide of the mark.
We are not demanding the government stop public relations for its policies, but we demand that it stop making propaganda for the government and its politics. It is ugly to see the government criticize the opposition with coarse words, prevent civil servants from giving an interview or making contributions of articles to media outlets that are critical to the government and engaging in heated ideological offensives on the pretext of publicity for government policy. It is disgusting to see them take the lead in spreading the mood of the president and singing songs in praise of the president. But the president ducked what the press complained about and distorted it as if criticism of the political behavior of public relations officials was a demand to stop publicity on government policies. Why does he do so? Is it because he gets bad reports because he is surrounded by the curtain of people? Or is it a tactic to escape critiism?
Mr. Roh said, “It is necessary to listen to the opinion of opponents, make government policies after collecting people’s opinions and deliver them so that they get support from the people.” He also said, “Persuasion is public relations.”
He is right. We find the answer in his words. The problem is with those in charge of public relations. They go completely in the opposite direction. They often devide people or press organs that oppose government policies as “supporters of vested interests” or “advocates of rich people.” They blamed media outlets that criticized the theory that South Korea should play the role of a balancer in Northeast Asia as “selling out national security.” When the admissions plan of Seoul National University created a stir, they said, “Seoul National University should be changed.” Such remarks only fan conflict and degrade the quality of our society.
The Government Information Agency and the presidential secretary for public information should stop engaging in political propaganda. Mr. Roh should not defend them unconditionally. He must face the fact that remarks demonstrating loyalty to him increase the gap between him and the people.