[Outlook]A lack of trustChinese President Hu Jintao arrived in Korea yesterday. This is his second visit to our country as president, making him the first Chinese leader to visit Korea twice while in office. He got here 13 hours after the closing of the Beijing Olympic Games that 1.3 billion Chinese had spent seven years preparing for.
It is said that Cheng Yonghua, the Chinese ambassador to Malaysia, has been unofficially designated as ambassador to Korea. It will be the first time a bureau director, rather than a vice director, will take the post. Some say this proves that China now takes Korea more seriously.
In contrast to the improvement in the official relations between the two countries, the sentiment in the public sector is worsening. Many Koreans became enraged watching the closing ceremony of the Beijing Olympic Games on Sunday, because a map that was shown during the event marked the East Sea as the Sea of Japan. Criticism about China erupted in Korea.
Anti-Korean sentiment is also fomenting among the Chinese. This was explicitly revealed during the Olympic Games. When the athletes were entering the stadium during the opening ceremony, the Korean team was met with a cold reception. But the Taiwanese, North Korean and Japanese teams received warm applause. Thus, the song, “Isn’t it delightful to have friends come from afar?” sung by the performers playing 3,000 pupils of Confucius, only sounded empty.
During the women’s individual archery final, the Chinese audience whistled when it was the Korean archer’s turn. In the baseball final, in the Korea versus Japan game, the Chinese audience cheered for Japan, which shocked Koreans.
Since when did China hate Korea so much? The Korean broadcaster SBS’s premature showing of footage of the Olympic rehearsal sparked some anti-Korean sentiment. But many point out that this feeling has been building over a long period in China.
Many news reports that encourage anti-Korean sentiment have appeared on the Internet and in other media. There is one thing in common among these types of reports. They almost always quote Korean media outlets.
In May, a Chinese netizen wrote, “A Chinese student who was investigated for staging violent protests during the Olympic torch relay in Seoul was sentenced to 10 years in jail.” He said he was quoting the JoongAng Ilbo, but that was a fabrication.
In late July, the New Express Daily, a newspaper published in Guangdong, reported that Professor Park Bun-kyung of Sungkyunkwan University had released a paper claiming Sun Yat-sen had a Korean bloodline, claiming to quote the Chosun Ilbo. That was also untrue.
In August, Sohu.com ran an article saying Professor Park Hyup-pung at Seoul National University had claimed some items which China displayed during the Olympics, such as a compass, were invented in Korea, quoting the Dong-A Ilbo. This made the Chinese people vehemently angry. However, the Dong-A Ilbo had not reported any such information.
Chinese people grew furious based on fabricated information and began to pour out criticism about Korea.
Why are such groundless reports that instigate anti-Korean sentiment widespread in China? The Chinese say anti-Korean sentiment emerged in China when Korea registered the 2005 Gangneung Dano Festival as one of Unesco’s Masterpieces of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity. They say the misunderstanding that Korea was robbing China of its traditional heritage is the basis for anti-Korean sentiment in China.
What’s more serious is that anger sparked by false information is being left as it is, with no intervention from the Chinese authorities. If the authorities have the will to do so, China can control the spread of inaccurate information, especially the writings that offend people from Korea and China. When Liu Xiang, China’s track and field star, had to drop out of a race despite people’s high expectations, the Chinese authorities controlled postings and replies on the Internet.
As President Hu of China visits Korea, the two countries are discussing concrete ways to improve relations and solidify a strategic cooperative partnership.
To improve relations between the two countries in the truest sense, trust is the most important prerequisite. As exchanges increase between the two nations, conflicts tend to increase accordingly, and it is impossible to prevent problems from taking place. However, if there is trust, disputes and conflicts can be resolved smoothly.
The Chinese authorities should take responsible measures about some of its media outlets and netizens who are damaging the trust between the two countries.
*The writer is the director of the JoongAng China Institute.