Run it all and let readers sort it outSeveral days ago, three United States Army soldiers were accused of sexual harassment of a Korean female on a subway train. Yonhap News Agency, and nearly every other news agency, immediately ran the story as soon as it broke, and rightly so.
If true, the perpetrators will undoubtedly be the recipients of harsh punishment from the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Korean justice system as well.
Despite this, I would like to draw attention to the positive news stories that fail to make their way into the Korean media.
They are not buried in the back pages, or even mentioned in tandem with other newsworthy events, but left out entirely.
I can cite several that never found their way into the domestic media and are here for the public to read for the first time.
Two weeks ago I had the opportunity to read through a local edition of the Stars and Stripes.
I came across a heroic tale of a United States Army soldier saving the life of a Korean man who was trapped in his car. An excerpt from the Jan. 14, 2013 edition goes like this:
“Sgt. First Class David George was driving home Friday from Camp Humphreys on Highway 61 (Bundang Expressway) when he noticed a vehicle had run off the road and into a tree.
The U.S. soldier is being credited with saving the life of a South Korean driver by pulling him from the wreckage of his car shortly before it burst into flames.”
An image in the Stars and Stripes showed the smoldering wreck of the vehicle that undoubtedly would have held the remains of its driver had it not been for the heroic actions of Sergeant George.
The exclusion of this story from the Korean media is not simply an oversight but part of a wider trend where stories that reveal the United States military in a positive light are excluded.
A cursory search of the Stars and Stripes Web site revealed a number of stories involving United States military personnel in Korea and their positive impact:
“Pfc. Richard Bigouette and Pfc. Joshua Davis were commended by their unit for their roles in rescuing a Korean girl at a popular beach [in Busan].
Bigouette pulled the young girl from the water after hearing her shouts for help.”
Less dramatic, but certainly of note, are other stories that reveal the robust efforts of the U.S. military to embrace community outreach programs with the following just a small sampling of the dozens of events that occur yearly, many during the holiday season:
“More than 80 Soldiers and families from 6th Battalion, 52nd Air Defense Artillery visited the House of Dreams, the largest orphanage in Suwon, on July 9, 2012.”
“On Dec. 26, 2012, Representatives of the 2nd Infantry Division’s 1st Armored Brigade Combat Team and 210 Fires Brigade distributed charcoal briquettes to families in Dongducheon, Gyeonggi, near Camp Casey.
Their second annual charcoal distribution was funded by donations from U.S. soldiers.
The two brigades raised about $4,000 last year, which was used to deliver 2,000 briquettes and 60 bags of rice to needy families.”
Like a sieve designed for separating the positive news stories from the negative ones, the Korean media retains those that cast the United States military in a negative light. Positive stories, much like the ones mentioned above, are treated as if they never occurred.
While such one-sided reporting may be expected in some countries that play host to American military forces, like Afghanistan and Iraq, where media maturity still has a long way to go, countries like Korea have no excuse for such biased news coverage.
Whether the moratorium placed on positive news stories involving U.S. military personnel is accidental, or worse, policy, is something that needs to be addressed in the newsrooms of Korea’s leading newspapers and television networks. It is not so much an issue of promoting the ROK-U.S. Alliance.
There’s a need for fair and balanced reporting on all subjects, including U.S. forces in Korea.
Good, bad, ugly, the Korean media should run it all and let the public decide and not ignore the positive elements that, at the very least, deserve a nod of acknowledgment.
In the case of Sgt. First Class David George, much more is deserved than the cold shoulder.
*The author is pursuing a master’s degree in International Peace and Security at Korea University Graduate School of International Studies.
By Brendan Balestrieri