An unacceptable breach of copyright

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An unacceptable breach of copyright

“The devil is in the details,” said President Park Geun-hye at a meeting promoting trade and investment on Sept. 25. She reminded the attendees that even laws with great intentions may put pressure on business in the course of their implementations. Her advice to care for the trees as well as the forest is not limited to trade legislation.

It has been reported that a promotional video for Dokdo on the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’s official Web site used footage from a Japanese television drama without approval. Ten-second-long scenes describing the Russo-Japanese War from the Japanese historical drama “Clouds Over the Slope” on NHK were inserted in the background. The promotional video was taken off the Web site after NHK protested the unlawful usage of its copyrighted material.

It is clearly imprudent to use Japanese content as Korea and Japan have just started a worldwide promotional battle over Dokdo. Who can say the plagiarism would not undermine the validity of Korea’s claim?

I wonder what so many specialists and bureaucrats have been doing. Korea is not a country with little awareness of copyright. It has been off the watch list of countries with intellectual property rights deficiencies defined by the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Special judicial police under the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism closely watch for violation of copyright and intellectual property rights. How dare the government copy Japanese content?

There used to be a time when people were unaware of or condoned the usage of Japanese content. When I was young, I watched “Astro Boy,” “Iron Man #28” or “Mazinger Z” without realizing they were Japanese. I later learned that “Humanoid Monster Bem” and “Tiger Mask” were also made by the Japanese. After the 1980s, “Dragon Ball,” “Slam Dunk” and “Sailor Moon” were marketed as Japanese animation and comics.

Now, the Korean animation “Pororo the Little Penguin,” which first aired in 2003, has been exported to 110 countries around the world, and Korean dramas and movies are celebrated in Japan. I thought the copying of cultural content had ended, but the Foreign Ministry’s video elicits a sense of deja vu.

Based on Shiba Ryotaro’s historic model, “Clouds Over the Slope” tells the story of the Akiyama brothers. Yoshifuru Akiyama defeated the famous Cossack cavalry division of the Imperial Russian Army, and his brother, Saneyuki Akiyama, was the vice admiral of the Japanese Combined Fleet, which crushed the Imperial Russian Baltic Fleet in the early 20th century.

In the drama, the brothers mention that they admire Yukichi Fukuzawa, a renowned Enlightenment thinker who translated Western terms like “speech” and “debate” into Japanese. Ironically, he was also the one who defined the translated term for “copyright.” The Korean words for “copyright” and “publishing right” are based on the Japanese translation. Does it mean we have grown accustomed to copying Japanese content? The lack of copyright awareness is truly frustrating.

*The author is an editorial writer of the JoongAng Ilbo.

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