Harmful rumors, fake newsYEH YOUNG-JUNE
The author is the Beijing bureau chief at the JoongAng Ilbo.
Mao Zedong’s grandson Mao Xinyu also died and came back to life in Korean news. A rumor that Mao Xinyu was one of the 32 victims of a traffic accident during a trip to North Korea and Chinese authorities were hiding this quickly spread through Korean media. If it was true, both Mao Zedong’s son Anqing, who died during the Korean War, and grandson Xinyu would have died in North Korea. I contacted Mao Xinyu’s college friends and confirmed that the rumor was not true. My report on the “facts” was buried in the wave of fake news that reported the tragic fate of the Mao family in the portal sites’ news algorithm.
On Jack Ma’s retirement from Alibaba Group’s chairmanship, rumors that Ma was forced to step down due to a discord with the Xi Jinping government spread. But this neglected the fact that Ma had shared responsibility with his successor for years to prepare for succession and had a cooperative relationship with the government. Alibaba’s stock price on the New York Stock Exchange was not affected by Ma’s announcement, suggesting that investors around the world were not affected by rumors of Communist Party influence.
There are many rumors stemming from Chinese news. It is because China does not have freedom of the press and has an unfair procedure for imprisonment. Yet it is not just China’s fault that rumors and conspiracies blow out of proportion and are reproduced in Korea. It could be that Korean society offers an environment suitable for conspiracy as it is accustomed to suspecting everything to be connected with political power. So, fake news from China, created maliciously or for fun, is active in Korea but should not be condoned. It is a serious issue as we may fail to see China’s true face while being distracted by fake news. It is exactly why I am struggling on the front line to convey news from China.
JoongAng Ilbo, Oct. 9, Page 26