North-glorifying webtoon gets Gyeonggi in trouble

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North-glorifying webtoon gets Gyeonggi in trouble

One scene in a now-deleted webtoon, originally uploaded to the official Instagram account of the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education on Friday, depicts South Korean schoolchildren exclaiming that they want to go to North Korea so they can keep their same homeroom teacher, as North Korean students do until they leave school. [INSTAGRAM]

One scene in a now-deleted webtoon, originally uploaded to the official Instagram account of the Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education on Friday, depicts South Korean schoolchildren exclaiming that they want to go to North Korea so they can keep their same homeroom teacher, as North Korean students do until they leave school. [INSTAGRAM]

 
The Gyeonggi Provincial Office of Education was forced on Saturday to backtrack on a webtoon it posted to its social media depicting a seemingly rosy view of life in North Korea.
 
Titled "I envy my North Korean friends," the webtoon — an online comic strip where scenes are interspersed across consecutive slides — was posted on the Gyeonggi education office's official Instagram account at 7 p.m. on Friday. The account has over 13,000 followers.
 
The images and dialogue in the webtoon were produced by a private company and written based on a story submitted by a Gyeonggi elementary schoolteacher, who related interactions with her students when learning about the lives of North Korean students.
 
The webtoon, which shows a class where a South Korean teacher tells South Korean students about North Korean schoolchildren’s lives, came under fire for appearing to unfavorably compare life in South Korea with North Korea, which claims to have zero Covid-19 cases.
 
In the webtoon cells, the South Korean schoolchildren respond favorably to their teacher’s lesson about life in North Korea. As they look at photos of North Korean children at picnics and sports competitions — which have been almost entirely suspended in South Korea due to the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent restrictions on large gatherings — the South Korean children exclaim things like, “I envy North Korea!” and “I want to go on picnics, too!”
 
When the Gyeonggi schoolteacher in the comic tells her students that North Korean students keep the same homeroom teacher until they graduate from school, the South Korean students say, “Wow, I really want to go to North Korea!” and "I want to have you as my homeroom teacher forever, too!"
 
Gyeonggi students’ parents, however, were not impressed with the webtoon.
 
After parents submitted complaints about the office posting social media content praising school life in North Korea, the Gyeonggi education office deleted the post on Saturday, one day after it was uploaded.
 
An official from the Gyeonggi education office explained that the webtoon was not produced with the intent of spreading pro-North Korean propaganda.
 
“[The webtoons] are produced according to story submissions, but the company [contracted to create the series] produced the cartoon immediately after receiving the submission, so the education office was not aware of the problem in advance,” the official said.
 
The official added that the post was deleted because of the presence of “some expressions we realized could be controversial.”

BY MICHAEL LEE [lee.junhyuk@joongang.co.kr]
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