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[Editorial] We Need Government Direction in Choosing Which Newspaper to Read?

[Editorial] We Need Government Direction in Choosing Which Newspaper to Read?

Posted April. 16, 2003 21:56,   


Culture and Tourism Minister Lee Chang-dong has officially promised to artificially lower the market share of the "big three" newspapers in South Korea. In a nutshell, the Roh administration confirmed its intent to interfere even in the country`s choice of reading material. The administration has made it clear that it is ready to push the envelope and push ahead with its controversial "press policy." The government, however, has to force South Korean citizens to literally stop subscribing to some major newspapers if it wishes to pull down their market share.

Where else in the world can we find such an incomprehensible government act?

Minister Lee announced that the three newspapers currently occupy 75% of whole market, which go against antitrust regulations. The `big three` papers they are referring to are the Dong-a, Chosun and Jeong-ang Ilbo.

None of the statistics published so far support Lee`s allegations. They show much lower figures.

Regulating the press entails regulation of the right to freedom of speech. That is why this poses grave concern. Nonetheless, the administration is trying to instill some sort of legitimacy into its policy, based on cooked-up, unreliable figures. How absurd!

We should though take Lee`s allegation at face value. Even under this scenario, Minister Lee has to make the comparison with the "big three" in broadcasting networks. KBS, SBS and MBC take 85% of the industry`s total gross revenue. In addition, the size of the "newspaper market" is not comparable at all with that of the "media market." If Minister Lee and the Roh administration are really worrying about monopolization of public opinion caused by the monopolized market structure, they should look at the broadcasting industry first.

Also in doubt is whether application of antitrust laws is reasonable and possible at all for the newspaper industry. Newspapers are not products like refrigerators or washing machines. For this reason, we have come to the conclusion that Minister Lee`s announcement is an expression of the Roh administration`s hostility towards a few certain newspaper companies.

Minister Lee also promises to create a government fund, which is earmarked as aid to the culture industry, into fostering a joint newspaper-distribution system. This is hardly understandable, either. What correlation does newspaper distribution have with advances in the culture industry? Furthermore, we cannot help but wonder whether Minister Lee really believes his "legal sense" is acceptable to any ordinary person of common sense or logic.

When Minister Lee was a movie director, he was an avid advocate for freedom of speech. Now, he is spearheading “anti-freedom of speech” moves in the Roh administration. We are devastated. We sincerely hope and urge Minister Lee to stop his anti-cultural, truly reckless experiment with the press.