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[Opinion] Standing Up Against Japan

Posted December. 27, 2005 03:02,   


On August 9, 1936, Sohn Ki-jung won the gold medal in the marathon at the Berlin Olympics. Two days later, Dong-A Ilbo was the first to report the news. “Emotions, such emotions…A sea of excitement. Ancient Greece tore down ramparts and built new ones to welcome the victor of the marathon. Though our own ramparts may already be broken, we shall welcome back our warrior with new vigor and heart.”

That “new vigor and heart” was the will to stand up against Japan. Dong-A Ilbo published a picture of Sohn on August 25 that had a blacked-out Japanese flag on Sohn’s chest. Reporter Lee Gil-yong of Dong-A Ilbo’s sports department, artist Chung Jun Lee Sang-bum, and eight others were arrested as a result, and publication of the paper was suspended for almost a year.

“Dong-A Ilbo was established as a paper for the public. The atmosphere within Dong-A Ilbo that my colleagues and I felt was that running a picture with the Japanese flag would not be welcomed by the people of Chosun. That is why we erased the Japanese flag,” Lee Gil-yong told the Japanese investigators. The Japanese Government-General secret document writes, “Dong-A Ilbo incites the public. It has now become clear that the paper incites the public and has a latent thought that can burst out like an undesirable behavior of citizens at any opportunity.”

Some never stopped distorting and playing down the “Japanese flag deletion” incident, which became the greatest reporting scandal of Japanese colonial rule. Typical distortions were that it was Lee’s individual doing and not an anti-Japan struggle by Dong-A Ilbo or that other papers had erased the flag from photos before Dong-A Ilbo did. The recently found memoir of Lee is enough to silence such claims. It was published in the “Newspaper Reporters’ Note” from Modern Publishing in 1948.

In the memoir, Lee recalls, “Erasing the Japanese flag was a usual thing at Dong-A Ilbo…The Japanese flag would be at the center of pictures from building completion ceremonies, and the paper would delete the flags all the time.” This means that besides Sohn Ki-jung’s photo, there were many other cases of deleting the Japanese flag, which is a testament to Dong-A Ilbo’s anti-Japanese spirit and national consciousness. Yesterday, the 17th Lee Gil-yong Sports Reporter Awards were held in his honor.

Hong Chan-sik, Editorial Writer, chansik@donga.com