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Analyst Sees Internet Portal News Bias

Posted June. 08, 2006 03:01,   


Internet portal sites lacked equity in reporting political issues in the run-up to the May 31 local elections, said Liberty Union (President Shin Ji-ho, adjunct professor of Sogang University) on June 7 after it monitored the sites.

This came after the union monitored five major portal news sites – Naver, Daum, Yahoo, Nate, and Paran – four times a day (10:00 a.m., 2:00 p.m., 6:00 p.m., and 10:00 p.m.) from May 16 to May 30.

According to the analysis of Liberty Union, while almost every news outlet in Korea reported on the visit to South Korea (May 16-17) by the father of Megumi Yokota, a Japanese citizen who was kidnapped to North Korea, the five major web portal sites did not report the issue on their main page, news home, and popular news article list.

Major dailies and Yonhap News gave a great deal of space from May 18 to May 24 to the news that the committee on doubtful deaths in the military barracks employed the brother of Kim Dae-up, who raised questions about the military record of Lee Hoi-chang, the presidential candidate of the Grand National Party in 2002. Yet the five major web sites did not cover the news on their main page and news home.

There were no negative news articles about Kang Kum-sil, mayoral candidate for Seoul of the Uri Party, on these portal sites. From May 28 to May 30, Kang’s 72-hour non-stop election campaigning dominated the main pages of all portal sites, except Naver, said Liberty Union.

In contrast, regarding Oh Se-hoon, Seoul mayoral candidate of the GNP, mostly negative news articles were posted on Yahoo and Daum with “Luxury Health Club” on May 18 and on Daum with “Kang, Never Leave Seoul to Oh Who Lacks Philosophy” on May 26.

“Thirty to 70 percent of articles of portal web sites are the ones provided by major dailies. They just change the titles. They edit articles to use reports from news outlets that fit their own political stance, but they do not assume social responsibility as the press,” said Liberty Union.

“We need to come up with regulations to keep the Internet portal sites in check, since they effectively function as powerful news outlet. Comprehensive measures are necessary like structural improvement to make Internet portal sites follow the directions of the Ministry of Information and Communications,” said Kim Hye-joon, policy director of Liberty Union.

“Possible solutions are preventing changes of titles and providing only titles of news articles, thereby sending Internet users who click the articles to the homepages of original news outlets.”

“Sometimes we cut short the titles because they are too long, but we never change the titles. We are following the conditions and terms of the contract about contents,” said Lee Sang-hoon of Naver’s PR team. “We have our own editing rules and try to keep articles unbiased,” added Lee.

Sung-Won Park swpark@donga.com zozo@donga.com