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[Opinion] Reporters of the Revolution

Posted February. 05, 2007 03:00,   


“Economic growth leads to democracy.” This phrase, showing the relationship between economy and democratization from U.S. political sociologist Seymour Martin Lipset in 1959, was considered an established theory for a fairly long time. The democratization of Korea and the Philippines is a good example. It is expected that China, too, will become a democratic nation thanks to its educated middle-class expansion and economic boom. The “sunshine policy” that encourages South Korea’s generous attitude toward North Korea can trace its origins back to this theory as well.

However, “Success depends on situation” is another phrase of Lipset’s, who passed away on December 31. This phrase didn’t get as much attention. Despite of 30 years of economic reform, China seems ready to lead the “Beijing model” in which people can live well in a nation without democratic politics.

Does dictatorship evolve along with the development of knowledge? “Strategic coordination” that suppresses political opposition without affecting citizens’ lives and economy has now emerged. Foreign Affairs, a U.S. political affairs magazine, said suppression on freedom of the press is the “first coordination.”

China and North Korea ranked 163rd and last (168th), respectively, in the 2006 World Press Freedom Index by Reporters Sans Frontiers (RSF). Finland, which is renowned for transparency and high competitiveness, was ranked first and despotic nations such as Myanmar and Cuba came in at the bottom of the list. Korea placed 31st, but the annual report, which was released on February 2, is dismal.

That says that the Constitutional Court ruled the Newspaper Law against press freedom unconstitutional, and that this was a defeat for President Roh Moo-hyun, who tried to control the newspaper market. President Roh said a few days ago, “I’m worried if reporters are really ready to study.”

Just then, the North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) broadcasted reporters fancying themselves as trumpeters of a “military-first revolution,” pledging allegiance to leadership the day before yesterday. It showed images of reporters making pledges that they would do their best as trumpeters of a “military-first” revolution, commemorating the fourth anniversary of Kim Jong Il’s announcement of the phrase saying, “Journalists should become military–first revolutionary fighters upholding the party with revolutionary writing.”

I wonder if President Roh attacks the press because he is displeased about the press refusing to become trumpeters of his supporters’ revolution.

Kim Sun-deok, Editorial Writer, yuri@donga.com