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[Opinion] Nihon Shinbun Kyokai Criticizes Roh

Posted June. 23, 2007 04:33,   


I met with Japanese economic and political figures at a Korea-Japan cultural exchange ceremony held in Tokyo in 2004. All through the dinner, the main topic of conversation was the Roh Moo-hyun regime that had been established a year ago, but the Japanese people there avoided revealing any direct reactions at the time. They were behaving like diplomats, unwilling to speak about the political status of the country where they were residing in.

Books that analyze Japanese society, including “Cbrysantbemum and the Sword,” mention the fact that the Japanese rarely disclose what they have in mind, but observing their patience face to face was an amazing experience.

Nihon Shinbun Kyokai (NSK, aka The Japan Newspaper Publishers and Editors Association) showed its formal reaction to what Director Kim Chang-ho of the Government Information Agency said on May 22, that “Among developed nations, Japan has the least developed journalism system.” NSK, whose members included 139 newspaper companies, broadcasting companies and news agencies, accepted an interview request from a Korean newspaper on June 19 and disclosed its uneasy feelings, saying, “Whatever the intention, we’d like him to know that Japanese journalists do not carry out fact-finding activities only through the press club (press room).” The NSK also criticized the Korean government’s action to merge and abolish press rooms. About President Roh, it said, “He’s unique.” Considering it is a Japanese association, its reaction is a very strong objection.

The press club system was established in Japan in the 1890s. Bureaucrats demanded that newspaper articles be written as the government wanted. Journalists reacted by setting up press clubs in order hear responses from bureaucrats. The relevant law of Japan stipulates that, “The press club is a facility that the state must set up in order to fulfill national tasks.” The NSK defines a press club as “a place where pressure is put on public institutions that are passive about opening information.” The press clubs of Japan are places where journalists oversee government bodies in place of the people.

The comment by Director Kim gained attention in press circles in Japan in a negative way. In other words, he injured the grace and status of the Korean government. He turned his focus to the U.S. and came up with an “extraordinary” interpretation that the press rooms of the U.S. do not correspond to the Korean ones, but that is not true either. The press rooms of the U.S., like the Korean ones, also have spaces for transferring articles. Words that disparage or distort other countries, however sweet they might sound to the president, will have a negative impact on Korea’s image.

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