Friday, September 22, 2017

What the media miss about Korea!

A word of warning.  This is a long post with no graphics.
As a U.S. citizen who has long resided and worked in South Korea and as a long term student of the role of television and the media in international affairs and foreign policy, I can no longer stay silent about mainstream media coverage of affairs on the Korean peninsula.  The media, including television, the press, digital and social media have presented a picture of Korea that centers around North Korea’s nuclear and missile tests, the military confrontation on the peninsula, and the trading of insults via North Korean propaganda and the Twitter posts of President Donald Trump.
Looking back over recent decades at the U.S. Korea relationship, it is clear that there has been a failure of both the press and policy.  A long line of U.S. presidents, starting with Dwight Eisenhower, who was elected in 1952 on a pledge to end the Korean War have failed to achieve a peace treaty that would formally end that war here.  It is no exaggeration to suggest that the failure to address Korea’s division and the tense ceasefire and confrontation at the DMZ is one of the great policy failures of the 20th century, blame for which might be apportioned to the two Koreas and the surrounding big powers, China, Russia, Japan and the U.S.
The mainstream press has also failed.  My own research and that of others in the latter part of the 20th century documented a pattern of intermittent coverage of Korea by television and other mainstream media, focusing on the Korean peninsula mainly at times of crisis.   The picture or image of Korea that results tends to be superficial and seriously lacking in historical, political and cultural context.  In today’s hyper connected, digital era, this pattern appears to be only exacerbated.
To be specific, three topics deserve a great deal more attention when leaders and citizens around the world consider Korea today.   First, in just over four months, the Winter Olympics are scheduled to be held in Pyeongchang, a city in Gangweon Do, the only province in South Korea that is divided by the DMZ.  The legendary Diamond Mountain, site of North-South family reunions in years past, is in the northern half of the province.  Pyeongchang itself is only about 40 miles south of the DMZ.  Not coincidentally, some of the world’s most dense and advanced digital networks have been constructed in Pyeongchang and nearby venues as part of Korea’s plan to showcase next generation 5G networks along with some of the features of its nationwide Public Safety LTE network, schedule for completion by the end of 2018.   In another move that could hardly be sheer coincidence, North Korea’s young leader Kim Jong Un ordered construction of a “world class” ski resort near Masik Pass in the northern half of Gangweon Province.  In historical context, the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics will take place almost exactly three decades following the 1988 Seoul Olympics.  The Seoul Games were used very effectively to support the “Nordpolitik” of the South Korean government under President Roh Tae Woo.  China, the Soviet Union, Eastern European countries and Vietnam all participated, nearly signaling an end to South Korea’s long Cold War isolation from those nations.   The IOC and the South Korean government made strenuous efforts to involve North Korea, but to no avail.
Today, the government of President Moon Jae-In is working with the IOC in an effort to have North Korea participate in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, against the backdrop of global media attention to the nuclear, missile and military threat on the peninsula.  As this is written the sports minister of France publicly suggested that her country might skip the 2018 Winter Games if the security risk is too great.  With just over four months to go before the games, other nations are no doubt considering their options.
A second topic that receives scant attention in the mainstream media coverage of Korea these days is the impact that war on the peninsula might have on the global economy.  Following President Trump’s “fire and fury” comment about North Korea in August of this year, Fortune magazine and much of the business press took note that war in Korea could spark a global depression.  This possibility deserves more attention and in depth treatment, especially considering South Korea’s dominant position in global markets for semiconductors, displays of all types and sizes, and smart phones, key components of the emerging digital network ecosystem.
Finally, the division of Korea can only be understood if it is placed in historical context. Korea can rightly claim a history stretching for thousands of years as a unified nation state.  Consequently, the division after World War II which has lasted less than seven decades is clearly an aberration.  The vast majority of Koreans, South and North, most especially those many members of divided families, yearn for unification.  Here in the South, and I suspect in the North as well, most hope that unification will come peacefully.  During the ancient Olympic Games in Greece, a truce was announced before and during the games to ensure that the host city was not attacked and so that athletes and spectators could safely attend the games.  Perhaps the impending Pyeongchang Winter Olympics might provide an opportunity for an “Olympic truce” during which the heated media rhetoric might give way to solving the regional and indeed global crisis on the Korean peninsula.

No comments:

Post a Comment