South Korean President Park Geun-hye recently completed a week-long official visit to Western Europe on a political mission to forge economic and financial partnerships with Belgium, France and the UK.
But some facts, you wouldn't know from Korean media coverage.
Korean net users have bashed pro-government major newspapers for inundating their pages with lavish praise for the president's fashion sense and language skills while distorting the truth and filtering out some major talking points.
“When Park stepped into Buckingham palace, the rain stopped and the sun shone [ko]”. “The world was mesmerized by the president's traditional Korean fashion [ko]”. “Park delivered an opening speech in French, received a standing ovation for her fluent French‘ [ko]…
These are just few examples of actual headlines Korean media printed while covering Park's visit. Media critics even published a lengthy compilation of Korean media's praises [ko]. And it was nearly impossible to find any negative commentary, especially from the three biggest conservative newspapers in the country, which are notorious for being in agreement with almost every major issue backed by right-wing governments.
To South Koreans, this kind of coverage shares hallmarks of the country's dictatorship in the 1970s and 80s, considered the darkest era of journalism when the current president’s father ruled the country with iron fist and infamous military dictator Chun Doo-hwan brutally clamped down on democratic movements. Back in Chun’s era, primetime TV news always began the broadcast with a heaping of praise for Chun [ko] as the first news item.
Park's trip-up, embargoed
On November 6 during Park's visit, as she was exiting a car, she fell because she stepped on the tail of her long, traditional Korean dress. But only on the night of November 7 were Koreans able to read about this on Korean news as the presidential house had placed an embargo on local press and asked that they not write about the fall [ko] until foreign media covered it.
Many net users seems perplexed, even shocked at the incident:
“철퍼덕!!” 박근혜 각하께서 영국방문중 오체투지를 제대로 하는 장면. 이래서 청와대가 외신이 나오기전에는 보도하지 말아달라는 얘기까지 나왔군요. http://t.co/jtB4xStK9t 절대왕정 시대도 아니고 알아서 기는 언론도 문제네요.
— 백찬홍 (@mindgood) November 7, 2013
Fell with a splash! This is a scene of Your Highness Park Geun-hye falling down during her visit to UK. The presidential house asked to hold off writing about it till the foreign press reported on this. Come on, we are not living in an absolute monarchy. The media who voluntarily caved to this are quite problematic.
바뀐애가 꽈당한게 우스운거보다 그걸 통제한 청와대 그리고 그걸 받아들인 언론사가 더 우스운거다.
— 네모속에 세상보기 (@photo_jjang) November 7, 2013
What is funnier than Park’s fall? It is hilarious that the presidential house blocked press from reporting on this and that the press accepted such request.
The real reason for a standing ovation
Numerous media outlets reported that Park spoke in French during her visit to France and received a standing ovation. But they didn't explain what was her speech about:
박통이 프랑스에서 프랑스어로 연설하여 호평을 받았다는 국내언론들의 민망한 칭찬릴레이에 빠진 내용이 있으니 연설에서 가장 큰 박수를 받은 대목이 “외국기업에게 (한국) 공공시장을 개방할 예정이다..”
— 평생어린왕자 (@romanticbabo) November 5, 2013
Local media have showered the president with positive coverage that she got a standing ovation by speaking in French. But this fact they missed out: the part where she got the most applause is when she said she will open up the Korean public sector market to foreign companies.
Similar comments lamented:
@ksi0601 올랑드가 원하는 건 ‘시장’뿐이다[…] 박근혜의 연설에 기립박수를 친건 당연한 것이었다. 하지만, 이런 사실을 알리는 언론이 대한민국에는 없었다.
@ksi0601 What [French President Francois] Hollande wanted was the market […] It is so obvious why they gave a standing ovation to Park Geun-hye’s speech. But there was no Korean media who reported this fact.
박근혜 프랑스 영국 방문 소식을 타전하는 국내 언론은 찬양 일색이지만 정작 해당 국가 언론들은 국가기관 대선개입과 독재자 딸인 보도 외에는 이렇다할 보도가 없다는 현지 교민들 소식이다. 낯 부끄럽기 짝이 없는 기자와 찌라시들 부끄럽지도 않느냐?
— 무지개 승리! (@badromance65) November 8, 2013
Korean media unanimously praised Park’s visit to France and UK, however Koreans living in those countries said their media don't even report much, except the fact that she is a dictator’s daughter and the Korean spy agency’s interference in the presidential election. Shame on you — you [Korean] journalists and tabloids who don't even feel shame.
Threatening Korean protesters in Paris
During Park's visits to France and the UK, Koreans living in those countries held candlelight vigils denouncing the state spy agency's meddling in the latest presidential election — an election that made Park the president today:
— Seoul Village (@theseoulvillage) November 3, 2013
이시작현지 영국런던 웨스트민스터앞에서 영국한인 교포촛불시위 피켓팅모습~지금런던~ pic.twitter.com/GYjM4pPKP1
— sung.deuk. kim(시국선언) (@kimsd534) November 5, 2013
Right now, Koreans living in the UK, holding signs, are holding a candlelight vigil. We are now in London.
오늘 런던에서 박통환영촛불행사가… pic.twitter.com/fbZC7vJ08i
— 이수희 (@osatsuma) November 4, 2013
Today in London, a candlelight event was held to welcome President Park.
However, ruling party lawmaker Kim Jin-Tae, who accompanied Park on her European tour, posted a threatening message on his Facebook page [ko], saying “Paris protesters will pay for this”, suggesting that the protesters are from the leftist party, and adding that “anyone whose blood didn't boil upon seeing those protesters must not be a Korean”.
Enraged by this insult, the protesters demanded that Kim apologize [ko]. Net users chimed in:
“파리에서 대선 부정 시위한 사람들, 그 대가를 톡톡히 치르게 하겠다”는 조폭 김진태가 큰일했군요. 프랑스 언론에 “한국은 민주주의가 아주 잘 작동되는 나라”라고 말한 박근혜를 단숨에 거짓말쟁이로 만들었습니다. http://t.co/roqxfnSU6w
— 샤우트 #바보가꿈꾸는세상 (@187Centi) November 8, 2013
That thug Kim Jin-Tae made quite a scene by saying “those people who protested in Paris against the election fraud, I will made them pay”. By saying so, he has instantly made Park — who publicly said that “democracy runs smoothly in South Korea” — a liar.
새누리 김진태 의원 덕에 국내 언론이 보도 안해서 잘 모르던, 대통령의 프랑스 방문시 있었던 <파리 시위>가 널리 알려지고 있다.
— 딴지아빠 (@ddanziabba) November 8, 2013
Thanks to [ruling party] Saenuri’s politician Kim Jin-Tae, more people are learning about the Paris protests, which were held during Park’s visit to Paris. These protests have been rarely reported by Korean media.