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Hurting national interests?

July 19,2019
The 2017 film “The Post” portrayed the true story of journalists of at the Washington Post trying to publish classified documents about the 30-year involvement of the U.S. government in the Vietnam War. The documents depicted an entirely different side of the war to suggest the U.S. government had lied to its people to justify the cause of its engagement. The government tried to stop the publication on the grounds that it would hurt national interests and sought a court injunction to keep the government secrets under wraps by accusing the publishers of treason. The Washington Post and The New York Times appeared in front of the Supreme Court to plead their First Amendment rights and all national papers picked up their story while the top court ruled in favor of the papers. As a result, Americans increased their trust in the press.

During a recent briefing, Blue House spokeswoman Ko Min-jung criticized the JoongAng Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo for damaging national interests with their critical coverage of the Moon Jae-in administration’s response to the Korea-Japan conflict. “The papers must answer what really helps the country and people,” she said, claiming that their reports circulating in Japan can play “unfavorably” to the people and country. Another Blue House official also pleaded the papers to have “national interests” in mind in their reporting. Cho Kuk, the senior presidential secretary on civil affairs, posted the Japanese versions of articles from the two papers on his Facebook page and said the headlines were “betraying” the country.

Ko and Cho referred to a column published in the JoongAng Ilbo titled “Shamefully Anti-Japan” that criticized the government’s overly emotional anti-Japan approach. The column, published two months before Tokyo’s announcement of export curbs on Korea-bound shipments of key materials for chipmaking, argued that no matter how much Koreans may not like Japan, they must accept the facts. The Japanese version translated the title as “Outright Anti-Japanese Policy in Korea.” The Blue House aides said the column was misleading. Does that mean articles critical of the Moon administration cannot be translated into Japanese?

Ko seems to believe that the press must stay patriotic during times of crisis. This perspective is perplexing. Is she saying that only the Blue House has the right to determine what is good for the country?

JoongAng Ilbo, July 18, Page 30