Moon, Thurman, Gaga
The three persons in the title of this column were given front-page treatment in our newspaper recently. I believe I owe our readers some explanation as to why The Korea Times put Moon Dae-sung the plagiarist as the lead story twice; printed the mug shot of USFK Commander Gen. James Thurman under the headline, “Bullying the press,” and chose Giorgio Armani’s provocative sketch of Lady Gaga, inviting her to speak out regarding the restrictions slapped on her concert.
About Moon, the Korean member of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), there were two factors to consider. First, it had to do with Moon’s human rights. He copied somebody else’s thesis to gain a Ph.D. If he didn’t run and win in the 19th National Assembly general elections, he might have lived without the controversy. We know much of that controversy is politically motivated by the opposition, who successfully deprived the ruling party of its expected majority status in the 300-seat parliament by making Moon quit.
Moon may feel like a scapegoat, like he’s being singled out from a group of speeding drivers and got the only ticket. In other words, everybody is aware of how prevalent plagiarism is in academia and the rest of society and the randomness by which Moon is made to suffer embarrassment and sacrifice his career.
Secondly, Moon is one of Korea’s two incumbent IOC members, a very influential post that could promote our national interest in world sports politics. Thus, we as the English-language newspaper were in a dilemma over how to cover Moon’s plight. As a matter of fact, when we broke the story about the IOC’s decision to investigate the Moon case, we felt heavy-hearted rather than happy.
But we gave it a go, the rationale being that The Korea Times serves the best interests of all our readers by giving the full story, honed and accurate to the best of our ability. That is the principle by which we dealt with the Moon case but while sharing some of the same fear as readers about where it will take us.
Regarding Gen. Thurman, we want to say that we don’t have a special agenda against American soldiers in Korea. Rather, we appreciate their help in defending our country at the sacrifice of tens of thousands of their young men and women during the 1950-1953 Korean War. Our sincere hope is that the two allies will charter a future maintaining mutual interest.
For that, it is imperative that the USFK should take communication with the host country seriously and the latest run-in with The Korea Times illustrates it doesn’t. The role of the press is that it reports as it sees it, not catering to somebody’s special interests.
Ask Ben Franklin. A long time ago he wrote, “This Nurse of Arts, Freedom’s Fence; To chain, is Treason against Sense,” or look up the U.S. Constitution.
Telling the press what to write and denying access when it doesn’t follow the order is a direct rebuttal of the American principle on the freedom of press, which is now cherished worldwide. I know that the mistake was made at a working level but the responsibility for that mistake should fall on the highest level. It is also a chance for the general to show how he takes the relationship with the host country at this critical juncture so seriously. Nobody would take the general’s apology as an act of surrender or humiliation.
Last but not least, using Gaga’s sketch for Tuesday’s edition was controversial even inside the newsroom.
Some argued that a picture should be used rather than the drawing, depicting the Lady wearing a costume with a guitar motif. Never has such a provocative attempt been made before.
In a way, I took it as a sort of healthy chemical reaction between conservatism and progressivism. In other words, holding on to the proven idea is not a bad idea but lacks the chance to progress, while striving for a change often comes at the risk of failure. Personally, I want to take the chance and see how far we can go, an urge that I hope will be moderated through dialogue with my staff.
As for why I made her story the front-page lead, I think Gaga is an icon that well represents the age in which we live. Beef strips or a blown-up condom are costumes that she wore not just a part of noise-marketing tactics but a declaration of independence by freeing our libido that is tightly bound at the core of our self and giving us a long-awaited, well-deserved vicarious orgasm.
Thus, I can’t bear her wearing a poker face and keeping mum.
One editor jokingly said that her name Gaga sounds like “go away, go away,” in Korean and is being made fun of by elementary school students for shooing away children from what they should not see in reference to the government’s decision to bar those aged 18 and under from her concert.
Her gig involves a great deal of preparation, finances and people but refraining from speaking out for the fear of trouble should not be her element. If she needs a cause to speak out, it is about a big government that acts as if it were the only adult around, telling us what to see and what not to see.
“Lady, say freedom!”