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Saturday, 13 September 2014

Korean Twisted Mass Media, Part IV: The Hankyoreh (100% Hangul-based newspaper in Horizontal Alignment)


The Hankyoreh (literally "The Korean Race", or "One Nation") is a daily newspaper in South Korea. The headquarters of the newspaper is located at 6 Hyochangmok Lane/Hyochangmok-gil, Gongdeok-dong 116-25 beonji, Seoul Mapo-gu with its postal code: 121-750.

The newspaper was originally established as Hankyoreh Shinmun (Hangul: 한겨레신문) on May 15, 1988 by ex-journalists from the Dong-a Ilbo and Chosun Ilbo after widespread purges forced out dissident journalists, and was envisioned as an alternative to existing newspapers, who were regarded as unduly influenced by the authoritarian government at the time. When it opened, it claimed to be "the first newspaper in the world truly independent of political power and large capital." At the time, government censors were in every newsroom, newspaper content was virtually dictated by the Ministry of Culture & Information, and newspapers had nearly the same articles on every page. 

Hankyoreh was intended to provide an independent, left-leaning, and nationalist alternative to mainstream newspapers regarded as blindly pro-business, pro-American, and opposed to national reunification. To underscore its patriotism and its break with tradition, the Hankyoreh became the first daily to completely reject the use of hanja and use only hangul; it continues to make only limited use of the Latin alphabet and limits the use loanwords. It was also the first newspaper in Korea to be printed horizontally instead of vertically. The newspaper has web edition in English.

On the conflictual nature of the territorial sovereignty of the Liancourt Rocks (Takeshima in Japanese; Dokdo in Korean), although exceeded by the Chosun Ilbo in its coverage, the Hankyoreh's coverage has been described in “A Comparative Analysis of News Coverage of Dokdo Island” by Yoon Youngchul and E Gwangho as reflecting the foreign policy interest of South Korea versus the U.S or Japan. In general, on issues pertaining to national sovereignty, the Hankyoreh's editorial stance can be seen as one issuing aggressive criticism on a government's undemocratic attitude or United States unilateral policy towards Korea, the Korean peninsula or elsewhere. Where the Hankyoreh has criticized the George W. Bush administration's foreign policies on numerous occasions, it has tended to be favorable on the Obama administration's foreign policies on North Korea. On the domestic front, Hankyoreh has been mischaracterized as opposed to big business, and has been cited as working to correct that image of being “nationalist, anti-American and anti-corporate.” The Hankyoreh does not negate the philosophy of the free market economy, individual liberty and personal freedom, and has been critical of Korean big business and conglomerates that overwhelm the market, the Korean university entrance system, widening income disparities in Korean society, and the rapid opening and globalization of the Korean economy, while maintaining a generally favorable attitude towards organized labor, trade protectionism and the redistribution of income.

Other legacies of its early dissident history include a strong emphasis on human rights in South Korea, a position it continues to hold today together with several international organizations have criticized South Korea for its retreat in democracy, human rights and press freedom. The Hankyoreh's advocacy of human rights also extends to North Koreans and tends to support normalization of relations with the U.S. and have been critical of approaches towards improving the situation by encouraging system collapse such as the Lefkowitz approach and absorption by South Korea or by encouraging defections.

The Hankyoreh opposes censorship and wiretapping and encourages active debate on news that is circulated, and like many newspapers in South Korea, is opposed to circulation of graphic news content and took a strong stance in the instance of the video footage of Kim Sun-il's death in Iraq It strongly endorsed the 2008 "mad cow protests" as a victory for "substantive democracy" over merely "procedural democracy." It strongly encouraged coverage of the 2008 demonstrations and a greater understanding of "candlelight spirit" that academics are referring to as an emergence of a new social movement and form of democracy in South Korea that protests policy development on trade, liberalization of public education, the privatization of health, and the environmental consequences of a cross-country canal project without substantial public opinion gathering.

In line with the newspaper's nationalism and aspirations for reunification, its reporting of inter-Korean and East Asian affairs is based on its editorial policy seeking reconciliation, stability and peaceful co-prosperity through dialogue rather than pressure on government of North Korea. In terms of national affairs, Cheongwadae, Office of the President, studies on the editorial policies of South Korean newspapers have found that the "Hankyoreh Shinmun, which published its first issue early in the Roh Tae Woo administration, has shown little fluctuation from administration to administration. Hankyoreh also runs a "Hankyoreh Foundation for Reunification and Culture" as a forum for advocacy of peace and reunification on the Korean peninsula. Notwithstanding the newspaper's support for democracy, human rights, and free speech in South Korea, in June 2009, the Hankyoreh described the arrest and imprisonment of two US journalists in North Korea, condemned by Reporters Without Borders as a sham trial, as a "not entirely negative signal" of North Korea's openness to communicate.

In its business, Hankyoreh departed from established convention by relying more on sales, periodic private donation campaigns, and the sale of stock, rather than advertising from major corporations to sustain itself. The newspaper currently has more than 60,000 citizen shareholders, none of whom have a more than one percent share. Core shareholders include students, professors, lawyers, writers, dissidents, liberal, progressive urban industrial workers, and leftwing farmers. The company remains intentionally unlisted to avoid hostile takeover; it has also never shown three consecutive years of profit, one of the requirements for listing. Readership of the newspaper is evenly distributed between provinces and the major metropolitan areas, of which 63.2% were in their twenties and thirties, and 44.5% were college graduates. Hankyoreh's readership is mostly of low to middle class income.

Hankyoreh enjoys high popularity and prestige among graduates seeking employment, with over 8,000 applicants applying for 33 positions as of 2006. To some degree, prestige is its own reward for Hankyoreh's employees, as salaries are roughly half those of competing organizations. Management at the newspaper has been affected by factionalism since its inception, with all the members of the founders' committee having left, and with various divides between founders who came from the Chosun Ilbo and the Donga Ilbo, as well as provincial rivalries between Jeolla and Gyeongsang making themselves evident.

After two decades in print, Hankyoreh's subscriber base is still comparatively small. Its circulation of about 600,000 readers, puts it at one third the size of any of the three major dailies (the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, and Dong-a Ilbo), though still ahead of specialist economic dailies. It is the fourth largest newspaper in Korea.

The Hankyoreh has campaigned for higher standards of ethics in journalism since its founding and had initiated a campaign against journalists' taking bribes, which had been customary in the industry in South Korea until the late 1990s. As in the past, much of Hankyoreh's editorial content consists of strident criticism of the three major newspapers. It has also endorsed boycott campaigns of companies that advertise in its competitors.

In 2009, Hankyoreh joined Amnesty International, the Broadcaster Producers Association of Korea, and other civic groups airing concern atypical behavior by prosecutors in the detention Korean TV channel MBC journalists and the attack on press freedom in South Korea. Although there has been controversy over for distortions in MBC's reporting on US beef imports, acts of arresting journalists and continued persecution of the press has been a primary concern for the Hankyoreh and other international journalist organizations.