THE WEEK CLOSES.
WHAT’S GOING ON?
Government vacancies remain and prosecution against key figures in a cronyism scandal continue as the week comes to a close. President Park Geun-hye remains an unpopular figure with the general population, with increasingly large rallies demanding her resignation and Gallup Korea polls showing her approval ratings at 5% – the lowest rating since South Korea had become a democracy. The effects of Trump’s presidential election elicit differing opinions and changes in political tides.
- Following President Park Geun-hye’s withdrawal from the Asia-Pacific Leaders’ Meeting in Peru, many Korean newspapers reported that the disgraced president was losing authority diplomatically as well. However, Chosun Ilbo published an article that suggested Park, Blue House officials and pro-Park lawmakers are now recovering confidence following the phone call with Donald Trump from two days ago. The article mentioned Trump and Kazakh autocrat Nursultan Nazarbayev, both of whom were severely criticised by the media and shunned by the public. By mentioning other politicians who have overcome serious scandals, Chosun Ilbo raises the question of whether or not Park Geun-hye can join their ranks and survive South Korea’s current political situation. The photograph included in the article shows a smiling Park Geun-hye with Nursultan Nazarbayev during a welcoming ceremony, further emphasising Park’s regained confidence.
- But not hours later, Chosun Ilbo publishes another feature that quotes opposing political party leader Ahn Cheol-soo on the phone call exchanged between Park Geun-hye and Donald Trump. Ahn is reported to have claimed that “Donald Trump does not acknowledge Park as Korea’s leader” and continues to push for Park to step down, despite his party’s previous uncertainty to officially demand Park’s resignation. The article also reports that Ahn is collecting signatures in petition for Park’s resignation, an idea popular with the mass public. By reporting this in the same article as his reported statements on Trump’s relationship with SK’s president, I believe Chosun Ilbo is pushing out Ahn in a positive light. As Ahn is a possible presidential candidate popular, his statements and further actions could influence his popularity in the future and according to this report, his sentiments are in sync with the public’s.
- A day prior to the posting of the aforementioned articles, Chosun Ilbo had published an editorial urging the Korean people to reconsider their defenses. The title reads: “Is Korea Ready to Fend for Itself?” By insinuating that South Korea had not been defending itself up to this moment, the editorial jabs at South Korea’s nationalistic pride – an attempt to rile people into action. The editorial goes on to list threats Trump had made during his campaign, one of the most sensitive being the threat to withdraw American military presence in South Korea unless Korea begins to pay for the security services. The editorial insists that South Korea is, in fact, shouldering costs of almost $1 billion. This is a sentiment shared by the nation, denied by Trump supporters and ultimately reaffirms a nationalistic attitude. Chosun Ilbo’s statement is clear: Park Geun-hye has little to be optimistic about.
- Dailymail currently boasts the greatest net readership among UK newspapers and one look at this article will explain why. “One million protesters take to the streets to call on the South Korean president to stand down over scandal involving shadowy female aide with links to a ‘shamanistic cult’,” reads the overstuffed article title, a decision based on Daily Mail readers’ tendency to skim through the home page until a provocative title manages to catch their attention. The article makes use of photographs and an embedded video, all of which emphasise the sheer mass of people that came out to protest and reinforce the clickbait title. Also employed in this article are a handful of vox pops that all seem to echo the same idea: Park Geun-hye needs to step down.
New York Times
- The story of the mass rally had been reported by many major foreign outlets in addition to a majority of domestic news outlets. The New York Times also hopped the bandwagon and reported the rally, but immediately, differences between the New York Times’ article and Daily Mail’s are visible. While the Daily Mail article bragged of a one million person count at the rally, the New York Times’ title claimed “hundreds of thousands” had attended. This simultaneously reinforces Daily Mail’s tabloidist, clickbait reputation while reminding readers of the New York Times’ own professional, factual, and therefore trustworthy prestige. This article reports both organisers’ and police estimates of crowd size and chooses the latter to trust more. In comparison with the Daily Mail article, this one isn’t image-heavy. The New York Times keeps a generally clean and comfortable to read website style. The New York Times is also a newspaper that provides news by subscription and this exclusivity and independence is demonstrated in the link in the article that redirects readers to another New York Times feature with background information.
- A feature published a day before provides a more comprehensive coverage of South Korea’s political scandal. This article brings up specific examples of power abuse that likens President Park Geun-hye to her father, Park Chung-hee, who was a military dictator that was criticised for his authoritarian leadership and isolation from the public. A popular aspect of news coverage of the current cronyism crisis is the religious link between Choi Soon-sil and Park Geun-hye. This article also exploits this link, but not for the clickbait other news organisations have used it for. New York Times uses it to emphasise Choi’s control over Park and the resulting inability to trust but a few aides. Even prior to the eruption of the Choi-gate scandal, Park Geun-hye had been criticised for her detached and distrustful leadership style and New York Times guides reminds readers of this to provide a more extensive background and cause to the current scandal.