I went to university back in the 80s. The 80s were dark times. When people from my generation look at today’s university students, we’re really jealous on one hand. They’re a lot more carefree than we are. When I was in university, times were dark and depression, and we had a lot of issues to worry about.
When I went to university- you know that metal sculpture in the front of Seoul National University? to the left of that we, the students would walk in single file, and to the right, you know who would enter the campus? The police. In front of Seoul National University is the largest police station in Asia. The station is about 1.5, 2 kms to the school and there would be a line of policemen extending from the station all the way to the front gate of the school in the morning, where they would enter with the students. How many police men would enter? A minimum of 1000 policemen, every day.
The campus was filled with police. Every bench was occupied with a police man. Every spot of grass where students could sit down was in hearing range of a police man. Because of this, you couldn’t smile at school. If you smiled, you either had mental issues, or you has NO thoughts whatsoever to the situation around you.
This is a time when we felt that every phone inside the school was bugged. We knew every room was bugged too. So when we communicated in our rooms, we hardly ever talked. If it was important, we wrote it down. What did we do with the papers that we wrote things down on? We burned them.
Participating in a protest once for us was something that could get you killed. So we had to be really careful when spreading the news about a protest. You NEVER passed on information about a protest by phone. What would happen is you would walk through the grass fields, and an upperclassmen would, from behind, start walking next to you, and as they walk side by side with you, without looking at you, they’d say “month, day, time” and the second you heard that your heart would start racing. You feel like you’ve become a independence fighter. And because of that idealism, you’d end up going to the protest despite how dangerous it was.
Later on, if you guys study Communications, publication, sociology, history, or political science, you’ll be granted access to historical archives of the newspapers of the 1980s and of before, during Park’s dictatorship or Chun’s. Back then, there were the 4 major papers since it was before the creation of the Hangyureh, but the 4 papers were the Chosun, the Donga, the Joongang, and the Hanguk were the 4 major papers.
In that era, all 4 papers would be the same. If you looked at the front page, every newspaper, everyday would be the same. There would be a picture in the upper left or in the upper center. What picture? Park Chunghwee’s picture, or Chun Duhwan’s picture. Doesn’t it sound like I’m talking about North Korea right now?
Even the titles of articles were the same. How do newspapers produce articles with the same titles? Do all reporters think as one?
The secret was revealed, how that was possible.
One of my upperclassmen became a reporter. He was a person who believed that he could instill justice in society through the pen. So he dreamed of writing of what’s right, and so he dreamed of becoming a reporter, and eventually became a reporter.
He became a reporter, but they had him writing fiction novels.
When Chun DuHwan was in power, go read the Chosun Daily. Notice how they praise, almost worship Chun. Those apathetic bastards. I have never heard about these people apologizing. I haven’t heard of them kneeling in front of the Korean masses and apologizing for what they did. That newspaper still remains today.
This is the newspaper that, during the Gwangju massacre, called the people protesting for democracy as “thugs under the control of North Korean agents” and called it the Gwangju riots, I haven’t heard of the people responsible for this ever apologizing.
Anyways, my upperclassmen who became a reporter, he would ask the other reporters with more experience who were older than him if they became a reporter to be doing this shit, is this what a reporter should be doing? And every single one of them told him he was too naive and he was too young.
Back then there was a government ministry called the Ministry of Culture and Public Relations, and inside this ministry was the department of Public Relations and Advertisement. Every day, this department would fax something to every major newspaper’s editing office. The title of this fax was “Government Order on Reporting”.
The things that were on the order were things such as "do not ever write an article on x", number 2, "when writing an article about a certain topic, do not ever use a certain phrase in the title", number 3, "when writing an article about a certain topic, make sure to use the specified phrase in the title", and finally number 4, "limit the length of an article to a specific number of lines of print".
The measurement in Korea back in the days was dan. Now, all the newspapers are read horizontally, but back in the 80s, you would read the newspaper vertically, from top to bottom, and then left to write. A dan represented a vertical length. It still remains to this day, as a front page of a newspaper, disregarding the margins, is 13 dan from top to bottom. This order would tell the newspapers to only reserve 1 dan for a certain story, or 5 dans for another story.
So if a story is 1 dan, would the story’s importance be emphasized or not? Of course not, the importance of the story would be presented as being very small. If the story covers a whole 5 dans, more than 1/3 of the front page, the story becomes larger, more discussed, seemingly more important. If a story was as large as 8 dans, it’s top news. But hardly any stories went up to 8 dans and even a story that’s 5 dans was big news.
What’s funny is that no matter how trivial something is, if you give it 5 dans of newspaper coverage on the front page, it seems like a dire matter. Inversely, if you take a very important topic and only give it 1 dan of coverage on the front page, the story feels trivial or it isn’t even seen.
This is the basics of media manipulation.
And then enters the TV. How do you manipulate the TV news to emphasize importance? What is the basic of TV news media manipulation?
The order the stories are presented in.
The first story presented is the story the broadcasting center chose as the most important. We too perceive the first story as the most important.
Do you understand?
So back in the days of Park and Chun, it was the government who was deciding this, up to the mid 80s. It helped that there was a government official in every editing office. Members of the Korean CIA would be in the editing office and oversee the newspapers and news shows and reporters.
And that’s why you got the same newspaper everyday.
My upperclassmen who became a reporter took the report orders and copied them and kept them. He kept them and archived them, and eventually he had a press conference.
A reporter opening a press conference.
At this press conference, he didn’t call any Korean reporters. Why? Because if he called Korean reporters, Korean CIA agents came with them. So at this press conference he only called foreign press groups. Reuters, AF press, the AP. These are the groups he called.
Calling in these foreign press groups, he leaked the report orders and explained ”here is a dictatorship which manipulates the media like this”. He leaked the secret to the whole world.
In Korea, we call this the Report Order Incident.
What do you think happened to him? He went to jail. He was fired from his job and then taken to jail. Do you know what they charged him with? Releasing national secrets.
Do you think it was easy for him to become a whistleblower? It probably wasn’t. He would have known that he was going to be taken to jail, right? He knew that he was going to be fired.
But it wasn’t just being fired and being imprisoned. Back then they would torture you. There are people who are disabled today because of the injuries they sustained being beaten and tortured. There are people who died during the torture that they would inflict on prisoners. Do you think he wasn’t afraid of the torture? He probably had the shit beaten out of him. Was he not scared of it?
He probably thought of a lot of things. Does me doing this change the world in the slightest way? Does me doing this alone cause any change in the world? Don’t you think he asked himself these questions?
When this happened, he had just married. Do you think he wasn’t worried for his wife?
Mengzi said, 2300 years ago, to call what is right, right, sometimes you must have the courage to risk your life to do it. To call something wrong, wrong, you have to risk your means of surviving disappearing. And because of that fear, in the face of power, we have a hard time saying what is right is right, and what is wrong is wrong.