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Thursday, April 01, 2004

Progressive clashes (turn against Chosun Ilbo)

I've been for a longer time following the writings of Jin Jung-gwon (진중권), an aesthetics major who dropped out of a PhD program of a German university, and who at first made fame with the book Ne mudôme ch'imûl paet'ûma, a satirical intake on Park Chung-hee nostalgia and rightists. (The book title is a twist of Cho Gab-je's bibliography of Park Chung-hee.)
Sometimes I wonder if he could be called the Christopher Hitchens of Korea, but I'm not sure, since he seems to be firmly placed in the left, and in an apparently healthy fashion. (List of his books at Kyobo Bookstore.)

Jin writes a lot in the net, at the moment at Jinbonuri, which is a news and discussion site for "critical supporters of the Democratic Labor Party". He was one of the original figures in the anti-Chosun Ilbo campaign, but has since distanced himself from it as it has become largely a government support organization. As he is very critical of the Roh's government, he is in bad terms with Ohmynews, with which he's been exchanging jabs every now and then (especially now), and burned bridges with Hankyoreh as well.
What gets him into controversy and makes him the target of wrath especially among Roh supporters is his refusal not to write and say things that can be utilized by entities such as Chosun Ilbo.
For example after the 2002 naval clash (yes, that was the KDJ era), he was very active in proving that the so-called Yôngp'yôn ch'onggak, a netboard figure, who claimed that the Southern crab fishing boats had been regularly catching crab on the northern side of the sea demarcation line, was not telling the truth.
Lately his sayings about persons and newsmedia uncritical to the government have been reported twice in Chosun, and this to raises the ire of many the so-called reformists. (He no way agrees with the idea that the Roh government was progressive; no talk of Roh being "leftist" heard...) Here Chosun uses his Jinbonuri posting pointing out the partiality of an MBC media program, and again here's Digital Chosun's use of his lecture at SNU, from which Chosun picked up the words "오마이뉴스는 열린우리당이 만든 '파시스트' 언론집단" ("Ohmynews is a 'fascist' news organization created by the Uri Party.") Not likely to raise much sympathy in certain circles.

The problem with those who regard themselves progressives is that they don't seem to dare say things like "progressives should not let only Chosun Ilbo talk about the DPRK human rights" for the fear of getting into the pages of Chosun; what makes Jin's progressive rants interesting and funny to read is his courage to say things like this, besides his satirical and entertaining style.

Update: Hankyoreh has a Yonhap story of the response to Chosun's report of Jin's lecture. Chosun is said to have distorted the contents of the lecture, and also the lecturer Jin himself says that he never pointed out Ohmynews as a "fascist media organization" (당파적 저널리즘과 파시즘적 방식의 문제점을 지적하기는 했으나 오마이뉴스를 `파시스트 언론집단'이라고 지칭하지는 않았다). Now both the head (chief editor?) of Ohmynews and Jin are considering legal action against Chosun. The official position of Ohmynews to Chosun's article is here.
Jin Jung-gwon's message to Chosun's reporter here: "나는 조선일보가 사라지는 것을 원하지 않습니다. 오마이뉴스가 사라지는 것도 원하지 않아요. 내가 원하는 것은 단 하나, 언론보도에서 조선스러움과 오마이스러움이 함께 사라지는 것입니다."

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