Friday, May 22, 2015

Under Coverage

Good to see, last Thursday, a legend for investigative reporters and whistle-blowers walk on the stage of the Seoul Digital Forum.




A movie was made about a key episode of Lowell Bergman's professional life: in 'The Insider' (1999), Bergman (Al Pacino) helps Dr. Jeffrey Wigand (Russel Crowe) expose the big tobacco imposture, before exposing himself attempts by his employer (CBS) to bury the story. In the end, truth and journalism triumph because Bergman breaks the 'every journo for himself' rule by sharing his story with competitors.

Thursday at the DDP, I couldn't help but feel sad, thinking how badly this region needs people like Bergman. Last year, I did watch, on the same stage, a Korean take at investigative journalism*, but Newstapa remains a bit too much data-centric and politically biased. To be fair, South Korean media are so overwhelmingly conservative and reluctant to mention certain issues, that liberal sources such as Hankyoreh or Newstapa tend to over-dramatize their own reporting.

Since it's hard to break truly valuable stories in a corrupt system**, some manage to emerge through netizen spheres... when they are not drowned in an ocean of hoaxes and wild rumors.

It speaks volumes that South Korea ranks now as the 'least bad' nation in the Press Freedom Index for a region where everybody regressed over the past few years (RSF 2015 vs 2010***):
  • South Korea 60th (42nd in 2010, -18)
  • Japan 61st (11th, -50)
  • Russia 152nd (140th, -12)
  • China 176th (171th, -5)
  • North Korea 179th (177th, always second to last - Eritrea)
No need to comment on Kim Jong-un's North Korea, Putin's Russia, or even Xi Jinping's China, where hopes for change were short-lived, and censorship gets more pervasive by the day.

What strikes most - but certainly doesn't come as a surprise to us - is Japan's skydive from the 11th to the 61st position.

Shinzo Abe's attacks on press freedom, intensified after his outrageous State Secrecy Law, are seldom mentioned in Japan's mainstream media, and no one dare denounce them, except foreign correspondents that take the risk of being shunned by the government. Among the few local voices, Shigeaki Koga could only make himself be heard at the Foreign Correspondents' Club, or last week in the New York Times ("The Threat to Press Freedom in Japan" (Shigeaki Koga - NYT 20150520). Most Japanese citizens are kept in the dark, and obviously the "Effort by Japan to Stifle News Media Is Working" (Martin Fackler - 20150426).

To make things worse, the only significant media that (barely) challenged Abe's Nippon Kaigi-friendly agenda seems to have finally castrated itself. And since Fuji Media Holdings bought GPlus Media, I haven't read any significant story on that agenda in Japan Today (FMH also owns Sankei Shimbun...).



Censorship peaks at NHK following the nomination of a friend of Shinzo Abe at the helm of the broadcaster

Hopefully, Japanese citizens remain uncomfortable with Abe's attack on their peaceful constitution. But for how long? Public opinions are changing quickly, and the government fuels fear and hatred with some success... and what to say of America's failure to assist a Japan in danger (see ""History is harsh" and other sick jokes")?


Speaking of the devil, the US themselves are not on a very positive trend at the Press Freedom Index (from 20th to 49th between 2010 and 2015). The UK? Nothing to be proud either (from 19th to 34th). And if my home country France went up a bit (from 44th to 38th), it's bound to crash next year following the Charlie Hebdo massacre or the controversial 'Projet de Loi Relatif au Renseignement' it triggered.

But who am I to judge anyway? Do I need to remind you that my lousy blogs have been labeled Weapons of Mass Disinformation since 2003?

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* "Truth, Lies and Data" - Kwon Hyejin, Newstapa - SDF2014 - data and investigative journalism
** see also "Korea's media malaise" (John Power, Groove Magazine 20141103)
*** out of 178 countries in 2010, 180 in 2015
**** see "'Comfort Women': No Resolution Without Resoluteness. From Everyone, Please."


--- UPDATE 20150528 ---

This, from Human Rights Watch (about the National Security Act, a cold-war relic) : "South Korea: Cold War Relic Law Criminalizes Criticism".

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Seoul Station 7017 blooms into Seoul Arboretum

ICYMI, the results for the Seoul Station 7017 / Seoul Skyway / Seoul Highline competition (among 7 architects invited) were announced yesterday: Dutch architect Winy MAAS (MVRDV*) won with this 'Seoul Arboretum', JOH Sung-yong and CHO Minsuk completing the podium.


And ICYM my previous posts related to this project:
- "Seoul Station Elevated Park (Seoul Station Project 7017? The Seoul Vine?) - An Update
- "Diagonal crossings, High Lines, and Business Verticals (how pedestrians and businesses remodel Seoul... and vice-versa)
- note that Seoul city dumped its temporary URL (seoul.go.kr/story2015/skyway) for ss7017.org (like in OSS 117 Seoul: nest of magpies?)

twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/598392986897002496
twitter.com/theseoulvillage/status/598392986897002496

Note that Seoul city had postponed its decision, initially planned for the 8th, to the 13th, and organized in between (the 10th) another event for all citizens to enjoy the overpass without traffic, this time over a picnic:



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* yes, the MVRDV who conceived that 9/11-ish "Cloud" for the Yongsan IBD (reminder: the whole IBD project collapsed, but things are moving again around the garrison):


Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Tear down that tax office

Seoul will destroy a 87 year old building as part of the 70th anniversary of the Liberation. It doesn't seem to be a major asset of the colonial heritage, and hosted the Namdaemun annex of the national tax services - an administration that moved to Sejong City a while ago. A section shall remain as a 'memorial wall'. Seoul citizens, among which a little bit more than 9% were born before the Liberation, are invited to share their own take at 'My Liberation'.

Tearing down a place associated with the Japanese rule and the IRS is likely to appeal to primal instincts among some voters, and that's certainly not the spirit of revenge we want Korea to display for this minefield of an anniversary, unless the aim is to further alienate the public opinion in Japan, and fuel Shinzo Abe's imposture.

That said, this section of Sejong-daero (between Sejong-daero 19 and 21-gil) could look a lot better without it: everybody on the boulevard will enjoy the view on "Seoul-upon-Han and Yeongguk-dong", and not just the occasional (sorry James) rare glimpse at the Anglican Cathedral.

On this view, you can see from left to right the trees lining the Deoksugung, the Cathedral, the old building to be destroyed, the Seoul Metropolitan Council (and its tower), and the side of the Koreana Hotel. Across the street: City Hall, old and new.



As far as former Empires are concerned, the United Kingdom may lose even more than Japan: the end of ye olde quiet days, plus a direct view on the ugliest side of "Seoul Tsunami City Hall, The Other Korean Wave".

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NB: in 1995, for the 50th anniversary of the Liberation, the Japanese Government Building destroying the Bukhansan-Gyeongbokgung-Gwanghwamun perspective was taken down. This tax office somehow obliterates the view to the Deoksugung.

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