Updated June. 11, 2009 08:28
The financially troubled dailies Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang Shinmun have proactively backed the advertising boycott led by the Korea Press Consumerism Organization, inviting criticism that they have given up their role as objective media.
The Hankyoreh ran Tuesday the article Pharmaceutical Company to Become 1st Target of Ad Boycott, which mentioned the name of a product targeted by the boycott. The progressive daily said the consumerism organization will continue its boycott campaign until the company either stops advertising on major newspapers or also runs ads on the Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang.
In response, a representative of the company said, The newspaper introduced the ad boycott campaign of the Korea Press Consumerism Organization, and even mentioned the name of our company and product. This is no different from forcing our management not to run ads on major newspapers.
We will definitely be affected by the campaign since our products are bought by a wide range of consumers.
Kyunghyang also released self-contradictory articles on the organizations leader Kim Seong-gyun. The dailys Feb. 24 article titled Destroyed Consumerism said, Kim introduced himself as an average citizen who used to run a publishing company a year ago. But on March 21, 2006, it released a different story. An article titled Kim Seong-gyun Releases Korean Recipe for Longevity said Kim was the first editor of Minju Gwangjang (Democratic Square), the organ of Korea Universitys College of Law in 1987.
After releasing an article titled Were They Occupational Forces or Liberation Forces? he was found guilty of violating the National Security Act and incarcerated.
Kims wife is also a Kyunghyang reporter, fueling criticism that the organizations ad boycott campaign has wrong intentions.
Criticism within the organization is growing over its aid to certain left-wing newspapers, including the Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang, to gain more ad revenues. One netizen said, Is the ad boycott campaign designed to help the Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang Shinmun attract more ads?
Another wrote, Are Korea Press Consumerism Organization members the sales representatives of the Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang Shinmun?
A Web user dubbed Fountain of Grace said, Whats the difference between communism and democracy? As a person living in a democratic nation that recognizes private property, I believe corporations should have the right to decide where to run their ads.
Others say the boycott campaign is backed by certain dailies. The consumerism organization categorizes the Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang as orthodox media and encourages its members and general public to subscribe to them.
The organization even created a bulletin board encouraging visitors to read four orthodox weekly magazines and support the organization on its Web site. A sponsorship system even solicits donations.
If members subscribe to the magazines Sisa In, Hankyoreh 21, Weekly Kyunghyang and Media Today and inform the magazines that they are members of the organization, part of their subscription fees is transferred to the organization.
The Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang are also alleged to have run ads solicited by the organization. Hanyang University journalism professor Ahn Dong-geun said, The Hankyoreh and Kyunghyang Shinmun might explain that they just run ads at the request of advertisers, but should also understand that running the ads is unfair if they take a closer look at the process and result.
Chung-Ang University law professor Lee Sang-don on his homepage said, Everybody knows that the two newspapers are having financial difficulty. But they could gain more attention if they officially say they do not welcome forcefully solicited ads.