Behind the glitter of Korea’s economic success story lies a land of fault lines and social strife. Regionalism and factionalism are defining aspects of Korea’s politics and social fabric, while the rights of workers and minorities are sacrificed in the name of economic efficiency and social conformity. The media cannot report freely, foreign journalists and scholars are under pressure to spin a positive image of Korea abroad, and Koreans themselves live in fear of repression should they express ideas their government does not share.
This rather grim portrayal of South Korea is what you may be tempted to take away from KoreaExpose.com. According to its founder and editor-in-chief, Dr. Se-Woong Koo, Korea Exposé is dedicated to covering topics that do not receive enough attention from both South Korean and foreign media. As he argues, reporting about poverty, discrimination and disenfranchisement isn’t compatible with the image South Korea wants to broadcast to the world.
We talked to Dr. Koo about his plans for Korea Exposé, the media’s failure to cover difficult and often controversial topics, and some of the injustices Korea suffers from.
After receiving his PhD in Religious Studies from Stanford University, Dr. Koo was a Korea Foundation postdoctoral fellow at the School for Advanced Studies in the Social Sciences in Paris and taught Korean studies at Stanford, Yale and Ewha Womans University. His writings have been featured in numerous publications, including Foreign Policy and The New York Times.
One could say Korea has already done quite well, it’s time to think about other matters, more pressing issues, like inequality, like the concentration of power in the elite, the fact that there are two sets of laws – one for the rich and one for the not. […] Until Korea becomes number one, we can have no national conversation about any kind of reform. […] The economy is really an excuse to suppress dissent.
The interview was conducted on February 13th in Seoul.