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New Publications Spring Up to Explore S. Korean Press Freedom

May 04, 1988|SAM JAMESON | Times Staff Writer

"We are determined to approach government officials . . . even if the (reporters' club) system isn't abolished," Im said.

Hankyoreh will begin publishing a morning newspaper with 400,000 circulation--about two-thirds that of the respected Dong-A Ilbo--six days a week. With eight pages, it will have only half the space of established newspapers. But it hopes to expand to 16 pages by the summer, after winning stockholders' approval for a capital increase needed to buy more equipment, Im said.

"Ours will be a newspaper without any ideology, neither pro-government nor anti-government" Im declared. "It will be produced by the staff associated with no political party, no religious group, nor any business interest."

In contrast to its policy on new newspapers, the government is biding its time on broadcasting. Culture Ministry officials, who asked not to be identified, said only that a decision on a new broadcasting structure--including implementation of a new law to preclude government intervention--is expected "within this year."

Journalists say television news enjoys less freedom than the print media. But even such rebels as Choi Yong Ik, a reporter for Munhwa Broadcasting Corp. (MBC), one of the two national, government-owned television networks, said he is now far more optimistic about fair and accurate reporting than he was last summer, immediately after Roh's promises of reform.

Fairness Watchdogs

"I had no idea that things would be this different," he said.

Choi led a movement that launched a reporters' labor union at MBC last December to act as a watchdog of the fairness and accuracy of reporting. Now, one radio network and six newspapers have such unions, he said.

Kim Sang Ki, an MBC assistant city news editor, said the government has not abandoned an idea that "some guidance is necessary for TV." Nonetheless, he added, "tremendous change" has occurred since Feb. 25, when Chun left office.

Television coverage of last December's presidential election, Kim admitted, was biased, as many critics have charged.

"But there is a world of difference between the Fifth Republic (under Chun) and the Sixth Republic (of Roh)," Kim said, adding that "things have changed and are still changing."

The Western diplomat, while agreeing that television is "much better" now, said that news is "still visually slanted" in favor of the government.

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