Now and then I like to peruse the pages of one of our local free Korean-language rags (yes, London has quite a few of these already, perhaps three, maybe even four). To be absolutely honest, the thing I like about them most, and probably the reason I pick one up at all from the Korean supermarket, is the pages and pages of colourful and rather mouthwatering adverts for Korean restaurants (in amongst all the ones for English schools, hairdressers and travel agents). As an aside, I was quite surprised to find an advert in the latest issue for a Korean-style Chinese restaurant called Chinggisû K’an (”런던 최고의 한국식 중국식당”), complete with rather unappetising looking picture of plates of Tangsuyuk and Map’a tubu and a wonderfully stereotyped cartoon Chinese man.
Where was I? Ah, the even more surprising find in this latest edition of Hanin News (linguistic question: why are Koreans always saram / 사람 in Korea but reduced to in / 인 when they live abroad?) was an article on George Galloway. I have to admit I have a close personal interest here as I campaigned for George’s recent election to the seat of Bethnal Green & Bow in London’s East End on an anti-war platform. Since his election victory against the Labour Party machine on May 5th, Galloway has become even more famous internationally by taking on the US Senate committee that had accused him of taking oil from Saddam Hussein, and by all accounts (even those written by his enemies) winning hands down. I’m always interested in how British politics is seen abroad and particularly the view of my homeland in Korea (well what there is of a view, beyond believing everyone here is a ‘gentleman’). But try as I might, I couldn’t find any reaction in the Korean press to Galloway’s victory or his performance at the US senate (I think there must have been something, but I’m not picking it up on my web radar - aka Google).
Anyway, the anonymous author of the piece in Hanin News (not online unfortunately) paints a very sympathetic picture of Galloway, focusing on the way in which he has been hounded and witchhunted by the British press for daring to stand up to the British state at a time of (illegal) war. The article is in a section called “Reading British Culture” (영국문화읽기) and it interests me that the author has chosen to use the example of Galloway and the treatment he has received as a way of understanding the conservative mainstream press in Britain. Very sensibly he (she?) reserves most fire for the Sun newspaper - possibly Murdoch’s most vicious, foul, disgusting, vitriolic, filthy far-right rag. And also, funnily enough, generally supportive of Tony Blair’s Labour government.
Some brief roughly-translated extracts:
In April 2003 the Sun newspaper attacked Galloway day after day calling him a traitor and printing a headline story “We’re proud to hate you George!” Observing the attitude of reports in the British press at the time, I couldn’t help but have my doubts about the democratic press.
The attitude of the Sun cannot be compared to any of the domestic [Korean] media, and even under the Yusin Constitution [Park Chung-hee’s dictatorial regime of the 1970s] media opinion did not take this sort of extreme and highly emotional attitude toward those who broke the [emergency] laws.
There is one other Korean I know of who has taken an interest in the story of George Galloway - Pak Noja, who wrote a Hankyoreh column a couple of years ago on him, during the height of the anti-war movement. If I manage to find a link to that piece, I’ll post it, but right now I’m too infuriated with the Hankyoreh website to keep looking for it.