Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The Inaugural: In The (Korean) News

I stayed up until about 3 AM last night, that's 1 PM or so EST, to watch the Inauguration on CNN. Well, to be perfectly honest, mainly I wanted to hear the phrase former President George W Bush. Mission Accomplished [smirk].

I have three theories about Dick Cheney in the wheelchair:
1) Yes, he injured his back moving boxes--but they were full of official documents he is taking to an undisclosed location;
2) He couldn't stand the idea of rising when these America-hating Democrats took their oaths--the only thing he wanted to lift was his middle finger;
3) He just hates trying to find a parking spot near The Mall.

The Korean media coverage of the Obama Inaugural was ... interesting. The Korea Herald simply provided the prepared text of the speech along with the first in what promises to be a series of analysis features on what his presidency will mean to Korea and the wider world. The feature is adorned with this peculiar montage image:

Image from Korea Herald
At least the Herald provides the text of the speech. The English version of Dong-A Ilbo does a piecemeal analysis under the headline Obama's Presidency Sets Sail in which the they apparently did a double-Babelfish: translation into Korean, then translating the resulting text back into English. The "quotes" produced simply do not appear in the text of the speech:
Obama said, “I will renew U.S. leadership through integrated power combining close relations with allies and diplomatic and military power.” ...
"We have a tougher time ahead of us, but we can definitely overcome it. Let us promise a new America by both the government and people doing all their responsibilities.”

Weird. The article ends with following incorrect factoid: "His administration has the highest approval rating in U.S. history of 78 percent."

The Korea Times' coverage is even stranger: the headline of their online story is: "Can Lee Become Great Persuader Like Obama?" While on the one hand praising Obama for condemning authoritarian governments that silence dissent, writer Choi Yearn-hong excoriates Korean citizens like Minerva (a blogger arrested for spreading rumors) and opposition lawmakers (who have shown their collective ass in recent legislative, um, maneuvers), for "irresponsible citizenship."

Choi argues that presidential power is "based on persuasive power. ... Obama has it. Not many presidents do." Out of order, he previously asked: "Could Lee become as persuasive as Obama? If Lee lacks his skill and power, let us help him acquire and wield such persuasive power."

Okay. But let us also call him to account when he doesn't persuade us. If *we* had done that in 2004, perhaps the world would be in a different place. A happy place. With licorice rainbows, and marshmallow teddy bears, and the Geneva Conventions.

Bonus Photograph: Cheonggye Stream. One of Lee Myung-bak's controversial projects when he was mayor of Seoul, this reconstructed canal is a popular landmark today.

Cheonggye Stream, a pet project of Mayor Lee

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