Tuesday, November 30, 2010

All The News That Is News

... or even not really.

Koreans, whatever else you may say about them, are readers. Every time I go to the bookstore here, I am amazed at how crowded it is. It's like a Jeff Foxworthy book-signing event back home on a daily basis. You might not be a redneck if ... you own more than five books that don't have pictures.

Korea has hundreds of publishing houses to serve its fifty million people (and it's not all TOEFL prep titles, either) and a long list of daily and weekly newspapers, including at least three with a larger readership in Korea than the NYT has in America. Walk past any subway entrance at peak hours and you will find several stands with free newspapers.

Not that the content is necessarily stellar, as you can see from the Daily Mail/New York Sun stylings of the Korea Times, above.

I happened to notice in the subway Saturday morning that five of the people standing in my immediate vicinity were reading books--fiction books, not textbooks or language primers. Of course, almost everyone else was playing a video game or watching a DMB TV.

Anyway, the paps, as those of us who have seen Disney's [insert adjective here] 1992 musical Newsies invariably call them. Or the Fourth Estate, as those of us present in the British House of Commons in 1787 when Edmund Burke used it to refer to the opening up of the House to "press reporting".

The news media in Korea is still in it's toddlerhood, roughly equivalent to a really strong US comprehensive high school's newspaper: slick graphics that somehow don't quite get their point across; in-depth reporting of the latest successes and scandals of the current pop culture icons; interminable "he said-she said" political coverage; grossly unfair treatment of voiceless minorities; rumor reported as truth; sophomoric editorializing on world events of importance; and rah-rah coverage of local sports figures who've hit the Big Time.

Things aren't much better back home these days, I must say ...

Found here


Foreigner Joy said...

I think there are a lot of people at bookstores here, not because this culture loves to read, but because there are just a lot of people in Seoul. Everywhere you go there are a lot of people. Maybe they all do like to read, but something tells me PC Bangs and TV have the upper hand.

Adam said...

I'm glad to hear there are readers in this country. Out in the countryside where I live there are only a few bookstores, and I hardly ever seen magazines in convenient stores. The new gym that I joined has provided every exercise machine with its own TV, complete with USB and head phone jacks, but no rack to rest a book or magazine on. Not that anyone's complaining—until yesterday I had never seen another person try to read there.

Charles Montgomery said...


Interestingly, when I interviewed Professor Bruce Fulton, he talked about a recent study in which Korea came in dead last (out of 30 nations) in total reading time per citizen per week. Korea was at three hours, the US at six, and India was number one (but I don't remember the hours).

That contradicts my experience, which is like yours, of seeing readers all over the place in public.