OK - I've been out of things for a little, partially because I forgot to pay my Typepad bill on time, and partially because I've been kinda keeping a low profile since the launch. The media frenzy has been crazy, and besides an SBS interview that I gave because SBS is the network doing the publicity for this whole project (and presumably predisposed to not putting Soyeon in a bad light), I wanted to say what I wanted in a controlled fashion (Ohmynews articles and the videos) and stay out of things. As this site's regular readers know, I have a strong allergy to the Korean media, and I've almost never been in a Korean news media piece without misquotes, gross factual errors, or extreme reality distortion.
Here are links to what I wrote up about her on Ohmynews.com, where I've been working with a very good editor whom I met and trust to do a good job. I've not always been friends with Ohmynews, but so far, our work together has been great. Here are the two articles:
"소연아, 한국 여자의 힘을 보여줘!" ("Soyeon! Show the Power of Korean Women!", in which I wrote a public "personal message" of good luck to Soyeon and told her that she didn't need the "good luck" and "safe journey" wishes as much as being told to simply enjoy the hell out of the trip, since it it's going to be the kickass ride of a lifetime. I basically just said, "Have fun" and see you on Earth. It also contained the 3rd video in the series I made.)
이소연씨 인터뷰 두 편을 소개합니다 ("An Introduction to Two Videos about Yi Soyeon" was an article about the first two videos I made as well as the backstory behind how and why they were made.)
I felt that these were the best way to get the videos wider exposure, and that they would be a valuable addition to the mostly PR fluff being produced about her. One of the original hopes with these videos was to point out the somewhat obvious point that SBS should have thought ahead to do pre-interviews with all of the candidates, that it would show the power of new media to bring the real, frank story to the fore in a way the stiff Korean news media can't seem to, and to also show Soyeon's true personality and get her more grassroots support in the public as a way to help tip the scales in Soyeon's favor at final candidate selection time.
I don't know if I accomplished any of those goals, but I do think the interviews are fascinating materials, and capture a side of her that will inevitably be gone once she returns to Earth as Korea's superstar and national hero. I think her status as a woman, as a qualified and capable women, will give this entire propaganda exercise the crucial PR value and power that will raise it above the status of hackneyed flag waving and ham-handed science education boosterism.
This is because had it been Ko San who'd gone up, it would have been the same old story, the standard plot, the expected narrative; given the fact that the entire ceremony in City Hall was ludicrously corny, with the President of South Korea entering the stage flanked by girls in short miniskirts and appearance by the pop group Girls' Generation, the plastic tackiness of the entire space project seemed to come to the fore. The narrative would have read, "Korea sends man into space. Ho hum. And in other news..."
But somehow, Soyeon's story seems to better resonate with people who know Korean culture, who know how serious gender discrimination is here, and who also know how blatantly many men still defend their right to judge even the most capable woman by the shape of her face or curves of the ass -- her story and the fact that she has received constant criticism for not being an anorexic supermodel who covers her mouth when she giggles and walks pigeon-toed in 4-inch heels has become very, very interesting.
And then came the irony of Ko San shooting himself in the foot while conducting what most reasonable people assume to have been a really incompetent attempt at industrial espionage and the resultant switch in chairs -- that was like the other team going up for the decisive slam dunk during the final seconds of the game...and then biffing it! Suddenly, the space program story had our (my) attention again and the underdog had gotten the ball, alley-ooped it across the court, and swished it, to everyone's surprise and amazement.
Yeah, people say that this is because I'm Soyeon's friend, but I would have thought the same thing had I been just another viewer of the vids and not their creator; I like to root for the underdog, especially when said underdog looks like the more interesting choice. In a way, had Soyeon been the chosen candidate up front, I'm sure many netizens would have grumbled about "women being too powerful" and "discrimination against men." I'm absolutely sure that discourse would have popped out; but with Ko San having done himself in, and seemingly at the behest of the government/corporate spooks that define the worst of Korean corporate/national culture, it was just perfect. Absolutely perfect.
I don't think this whole thing could have gone down any better than it did.
One thing, though. DongA.com did an article that essentially used quotes from the first videos as making up about half the article. You don't even have to speak Korean to see how much these quotes make up the article. Yet, not only did they not attribute the quotes properly and specifically, like any article should when taking specific quotes from a clearly defined source, the article opens with "Yi Soyeon wants to make a lot of money and buy her mom a house!"
Now, not only was that taken out of context (since it was said half-jokingly and along with the more serious statement that she would give money to her school and help support scientific research), without a link to the video in question (which, as a UCC, is openly available, and as a source for nearly half the article, should have been linked to so that readers could see it for themselves), one might actually forget the very important fact that this was said back when she had made the final 30 candidates, well before she had actually assumed any responsibilities as either one of the two final candidates or before going into space.
At the time, we were sitting in a coffee shop in Shinchon and just having a chat about the interesting fact that she had even made it this far. Important to note in the video is the fact that she really only wanted to make it as far as getting the free trip to Russia before being cut -- one could not even try to claim that she was in the mindset of a final candidate and that she was "in it for the money." She was just talking and joking a bit about the future -- a future that was more than two years away and one which I am sure she could barely even imagine as coming true. Really, who could have?
In any case, the main problem here is that this article is based on a video interviews that are not explicitly shown or even referenced. The name of the video wasn't given, nor was the name of the interviewer (me), nor even the title of the interview itself.
If this isn't close to plagiarism, or copyright violation, I don't know what is. Technically, the piece mentioned that it was from "a UCC made by Soyeon's friend," but that's not enough. I'm not concerned about getting my name out there and getting fame and fortune off of this. Sure, I would like publicity for the video magazine SeoulGlow, even though it has become a back burner project; one of the reasons for doing the interview was based on the "what if" nature of the whole thing. We both joked during the interview that she'd promote my site and hook me up if she actually made it. That was then.
Now, I scarcely expect that Soyeon will look into the camera on the ISS and say, "Go to www.seoulglow.com! That's S-E-O-U-L-G-L-O-W-dot.com!" In the end, it's just about as ludicrous to say that Soyeon went through the grueling selection process as a "UCC publicity stunt" as to say that she did it to "buy her mom a house." But hey, she said it in the video, right? Two years before the fact and well before any of this had become a reality, she said it, right? Soyeon's in space to promote a web site she barely knew about and to buy her mom a fat crib. Riiiight.
I just think credit should be given where it is due. If I write a book and you lift quotes from it left and right, the author's name and title are expected. If one makes a movie, credits are crucial. What is different about this situation? This is intellectual property, and one of the bases of intellectual property law is the assumption that if you can't guarantee ownership of the work, if you can't even be guaranteed to be recognized for works done, then it decreases the motivation to create such works. Didn't the author learn this in journalism school?
I wrote a letter to Yang Hyeong-mo, the author of the Donga.com piece in question, addressing these points. Here's the reply I received, which was apologetic, acknowledged the mistake, and agreed to update the information to link back to the original video so that any reader could see the context of the quotes and authorship of the work is clear and obvious again:
우선 죄송하다는 사죄의 말씀부터 드립니다.
지적하신 부분은 모두 옳습니다. 제 불찰이었습니다.
한국의 첫 우주인 이소연씨에 대해 저 역시 크게 감동하였고, 좋은 기사를 쓰려는 의욕에서 나온 불찰이었습니다.
다른 신문들과 차별화된 기사를 쓰기 위해 이소연씨의 '솔직하고 인간적인 면'을 쓰려고 했는데 본의 아니게 일이 흘러가게 되어 저도 크게 당황하고 있습니다.
특히 인터뷰 기사 중 CF에 관련된 부분에 대하여 네티즌들의 안티적인 반응을 보고는 너무 당혹스럽습니다. 제 의도는 전혀 그런 것이 아니었는데요.
소스를 밝히지 않은 점 역시 깊이 사죄드립니다. 미처 생각하지 못한 제 불찰이 크다고 느끼고 있습니다.
소스를 정확히 알려주시면 정정기사에 내도록 하겠습니다. 인터넷은 바로 수정하도록 하겠습니다.
다시 한번 송구하다는 말씀을 드립니다.
Now, that's all well and good, except for the fact that I sent a reply letter that continues to be blocked by the spam filter, no one at the editorial desk has ever picked up the phone at the number I was given initially (02-2020-1200), and the number at which I was told "someone will definitely pick up" (02-6749-2000), no one has. I called the DongA.com main line (02-360-0400) four times, the first three of which were cut short by someone picking up the phone and only to immediately hang it up, and on the fourth time, exasperatedly took my call. Here's the letter, which I don't know if the reporter ever got. I was polite and gracious, and have been waiting for something to be done:
빨리 답장을 해주시니까 감사합니다.
그 것은 제가 만든 SeoulGlow.com이란 서울에 대한 비디오 잡지인데 제 이름은 Michael Hurt이고요. 그리고 만약에 원본 (movie file)들이 원하신다면 (사이트에 올리게) 드릴 수 있어요. 제 알기로는 온라이 신문들이 남의 UCC사이트에서 올리기 싫은 거랍니다. 남의 광고에 들어가니까요. 근데 MNCast의 걸로 올리고 싶다면 상관 없습니다. 제가 봤을 때는 직접 그 UCC에서 많은 말이 나왔는데 링크나 그 UCC 직접 넣는 건 당연하다고 생각했거든요. 물론 기사의 넣는 건 기자님의 선택인데요. 그냥 attribution만 원핬습니다.
우리 UCC하는 사람들이 (특히 미국에) 돈 버는 것아니라서 attribution이나 recognition만 바라는 겁니다. 그리고 아시다시피 미국언론이랑 blog community랑 UCC community랑 아주 친한 사이 있거든요. Blog들이 온라인 신문의 가자들의 홍보를 엄청 많이 하니까요. 그래서 뭐 NYT이나 한상 기사의 끝에 "in the blogs" 그런 비슷한 링크를 잘 제공해주고 Digg, Facebook, MySpace의 추천 기능도 해주는 겁니다.
일단 제가 한국에서는 아직도 blog/UCC는 일반언론하고 사이 친하지 않는 건 알고 있습니다. 그리고 많은 blog/UCC 하는 한국사람들이 아직도 표절/copyright 위반을 많이 하는 건. 그래도 제 video magazine그리고 다른 web project들이 미국식으로 완전한 professional하게 진행하려고 하는데 (바른 온라인 매거진/비디오 매거진으로서) 아직도 한국언론한테 UCC community가 인정 많이 못 받았으니까 이렇게 민감하게 됐습니다.
제 말씀 그리고 어색한 한국말을 이해하셨으면 좋겠습니다.
So far, it's been impossible to get through to these people, due to lazy phone skills, overzealous spam filters, and a seeming desire to hope this problem will somehow fade away by itself.
Is this the behavior of a major Korean newspaper? Is this the level of Korean journalism? Where are the corrections? Why is the story still unchanged, unaltered, even after the reporter said in an email that he would correct the problem?
I can't get through to them, no one answers the phone, and I think I'm being given the runaround. So I write this to document this and to also pressure DongA.com to get its act together.
I want the source in the article clearly attributed and a correction printed. Since I can't send them an email, nor will anyone take my calls, perhaps they'll see this link in the referral statistics and see it there. And I am going to propose to Ohmynews.com translating a condensed version of this post into Korean as a piece of media criticism and an attempt to deal with some of the silly stuff being said in an interview two years prior to anyone even imagining who Korea's first astronaut would be -- including Soyeon herself.
From a long time spent in Korea, I've learned that nothing gets done to rectify inconvenient truths or errors unless somebody makes a public stink about it -- until someone starts yelling and acting indignant, nothing gets fixed.
So, until something is done, DongA.com, it's ON.