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Reporters Uncensored

Reporters Uncensored

Posted: October 6, 2009 04:33 PM

The Average Cho

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By Matt Ferrero

I recently joined RUTV correspondent Dominique Mosbergen on a tour through the streets of New York's Koreatown. Our goal was to document public opinion on North Korea's human rights crisis and nuclear weapons program from the people we thought would have the most to say. While we found no end of sympathy for the plight of the North Korean people, I was surprised to find a lack of real insight into North Korean politics. The average Cho, it seemed, had little more to say than anyone else.

This estrangement between Korean Americans - virtually all of whom came here from South Korea- and North Koreans touches on an interesting problem. In 2000 the leaders of both countries met to draft a historic resolution. As quickly as possible, they stated, they would work to reunite the Korean Nation. To do so will require far more than political reconciliation. It also means tearing down a cultural barrier that's been growing for more than sixty years. An entire generation has passed since the Korean Demilitarized Zone cut off civilian interaction, leaving family ties all but severed. As I saw in the detachment of those we interviewed, this barrier stands a chance of forever erasing thousands of years of shared history.

Not far away, the People's Republic of China recently organized perhaps the grandest news release in history. Columns of tanks and intercontinental missiles joined 5,000 troops on a march through Beijing to celebrate the country's 60th anniversary. The message was clear: they intend to become a serious player in world politics, and their newly revamped military makes this more feasible than ever. But to really become the leader it sees itself as, the world's new great PR organizer still has much to make up for in journalistic freedom.

Of the 173 countries ranked by Reporters Without Borders, China comes in at 167 in terms of press freedom. A year after the Beijing Olympics, dozens of political dissenters remain imprisoned for attempting to use the games as a platform to protest. The Electronic Great Wall has also never been higher. In preparation for the anniversary parade, the Chinese government has tightened restrictions on access to Xinjiang-based Uyghur-language sites thought to promote the Uyghur separatist movement. Social-networking sites like Twitter, Youtube and Facebook are also more difficult than ever to access.

As long as China maintains such an oppressive press environment, no amount of military hardware is going to convince us that it's a fully modern power. Instead of soldiers, I suggest they march legions of freed journalists. The parade might be nearly as large, and it would send the message the world really wants to hear.

Go to to see clips from the interviews.


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