Korea Conflict: Press Commentaries from All over the World (Podcast, Group 4)

We collected headlines and press commentaries from internationally relevant media sources such as CCN and BBC. We analyze and discuss them in the attached podcast.

  • Do international media reportings differ?
  • Are reportings objective or do they mirror the respective country’s major opinion?
  • Is reporting influenced by the background (history, politics, culture, etc.)?

Have fun listening to our podcast!

Current Press Commentaries Concerning the Korea Conflict from All over the World:

Das Gesprochene zum Mitlesen:

Alexander Pütsch:

“Hello and welcome to our Podcast!

Our group is composed of Anne, Alex, Christoph, Sheetos and me, Alex. As you might know, we are all going to pass our semester abroad in South Korea and -of course- our primary interest considering this podcast is South Korea. When we met and thought about the possibilities we have with this podcast, the question about our common knowledge came up. In order to provide some interesting news, stories, or facts to our listeners, we should pick up everyone at their point of knowledge they currently have, in order not to outpace anybody. So: What do you think? What does everybody know? Of course: North Korea and South Korea are in a conflict situation and the media constantly provides everybody probably all over the world with information. But have you ever thought about the possibility that these pieces of information are not from the same sources? Do you have ever considered that news reporting might depend on the point of view? Or that the very same piece of information may be provided differently in different countries? Another thing we all know very well from our day-to-day experience is, that providing information -even it has the same source of information- really depends on the point of view of the respective person.

Imagine: Thomas is a good friend of yours. You know each other for several years now and you know that sometimes he tends a bit to exaggerate things. You have another friend; Let us say her name is Jane. Jane normally does not exaggerate at all. Thomas and Jane know each other, too. Let us assume they both go to a party together and they experience the exact same things at the same party. Now, since Jane as well as Thomas are friends of yours, they both tell you about the party independently. What they do not tell you, is, that it is just their point of view. That is exactly the same thing you are thinking for yourself when you heard both stories that are completely different. While Thomas tells a story about his amazing experiences at a party with some beers, some chicks, Jane tells you how annoyed she was of the situation Thomas not talking to her but to some other girls and he was having too many beers and she just stood around and could not do anything more than watching him doing stuff she doesn’t like. So: What do you see? The exact same story told in two very different ways.

Let us come to the underlying question of our podcast. What do you think about the reported story? Is that something that only happens within your circle of friends or might it be possible that this phenomenon is something that happens in official news reporting as well? This was one of the introductory questions we posed to ourselves in the beginning. And because of the global perspective  of the ASBE program we decided to maximize possible differences of the point of view. And we took the decision to take advantage of the Internet and to analyze news from all over the world. Despite evaluating headlines and news from US-America, the UK, from Germany and from Russia as well as from Korea, we had the chance to make two interviews: The first one from a Swedish student studying currently in Korea -we gain a European point of view- furthermore, we also took the chance to interview a Korean girl in order to get a point of view from South Korea as a participating party in this conflict.

Well, as you all know our intentions considering the podcast now, we hope that you are having fun listening to our podcast and you are picking up some information you have not had before.

Christoph, please have the start.”


Christoph Kuhn:

“Now, we want to take a closer look on the American media coverage and how they portrayed the conflict between North and South Korea. To get a decent overview about the American media, we took following media sources into account: CNN, New York Times, Fox News.

Most of the German people think that American media is not really neutral and some sources even veil facts to influence the audience. This suspicion is only confirmed in some parts through our analysis. In most cases, the conflict was portrayed rather neutral and somehow objective.

Look at the CCN broadcast, for example, Jim Clancy, 29th of April 2013 (http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/21/world/asia/north-korea-diplomacy). Very formal languages is used and you get the impression that American media takes the conflict very serious. Biggest part of the media coverage of Fox News draws a similar picture. They also work with lots of facts and quotes and they try to avoid warmongering coverage.

But one aspect is characteristic for American news. They do not see the conflict as a conflict between North Korea and South Korea or between North Korea and the rest of the world. Media coverage put mainly emphasize on the conflict between North Korea and America itself. They acknowledge North Korea as big threat, but more for the United States than for the direct neighbor South Korea. That means that the media coverage is rather self-centered and maybe ethnocentric because they focus on danger for the United States and they see themselves as driving force to stop North Korea.

Only one aspect is often ridiculed in American media coverage: The North-Korean Leader Kim Jong-un. He is main protagonist in many political comics, for example in the New York Times, 21st of April 2013 (http://www.cnn.com/2013/04/21/world/asia/north-korea-diplomacy). This example shows Kim Jong-un in front of a mirror. He wears the uniform of the supreme leader but the size is much too big for him. Instead of wearing military medals, his uniform has a big Mickey Mouse button. Instead admitting that he is unable to cope with the current situation, he is saying that the uniform is a perfect fit for him.

Therefore, as a result you can see that American media coverage takes the conflict seriously but they follow a self-centered way of reporting. We expected them to use more direct words to criticize North Korea but they report rather formal. However, you have to consider that we only looked at the news, which are published in the Internet. It is possible that the news broadcast in television is more direct and provocative to gain the attention of the audience.”


Alexander Pütsch:

“Thank you Christoph.

Anne, what is next?”


Anne Wolff:

“Right now, we would like to present you how the British media saw and portrayed the conflict between North and South Korea. To assess their view more closely, we were looking at different types of news channels and papers, like BBC, the Times and the Sun.

In general, it can be said, that the conflict was portrayed with a very neutral and objective view. The BBC broadcast ‘The Korean crisis in 90 seconds’ concisely sums up the main points of the Korean conflict (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22020105).

The reporter used very formal language and no words that could indicate either a threatened or a reckless and oversimplified attitude towards the conflict.

In the beginning it is questioned whether the British should be worried, so their opinion is still somewhat indecisive. The facts of the missile tests in North Korea and the counter-reaction by the USA and South Korea as of enhanced military exercises were simply mentioned. In the end, the reporter is trying to seek answers to the question why Kim Jong-un behaves this way. It was mentioned that analysts estimate the chance of a nuclear attack as being very low. However, North Korea built long distance missiles capable of reaching the US. Therefore, the view is again balanced and neutral.

In a second news emission, the tendency of the British to make fun of serious conflicts is shown. They ridicule the physical appearance of Kim Jong-un, claiming he does not look like a serious political actor. Also, they think the way the North Korean soldiers are marching looks comical. On the other hand, they think the conflict also has to be taken serious and as a threat. Nevertheless, they assume Kim Jong-un would not start a war that he knows he will lose (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-22088274).

Kim Jong-un is further ridiculed in a different news emission, where he is compared to the wizard of Oz, because he still has to prove his power. However, instead of being old and thin, Kim Jong-un is described as an immature child who just looks for more money and rice and who has got a lot to proof to his followers.

The Sun, which is more informal, even goes further in articles like ‘Our Dear Leader a god? Oh, Kim off it!’, making fun of North Korean propaganda that portray Kim Jong-un as a god.

On the other hand, The Times, which has a conservative, center-right political orientation, sees the whole conflict very critical. Based on the facts and on the timeline of events, they see the possibility of nuclear war or at least a missile crisis as high. They in fact used very polarizing headlines like ‘Countdown to catastrophe’ (http://www.thesundaytimes.co.uk/sto/newsreview/features/article1230459.ece)

or ‘US radar in place as North Korea ‘moves missiles around’’ (http://www.thetimes.co.uk/tto/news/world/asia/article3736555.ece).

So, as a result, the seriousness regarding the assessment on the Korean conflict in the UK depends on the type of newspaper or news broadcast that one chooses to watch or read.”


Alexander Pütsch:

“Thank you Anne.

Sheetos, do you have another perspective?”



“To look at the issue from another standpoint, we will interview now Malvina, a Swedish exchange student in Seoul:
Hello Malvina!”




“How does it feel for you as an exchange student, living in Korea during this north-south conflict?”


“My professor asked me in the beginning of the semester: ‘How does it feel for you, as a European, to live in a country under nuclear threat?’ The question caught me a bit off guard since I have never lived in a country under any threat -I am from Sweden- but also because the threat seems very distant even here, thirty minutes from the border of North Korea. The crisis is not something you notice when walking down the crowded streets of Seoul. When talking about the tension with the two neighbors, South Koreans respond in a very relaxed manner: ‘North Korea would not actually do anything.” It is everyday life for the South Koreans who have technically been at war with their neighbors for sixty years. Sixty years with threats coming and going. For many, nothing is different about this round of war mongering.”


“Do you think that the point of view of the international students living in South Korea differ from the one of the South Korean students?”


“Though South Koreans are very calm about the situation, as a foreigner you are more sensitive. Locals tell you not to worry, but you have family and friends at home that are concerned. The contrast is huge on how we view the crisis. For instance, last week my professor asked again: ‘How does it feel for you, as a European, to live in a country under nuclear threat?’ A classmate responded that some students have actually gone home. My professor started laughing. The difference in perception of what is actually happening is huge. Watching the news about the nuclear threat and talking with Koreans about the conflict feels like day and night.”


“Considering the news, do you think that your own experiences differ or match with what we are reading in the headlines?”


“There is a difference of perception between what you read in the headlines and what analysts actually say about the crisis. In the media, the headlines paint a grim picture of the situation here on the Korean peninsula. Here are two examples quite representative of many of the headlines I encountered during the last couple of months; ‘North Korea Warns It Is on Brink of Nuclear War With South’ and ‘North Korea in ‘state of war’ with South’. As exaggerated as news outlets are, most analysts think that the possibility of war is very low. Disappointingly enough, their statements don not make it into the headlines. Expert comments regarding the unlikeliness of war get miniscule attention – maybe part of a sentence or, if lucky, a small paragraph. When I do find expert opinion in the news, it often contradicts the aggressive headlines. I have encountered general opinions from analysts such as; ‘[…]no analysts believe ‘Korean War II’ is imminent’  or ‘Professor Hurst acknowledges a certain amount of speculation and interpretation but feels certain North Korea has no intention of invading the south or starting a shooting war’. In short, there is a consensus among experts when they do get some space in television or newspapers. I rather listen those, who actually have some know-how about the crisis, than to blown-up headlines with the mission of attracting as many readers or buyers as possible.”

“Though the media does not portray the situation on the Korean peninsula accurately, they are playing a major role in this conflict. I think that news outlets probably pose more danger than the actual intentions of North Korea. Not just because of the disjunction between the analysts and headlines but also because of the plain faults in the later. The headline I mentioned earlier; ‘North Korea in ‘state of war’ with South’, is a serious statement. However, Kim Jong-un did not declare that North Korea was in a ‘State of War’, it was a simple (but grave) mistranslation. Mistakes like this are what stoke the fire. North Korea does not want war. Many of my professors at Kyung Hee University are confident that Pyongyang just wants to be recognized and this is their way of negotiating. Nothing else. So, the actors immediately involved will not start a war, but the question is, if mistakes from external actors like the media possibly can. Though there is a possibility, at this point an actual attack is being avoided at all cost.”

“In the end, how would be your answer, if one of your professors asks you again about your feeling, being in South Korea?”


“My answer will probably be that I am not stressed about the situation in South Korea. An attack is unlikely unless mistakes are made and I think both the US and South Korea, and North Korea are very careful not to make mistakes at this point. War is an unfavorable outcome for all actors involved. And let us face it North Korea would not stand a chance against the number one military power in the world. North Korea is not suicidal – Neither am I, so I feel safe to stay in Seoul.”


“Thank you Malvina and see you maybe next semester in Seoul.”

“It was a pleasure for me, see you then.”


Alexander Pütsch:

“Thank you Malvina, thank you Sheetos.



Alexander Golderbein:

“Now, let us have a look at news reporting from Russia. The general impression is that the conflict is taken seriously. Most newspapers are talking about the possibly severe magnitude of the conflict. For example, Pravda.ru states in a report with the headline ‘North Korea increases missile potential’ that this missile potential can be a serious threat to the entire region, which is greatly enhanced by the presence of nuclear weapons and that any conflict on the Korean peninsula could escalate into a global nuclear war. The reporting seems neutral and the way of seeing the conflict seems not influenced by the USA and South Korea and neither by North Korea. Komsomolskaja Prawda for example, displays what happens and how the different parties are acting with regard to the conflict. In an article, they also cite the statement of president Putin, who said that a military conflict could be more severe than the nuclear disaster in Chernobyl. Russia, as a neighbor of North Korea, is very concerned about the escalation and wants all participants to come back to the negotiation table. So, the problem should be solved -of course- diplomatically. Besides the neutral reporting, some other perceptions are reflected in some columns. For example, the headline ‘Americans enjoy playing the game of Korean roulette’ in Pravda.ru suggests that ‘maybe the countries of the Korean peninsula are only poker chips in a large geopolitical game where nothing less than the rule of the US across the Far East is at stake. Protection of the praised American democracy, peace in the Middle and Far East is no more than a farce. Export of Democracy is the slogan of the third millennium marked by a massive extermination of the population of some countries in Asia and Africa. Are Far Eastern regions the next?’ That is how the article ends.”

“So, also criticism against USA can be read in some comments of the Russian media.”

“All in all, it can be said that reporting from Russia tend to be neutral and that the whole conflict with all its reasons and interests lying behind it want to be captured. It is also observable that some criticism on the role of the USA and their actions in the past is picked up.”

(Komsomolskaja Prawda www.kp.ru; www.pravda.ru;                                                                                                   The Moscow Times www.themoscowtimes.com)


Alexander Pütsch:
“Thank you Alex.

Now, let us have a look at the interview with the Korean exchange student Yuna.”


Alexander Pütsch:

“Dear Yuna, dear listeners,

welcome to our today’s podcast about ’voices of the media from all over the world’.

Yuna, you are an international student from South Korea studying right now here in Paderborn. Would you please introduce yourself to our listeners?”


“Hello, I am Yuna Ku. I am from Seoul, South Korea and I go to EWHA Woman’s University studying English literature and international studies and I am twenty-two years old.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“Now, from your point of view, could you describe the current situation with North Korea on one side and South Korea on the other side?”


“As I recognize, North Korea is now on the edge trying to solve their inner problems, such as economic crisis and their unstable politics, by stimulating strong countries like the US and China by putting off nuclear weapons in front of them. However, what is the problem is that South Korea is the most related and threatened country from the North Korean matter. Actually, it does not have enough authority and power to conduct the problem. Instead, they are letting the problem settled by stronger countries like US and China as mentioned.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“Are you worrying about Korea’s situation right now?”


“Not really. And especially about the war, I think, it will not happen so easily because there are so many things related to it. I am not very much worried.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“And what about your personal impression within the last weeks – has anything been changing?”


“Yes, my impression changed according to North Korea because I thought they would like to stick to China. But now it seems like they want to have a direct conversation with the US and they want to build a stronger relationship with them.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“As we know, there is a new president. What about this new president Park -she is in office since March- did she continue Lee’s way to deal with North Korea?”

“In some part yes, because she is originally from the same conservative party as Lee and this party disagrees on helping North Korea by giving financial or food aids. But -let’s say- Lee was more aggressive. He made stronger comments on North Korea and tried to enhance military power to act against them. Park is now more focusing on calling North Korea out on international table to make a conversation.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“Now, let’s talk about the conflict and your personal perception of it. Have you been thinking about a further escalation of the conflict recently?”


“Yes, ever since the death of his father [Kim Jong-il, A/N]. Because now Kim Jong-un tries to stabilize his authority by making conflicts with South Korea and trying to show off that he can deal with such problems. So I think it is normal and pretty much expected that, now, the conflict is rising in South Korea.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“So the recent development is exactly what Pyongyang wants?”


“Yes, exactly.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“Yuna, you are here in Germany for about ten months now. Do you feel any more secure here in Germany than in Korea? Are you happy being here in this time?”


“Yes, sure. Because I think there are hardly any chance or reason for North Korea to attack Germany.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“And your family is in Korea right now, right?”



Alexander Pütsch:

“Okay. And what about your family in South Korea – how do they treat the topic there?”


“First I was really worried about my family in Korea so I made a call to them. But they were saying: ‘Yeah, it is just what they always do, North Korea: Threatening. For some reason…’

Alexander Pütsch:

“So you are not worrying since this call.”


“Yes, kind of. Because I think if Kim Jong-un can think normally, he will not attack South Korea but there is always a chance that he might go crazy and just shoot off one missile to South Korea. So I am a little bit worried about that part.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“Let us come to our core topic here: News reporting. Do you follow German news here in Germany?”


“Yes, I try to follow the news. But actually, there are still some problems with the language. However, I know that they are dealing a lot of issues with North Korea in Germany.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“And what is your impression of German news reporting considering the conflict situation in Korea?”


“I think it is a little bit exaggerating, both in content and frequency, so I kind of get a feeling that war will be here sooner or later. But I think South Korea is also giving out some news sources, which seems to be a little bit exaggerating about the issue.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“Oh, how come? Why is that?”


“Politics is kind of unstable since Park is in charge so news reporting became a little bit more dramatic in order to stabilize the country.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“And when both media here in Germany as well as in South Korea is exaggerating more and more; Do you see a difference between German news reporting and South Korean news reporting?”


“Yeah, but the tendency is that they are coming closer.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“Now, as an insider and inhabitant of the Korean peninsula: From your point of view, what do you think about news reports from North Korea?”


“In South Korea it is well known that news from North Korea is not at all trustworthy and it is not objective and they make things up.“

Alexander Pütsch:

“Now, Yuna, as the final question: You are travelling a lot here in Europe with Eurobiz and you have been in several countries recently. What do you think about news reports from all over the world? Are there differences or is it all the same? Do you have the impression that the media from Europe is different from Europe is different from other media? Or maybe the countries differ from the point of views? What is your impression?”


“I think there are differences, for sure. For Europe, I think they tend to think that there will be a war. I think that one of the reasons is, they have experience of it of many communist countries, and Germany was also divided into two countries. But in the case of Korea we tend to think that it is a different matter because North Korea is not a communist country, it is just a dictator-country. And there have been many small or big conflicts with North Korea in the past. So we tend to think that every conflict will not result in a big war. And overall I think that news reportings from all over the world is kind of different according to their interest and their relationship to the related country. That is all.”

Alexander Pütsch:

“Okay. Yuna, thank you very much for taking time for the interview. Good luck and enjoy your time here in Germany. See you in Seoul.”


“See you.”


Alexander Pütsch:

“Thank you, Yuna.”

“Okay. Let us summarize our findings. Generally speaking, our findings met expectations. The news from western countries tend to be objective from our point of view. They provide different pieces of information, sometimes they differ from one another. While South Korea having the tendency to be more western oriented, tends to be being portrayed a bit more positively. Having a look on Russia as a former Soviet country with a communist system, the point of view differs a bit. Even their news reporting has the tendency to be more favorable for South Korea. It is no surprise that South Korean media points out South Korean points of view. Even it might be a bit surprising that also South Korean media is criticizing actively the government and especially their current politics, also considering the conflict. These findings have also been approved by our interview guest Yuna.”

“Finally, we can say that we find our personal conclusion of the whole podcast reflected in the interview with the Swedish exchange student studying in Korea right now. Malvina, European, already being some time in Seoul now, does not really feel insecure. That situation apparently is not that insecure as German or European media might suggest is also suggested by the interview with the Korean girl, Yuna, and the voices of her family living in Seoul, Korea, right now. The final fact -and probably the most important one- is that we must not focus only on German media when it is about international topics being probably reported differently in different regions of the world. So, dear listener: If you want yourself to have a steady opinion on something, you should not focus only on local media but also on some other media; especially when it is about international topics. Use the advantages of diversification and build your own conclusions out of the information you got.”

“Okay, we hope that you have enjoyed listening to our podcast, you have learnt something and we all wish you a very pleasant time in your stay abroad. Bye, bye and see you soon!”


Group 4 – ASBE 2013

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