Video: Connyoung Jennifer Moon of Arirang TV cheers for President Yoon Suk-yeol during a press conference. Credit: MBC News.
President Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 대통령 may be unpopular, but not among some journalists. On August 8, Yoon held his first regular press conference since returning from his controversial vacation, for which he skipped meeting with visiting US Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (See previous coverage, “Yoon’s Pivot to China?”) Entirely unprompted, one of the journalists - later identified as Connyoung Jennifer Moon 문건영, the principal news anchor of Arirang TV 아리랑TV - let out a cheer, “Mr. President, fighting! 대통령님 화이팅.” Yoon smiled and said “thank you,” while declining to answer difficult questions.
Ms. Moon is not alone among journalists when it comes to blatant displays of partisanship. (See previous coverage, “Media’s Tilted Pitch.”) In Yoon’s press conference in March shortly after his election win, another journalist faced criticism when she prefaced her question with “Though I am truly unworthy 정말 외람되오나,” an honorific reserved for kings and rarely used outside of historical dramas. Although the journalist explained the expression was simply an unusual verbal habit of hers, the viewers complained that the journalists were failing to act as the watchmen of the powerful.
South Korean journalists’ allegiance to conservative presidents is a well-documented phenomenon. As Seoul National University 국립서울대학교 professors Park Seung-gwan 박승관 and Jang Gyeong-seop 장경섭 noted, the press in South Korea did not grow in opposition to power, but as an auxiliary organ for the authoritarian governments. South Korea’s top five largest newspapers are uniformly conservative, largely because left-leaning papers simply were not allowed to exist during the period of South Korea’s military dictatorship. (See previous coverage, “Public Turns Away from Media.”)