Monday, July 21, 2008

Ask A Korean! News: An Unscientific Survey of English News in Korea

The Korean noticed something interesting. Last night, before the Korean went to sleep at 1 a.m. Eastern Standard Time, the Korean saw a piece of news as the top headline of the online edition on Dong-A Ilbo. According to the time stamp, the story ran at 2:52 a.m. in Korea, which would be 1:52 p.m. in New York.

When the Korean woke up this morning at 8:30 a.m. EST, the news was still at the top. After lunchtime at the Korean's work, the news was relegated to lower portion of the site. However, the pdf view of the paper confirmed that the story ran on the front page of the print edition.

The news is a significant and sensitive one, and its importance, being on the first page, should be self-explanatory. But right now at 4:19 p.m. EST, the news is nowhere to be seen on any English media source for Korean news.

That prompted the Korean to do a quick and unscientific survey of Korean media in English by taking a look at two of the largest newspapers in Korea. At, at 4:19 p.m. EST, there were 52 headlines from today, excluding boxed linklets because the Korean was tired of counting them. At, the Korean counted 15 headlines from today. At, there were 50 headlines from today, again excluding boxed linklets. At, there were 27 headlines from today. Again, neither of the English editions of the two papers contained a headline that was on the front page of Dong-A Ilbo, one of the largest newspapers in Korea in circulation.

The lesson: even if you keep up with the English media coming out of Korea, you will only get about half of Korean news, which sometimes miss very important news. If you wish to really understand Korea, you have to learn Korean and read the Korean media. Until English-language media in Korea becomes a lot more exhaustive, there is no alternative.

By the way, the news in Korean is here. In the interest of motivating people to study Korean, the Korean won't translate it. Suffice it to say that it is something that has international implications.

-EDIT 7/22/08 12:26 p.m.- The news is finally on the English editions of Dong-A and Chosun Ilbo online. According to the time stamp, the news was posted on 8:56 p.m. EST and 8:06 p.m. EST, respectively. That would make it more than 20 hours after the news broke. Instead of being the top story, the story is tucked away towards the bottom.

-EDIT 3/26/10- Since enough time has passed, here is what the Korean was talking about: the news was about South Korean tourist being shot in North Korea.

Got a question or comment for the Korean? Email away at


  1. OK.I'm still studying Korean, but I'm going to study more harder. Thank you.

  2. not that suprising, considering how Korean news media in English approaches their audience. There are essential two disparate groups being reached by the media here - Koreans who are reading to practice their English, and foreigners who are reading for local news. For the first group, they can safely and correctly assume that they are getting news in Korean as well, and thus don't need up-to-the-minute headlines in English as well.
    When it comes to foreigners relying on the local news media in English, there are probably huge manpower considerations. Either the story must be written by someone who can gather news in Korean but write it in English, or it must be translated. The first would be ideal, but probably hard to find, expensive to pay, and low on newspaper priorities, so they go with translation, which takes more time to get up. Also, none of the English news sites are updated more than once a day - I'm assuming again this is a manpower issue. With a relatively small non-Korean speaking population, it doesn't make much economic sense to maintain large sections devoted to updating and maintaining news in English. Also, I think there is the assumption that if it's a local matter, a delay of a day or so won't make much difference. International matters will show up on international news sites like CNN, who do in fact have bilingual staff ready to report in English.
    It would be glorious if the English language news media here were faster, more accurate, and assumed more interest on the part of their audience in real, important local news, but I think that day is far, far in the future.


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