‘Brutal interference’: China tabloid rounds on S Korea criticism

China’s state-run Global Times has lashed out at the South Korean embassy after it sent a letter to the tabloid criticising its coverage of South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol’s visit to the United States.

In an editorial on Monday headlined “This newspaper has something to say about S. Korean embassy’s ‘protest’”, the English-language tabloid bristled at a “strong protest” sent to its editors last week by Seoul’s embassy in Beijing.

The letter, sent on Friday, criticised the Global Times’s reporting of the visit as well as a number of its columns and editorials. A letter was also sent to the editor of the Huanqiu Shibao, a newspaper that is part of the Communist Party’s People’s Daily.

The embassy accused the state-run papers of “using sensational, provocative and inappropriate language” that “disparaged our president as well as the foreign policy of our government”.

“Some of the criticism levied at our president, using words so vulgar that they are barely repeatable, will make one wonder if they even come from news media at all,” the embassy added.

The Global Times, known for its nationalistic reporting, showed no contrition for the rare public rebuke from a foreign embassy.

“Such words that crossed boundaries and came with strong emotions should not come from a diplomatic institution,” the editorial said. “We cannot accept the rather brutal interference in our independent reporting.”

‘Bowing to Japan’

Yoon, a conservative politician who was elected last year, is seeking to build closer ties with the US and Japan amid heightened tensions in the region over the challenges posed by North Korea’s aggressive weapons testing, and an increasingly assertive China.

He has overseen deepening military ties with Washington and spent six days in the US in April where he was honoured with a state dinner marking 70 years of the two countries’ alliance, and also addressed a joint session of US Congress.

President Yoon hosting Japanese PM Fumio Kishida and his wife for dinner at the presidential house. There are lots of dishes on the table, which has a white table cloth. There are white and blue curtains on the windows behind them. A chef is standing at the end of the table.
South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol has worked to improve ties with Japan and overcome strains that are a legacy of Japan’s colonial rule [The Presidential Office/Handout via Reuters]

The month before, Yoon had travelled to Tokyo, the first visit by a South Korean leader in 12 years, as he sought to overcome years of historical animosity stemming from Japan’s colonial rule of the Korean peninsula.

The Global Times reporting accused him of “blindly following the US” and “bowing to Japan to please Washington” claiming Seoul’s actions contributed to tensions in the region.

The South Korean embassy singled out reporting on April 26, April 30, May 3 and May 4, although it did not mention specific articles.

“I wonder how the Chinese people would react if the Korean media published daily reports criticising the Chinese leader in the same way,” the letter said, adding that professional journalists needed to abide by certain standards.

The Global Times editorial noted that Japan’s Prime Minister Fumio Kishida started a landmark two-day visit to Seoul on May 7, and that it was happy to see an improved relationship between the two countries providing it did not “harm” China’s interests.

Insisting that its editorials had been “as polite as possible”, the paper continued: “Since the current South Korean government came to power, it has catered to the actions of the US, Japan and other countries of undermining regional stability. It has also repeatedly made wrong remarks on major issues that concern China’s sovereignty and grossly interfered in China’s internal affairs, such as the Taiwan question. Now it is targeting a Chinese media.

“If South Korea’s diplomacy continues in this direction, the consequences will not only be the estrangement of relations between China and South Korea, or the loss of South Korea’s ‘national dignity’ in front of Washington and Tokyo. Rather, it will stimulate, induce, and aggravate the imbalance and even collapse of the situation in Northeast Asia. It will be unbearable for South Korea.”