Looking for the real story at APEC


Mon, Nov 21, 2005 - Page 10

South Korea is well-known for its patriotism, and this characteristic was also evident at the 13th APEC summit.

During the week-long ministerial and summit meetings, South Korean media, both official and private outlets, became cheer leaders for the government, publishing reports on the positive aspects of the host country.

Their reports touched on the advanced information technology facilities provided in the venue for journalists from the other 20 member economies, as well as stories aimed at promoting Korean culture and tourism.

This spirit of showing the best side to the world may not be familiar in Taiwan.

Nevertheless, Taiwan's performance at the summit this year was praiseworthy, given that special representative Lin Hsin-yi (林信義) was selected for the assignment only five days before the meeting -- after President Chen Shui-bian's (陳水扁) first choice, Legislative Yuan speaker Wang Jin-pyng (王金平), was rejected by the host country because of pressure from Beijing.

Lin concluded bilateral meetings with a record-breaking 17 countries, including China.

But instead of cheering for Taiwan at the most important international event the nation can participate in, Taiwanese media paid scant attention to the contributions this democratic nation can make to other member countries, instead focusing attention on whether Taiwan was being treated unequally -- sometimes to the point of appearing to be paranoid.

There were several examples. The absence of Lin's photo from an official magazine inaugurated the drama of "Taiwan being persecuted," which eased after the publisher said Taiwan's candidate had been selected too late to meet the deadline for printing.

Taiwanese media didn't give up, however, and started to blame the nation's officials for not including the national flag in advertisements placed in magazines and on carts at the airport.

But APEC is an organization that is composed of "economies" instead of countries, so there is a tacit understanding that no national emblems should appear during the event.

The national flag of South Korea, for example, did not appear in any of the ads the host published all over Busan.

The most ridiculous reports, however, centered around the "love hotels."

With limited rooms available in the city during the summit, some Taiwanese reporters booked into non-business hotels. After one journalist revealed the situation, TV reporters were told by their bosses in Taipei to follow the story and look for such hotels all over Busan.

Instead of digging into what role Taiwan could play at APEC, TV reporters put most of their efforts into describing the sexy attire of the female escorts at the hotels.

The focus later shifted to Lin's absence from keynote speeches at the APEC CEO summit. Again, the deadline to sign on to the speeches had passed before Lin was officially selected. In addition, only nine of the 21 leaders were able to stand on the podium.

Some Taiwanese media reports even criticized Lin for praising Chinese President Hu Jintao (胡錦濤) for being "warm" and "friendly" to Taiwan.

It would have been a gaffe and unhelpful to give Hu the cold shoulder at an international event, especially after Lin had said several times that the two sides should carry out dialogue to achieve mutual understanding.

Lastly, after rummaging for evidence that South Korea was being not fair to Taiwan, the nation's media failed to report the host's efforts to make it up to Taiwan by boosting Lin's profile.

On the day Lin arrived, the organizer several times aired his picture and profile at the international media center, where all reporters could see it. Other leaders were not given this treatment.

Later the Korea Times, the official paper covering APEC, published interviews with Lin, who talked about cross-strait relations, and Minister of Economic Affairs Ho Mei-yueh (何美玥).

While the media should be critical of the government, the performance of some Taiwanese journalists simply went too far this time in Busan. If they find it hard to support President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his government on domestic affairs, they should at least extend support to Lin and his delegation in the fight to expand Taiwan's international visibility.