What’s the problem with feeling good?
Posted by ampontan on Friday, February 13, 2009
THOSE CONSUMERS of the news produced by the print, broadcast, and Internet media who pay close attention to the content they receive realize that at least 90% of it is intentionally presented to manipulate their emotions—usually in an unpleasant, negative way. The idea is that most people are suckers for the cheap entertainment of cheap thrills, and they’ll keep coming back for more as long as it’s mildly interesting and easy to access. Newspapers wouldn’t survive without them, and television is nothing but one long cheap thrill, broadcast 24/7.
Nowhere is this principle more evident than in the international coverage of Japanese-Korean relations. Overseas observers could be forgiven if they thought the citizens of the two countries were possessed by a mutual revulsion so powerful it prevented any kind of meaningful reconciliation or interaction. More than a few members in the Korean print media are actively complicit in creating that impression, though this tone in the coverage of bilateral relations is largely absent in Japan.
But that’s the hidden price one pays for trusting media content.
While some mutual revulsion may remain, it has largely given way to more realistic, up-to-date, and practical considerations, as I’ve repeatedly pointed out on this site. Most normal people under the age of 70 no longer have time for this nonsense in their 21st century lives, unless the media is their substitute for a hookah.
Another example of the growing importance of what I’ve called the Kyushu-Busan paradigm (see here and here) was on display last week, though it went largely unremarked by the media outside the immediate region. It seems that some people just don’t enjoy good vibrations.
A ceremony was held on 2 February in Busan, South Korea, to mark the start of the Fukuoka-Busan Friendship Year commemorating the 20th anniversary of official ties between the two cities. Roughly 1,400 attended the ceremony, including business and political leaders from Kyushu and the southeastern Korean Peninsula.
Said Busan Mayor Hur Nam-sik:
Cooperation between the two cities in such sectors as the economy, culture, and tourism will contribute to the peace and prosperity of all of Northeast Asia.
During his address, Fukuoka City Mayor Yoshida Hiroshi said:
We have taken the first step toward the realization of the supranational economic sphere concept. I hope we become pioneers in the integrated development of Asia.
Does that sound like mutual revulsion to you? It sounds to me like people getting on with the business of being alive and realizing that it’s in everyone’s best interests to enjoy the company of their neighbors on the opposite shore of the Korea Strait.
Quite a bit was achieved during the ceremonies. The chambers of commerce of both cities signed a formal partnership agreement, as did two municipal-affiliated cultural organizations.
Arrangements were also made for the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks of the Japanese major leagues to play an exhibition against the Busan Lotte Giants this August in Busan and next spring in Fukuoka. The major league teams will be involved in their respective seasons this year, so only the minor league affiliates will take part, but the big boys will square off during exhibition season next March.
For entertainment, there was a joint performance by the Seika Girls High School Brass Band of Fukuoka City and a dance team from Busan. Ah, well. Perhaps television does have its uses after all.
Beware of the temptation to dismiss the whole affair as an empty municipal government exercise in feeling good. Follow the links above and you’ll discover that it’s just the latest positive step in a regional relationship that is several millennia old.
A subsequent survey conducted by the Nishinippon Shimbun in Fukuoka City and the Busan Ilbo in Busan turned up two interesting facts, however.
First, 70% of the people in both cities don’t even know that this is the Fukuoka-Busan Friendship Year. That’s not surprising—the larger events are scheduled for later, and the activities so far have been confined mostly to business and governmental circles.
The second fact is more important, however: More than 60% of the respondents in both countries said that this sort of regional exchange should continue even if relations between the national governments turn temporarily sour, as sometimes happens.
And there you have the big story. It is inevitable that the regional ties between these two areas will continue to thrive despite all the flaming arrows, finger-chopping, pheasant-killing, flag-burning, textbook editing, and political grandstanding and demagoguery that provide the kindling for the cheap thrills served cold at the breakfast table or hot in the comment section of hyperactive blogs.
It’s curious. Everyone likes good news in their lives. Why don’t they like it in the world?
Afterwords: Thanks to Margaret, Martin F., Trapped in Brazil, and new friend Waynenet for their kind comments while I was taking care of business. Once you get out of a groove, it’s sometimes hard to get back in again!