The Korea Times has a long, strange history in its coverage of Uzbekistan. Back in 2004, the paper carried a story by Vitaly Fen, Uzbekistan’s ambassador to South Korea, on Uzbekistan’s imminent greatness. In 2005, Fen wrote a piece post-Andijon calling the events unfortunate, but trumpeting the government’s pursuit of stability and the benefits of Uzbekistan for investors. A month later, a Korean politician rumored to have a fondness for taking bribes and violating election laws, wrote an article in the paper supporting the Uzbek government’s narrative for the Andijon massacre. In 2006, the paper published a whole series of articles singing Uzbekistan’s praises in honor of the country’s fifteen years of independence.
The Korea Times is still publishing fluff pieces in English on Uzbekistan that look ripped from the pages of any of Uzbekistan’s state run newspapers. This time, they’ve run a story on a conference on education recently held in Tashkent. Content-wise, there’s nothing so terrible, though it is the kind of “gee-whiz, isn’t Uzbekistan on the right track and doesn’t its government have its crap together” kind of coverage that Karimov’s government loves to see in its domestic press and whenever possible, from foreign press. The thing is as dry and content-free as a Karimov speech. Here’s a random excerpt.
Uzbekistan is one of the developing countries seeking to take lessons from Korea’s education experience. The central Asian country established diplomatic ties with Seoul in January 2002 after it became independent from the former Soviet Union in September 2001.
In an ambitious effort to upgrade and reform its educational system, the Uzbek government, under the initiative of President Islam Karimov, hosted an international educational conference last month: “Fostering a Well Educated and Intellectually Advanced Generation – A Critical Prerequisite for Sustainable Development and Modernization of a Country.”
OK, that wasn’t so random. I wanted to highlight that they screwed up the year Uzbekistan became independent…
Anyhow, a lot of the rest of the story is, in fact, a summary of a Karimov speech just going over figures and reform plans that almost certainly have nothing to do with reality.
Thank goodness the Times is on the case because now maybe Uzbekistan’s embassies and state information agencies can throttle back trying to get the word out about the event to the whole damned world. (I did find mentions of the conference in several other non-Uzbek government controlled outlets, but they were all to say that someone from country x was going to attend.)
In response one of our earlier posts on the love affair The Korea Times has for Uzbekistan, an employee of the paper commented that pay-for-positive coverage is common in the South Korean media. And it’s not uncommon for countries to try to market whatever their cause might be. Kazakhstan does it all the time in the US and Europe. Azerbaijan has gotten in on this too with its recent Khojaly campaign to garner international sympathy in their ongoing dispute with Armenia. What’s interesting about Uzbekistan is how singularly bad it is at getting its message out through international media. (Though creating a positive, believable message might be a bit tough, to say the least.)