Spotlight on… the Dong-A Ilbo in South Korea

The Dong-A Ilbo (literally: “East Asia Daily”) is a daily Korean newspaper based in Seoul, with a circulation of more than 1.2 million readers. A global player, the Dong-A Ilbo has partnerships with major news organisations across the world including the New York Times (US), the Asahi Shimbun (Japan), the People’s Daily (China), the Sydney Morning Herald (Australia) and Izvestiya (Russia). It has correspondents stationed in five major cities worldwide (Washington D.C., New York, Beijing, Tokyo and Paris) and prints global editions in 90 cities—with digital copies available in Korean, English, Japanese, and Chinese.

“For the people, democracy and culture” is the motto behind the Dong-A Ilbo, which was founded in 1920 by educator and independence activist, Kim Seong-su. During a period of harsh Japanese colonial rule, where any Korean dissent was ruthlessly crushed, the publication served as a medium that vented Korean resentment and promoted national spirit. Consequently, the Dong-A Ilbo was suspended by the Japanese Government on several occasions due to its subversive content.

The first of these suspensions came in 1920, after the paper published an article criticising three items sacred to Japan. The second came six years later following a message celebrating the March 1 uprising, and the third in 1930 after the publication printed a letter sent by the US press in support of Korea. However, the event that lead to the forced closure of the paper in 1940 was Dong-A Ilbo‘s deliberate obscuration of the Japanese flag in a photograph of the first ever Korean Olympic Gold medallist. The paper remained out of circulation until the end of the Second World War in 1945, when Japanese rule in Korea concluded.

In the wake of Korean liberation, Kim Seong-su reopened Dong-A Ilbo, at the same time co-founding the Republic of Korea Democratic Party and later becoming Vice President of the country.

Today the paper prides itself on its heritage of nationalism and liberal democracy, and calls for critical view of authority, journalistic integrity and humanism.