A satirical cartoon won a gold medal in a national cartoon contest for high school students in South Korea is in question.
South Korean webtoons “Webtoons” are gaining popularity in Japan as the source material for popular dramas such as “Itaewon Class.” this is causing controversy. The Gyeongui Newspaper scooped up the topic, and other Korean media published follow-up articles.
The manga in question was displayed at the Bucheon International Comics Festival (BICOF) held in Bucheon, Gyeonggi Province, from September 30 to October 3.
The Bucheon International Comic Festival is a comic festival dubbed “Asia’s best global comic festival.” It is a large-scale event with 1,000 comic artists and related parties, about 5,000 domestic and foreign costume players, and an audience of 120,000. It’s an event. Various programs were held, including an exhibition of award-winning works centered on Korea’s highest comic award, the Bucheon Comic Awards, comic-related concerts, an international cosplay championship, and a comic market.
Among them, a work attracted a lot of attention, mainly on the Internet. The title is “Yoon Seok Yeol.” But, no, even if you don’t read the title, anyone in South Korea can immediately understand just by looking at the picture. It is a parody of President Yoon Seok-yeol.
This cartoon, which compares President Yoon to the world-famous children’s cartoon “Thomas the Tank Engine,” has two letters written in Hangul in front of the title. For example, ‘금상’ means award-winning gold work. Surprisingly, this manga was selected as the gold prize winner in the one-panel cartoon category at the national student cartoon contest held at the Bucheon International Cartoon Festival. The grand prize at the National Student Comic Contest is awarded by the Minister of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, and the gold reward is granted by the governor of Gyeonggi Province, which is the highest award in each category.
The award ceremony was held on October 1 at the Korea Manhwa Museum, where the International Manhwa Festival was held. However, a person involved in the festival reportedly replied that it could not be disclosed because it was an internal document.
The author’s name and school name are partly hidden under the title of this manga. Netizens who saw this were surprised that he had written a cartoon criticizing the incumbent president, saying, “Look at the spirit of high school students.” It’s fantastic,” he wrote.
It wasn’t just a parody of “Thomas”!
In this cartoon, the fact that President Yoon was made “Thomas the Tank Engine” was seen as a problem, but there was a “gimmick” that caused more controversy.
If you look closely, you can see a bob-haired woman peeking out of the “Kikansha Yoon Seok-yeol” window with a smug face. This is President Yoon’s wife, Kim Gun-hee. Furthermore, on the train towed by “Yoon Seok Yeol,” there are men with swords in their hands and wearing formal robes. These are prosecutors from the public prosecutor’s office where President Yoon used to be. Yes, in other words, this cartoon depicts “President Yoon being driven by his wife, followed by his former colleague, the prosecutor, and kicking the people out.”
The South Korean government, especially the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, was outraged when the manga won a gold medal at an international comic festival subsidized by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism (equivalent to the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology in Japan).
The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism said in a press release on the 4th, “A work that explicitly deals with political themes at a nationwide student cartoon competition held for middle and high school students by the Korea Cartoon Film Promotion Institute, a foundation belonging to Bucheon City. Selecting and exhibiting this is contrary to the event’s purpose: to inspire students’ desire to create manga.”
In addition, “The Korea Cartoon Film Promotion Agency, which hosted the national student cartoon competition, is a foundation belonging to Bucheon City, but the government budget of 10.2 billion won, which is the tax of the people, is spent as a subsidy, and the grand prize of this public competition is The award from the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism has been awarded.”
In addition, additional materials revealed that this public exhibition violated the approval of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s sponsorship name.
When the Korea Manhwa Film Agency applied to the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism for sponsorship of the public exhibition, the documents submitted said, “If the applicant of the work is not clear, or there is a possibility of plagiarism, plagiarism, or copyright infringement.” The reasons for disqualification were “works that defame others with political intentions,” “does not meet the application guidelines (standards, quantity),” and “excessive sensationalism and violence.”
A Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism spokesperson, said, “We have confirmed that such disqualifications were not included in the actual application guidelines, nor were they disclosed to the jury. We have also confirmed that it was not done, so it is judged that the Korea Comic Film Promotion Institute has proceeded with the public recruitment in decisive violation of the initial approval.”
In addition, it falls under Article 9, paragraph 1 of the regulations regarding the approval of the use of the name of the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, “using the name of the sponsor in violation of the approved matters,” and plans to implement related measures according to the regulations promptly. It is expected that the Korea Manhwa Film Agency will take sanctions to prevent using the name ‘supported by the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism at the Bucheon International Manhwa Festival and related public exhibitions.
In response to the response of the government authorities, the issue spread to the Diet, which is currently deliberating on a parliamentary audit.
On the 4th, during the national parliamentary audit of the Legislative and Judiciary Committee on the Supreme Court, opposition party Park Bum-gye and Democratic Party lawmakers presented a cartoon of “Yoon Seok-yeol.” They said, “President to the people.” There is the freedom to express symbolically. What about the opinion of the Chief of the Court Administration?” Kim Sang-hwan, director of the court’s administration, said, “If I just look at this picture, I have the idea that it may be included in the criticism of the public’s pain against state power and freedom of expression.” replied.
In response, ruling party Rep. Yoo Sang-bum, a member of the People’s Power Lawmaker, added the opinion that plagiarism is suspected, citing overseas cartoons as an example. Rep. Yoo said, “On the right is a cartoon criticizing British Prime Minister Boris Johnson in 2019. On the left is a high school student’s work that won a gold medal at a cartoon festival. The student plagiarized,” he said.
Citing materials from the Ministry of Culture, Sports, and Tourism, Democratic Party lawmaker Kwon Chil-soon said, “Selecting works that bluntly deal with political issues goes against the event’s purpose, which is to inspire students to create cartoons.” “There is no word for plagiarism,” he said.
Democratic Party lawmaker Kim Nam-guk also countered, “If we want to check whether this cartoon is plagiarism, we should discuss the suspicion of plagiarism by First Lady Kim Gun-hee, who undermines academic freedom and moral authority at universities.” Both Ki Dong-min and Democratic Party lawmaker also referred to Kim Gun-hee’s suspicion of plagiarism, saying, “It is extremely idiomatic to apply strict plagiarism standards too high school students and be generous to the wives of powerful people. Attitude,” he scolded.
Cheong Wa Dae and President Yoon, amid the turmoil, seem to be taking it very calmly despite the heated reaction of the National Assembly.
When asked about the issue at a regular briefing, the presidential office said, “If relevant ministries and agencies have already responded, please refer to that.” In addition, President Yoon was also asked about a series of issues at the hanging press conference on the 6th, saying, “I don’t think the president should mention such issues.”.
However, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism’s response has been met with opposition from manga-related groups, and the Webtoon Association has criticized it for denying freedom of expression, which is one of the Constitution’s fundamental rights. In addition to issuing a statement, the National Current Affairs Manga Association also issued a report in the form of repeating only the word “Free!” 33 times. In addition, our cartoon solidarity and the Korea Comic Association are also preparing statements.
The reaction of the comics industry is because of the terrible memory of a blocklist of anti-government cultural figures created during President Park Geun-Hye. As a result, they were forced out of significant publications. Judging from this series of reactions, it can be said that the one-panel cartoon “The Yoon Seok-yeol” brilliantly exposed the problems facing modern Korea.