Nonghyup Bank, aka the National Agricultural Cooperative Federation, has been paying major newspapers like the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and Dong-A Ilbo to run promotional articles on the bank, a senior public relations source with the state-run bank said Monday.
“The practice is prevalent all over society,” the source told The Korea Observer, asking to remain anonymous, adding that Nonghyup spent some 2 billion won (1.86 million U.S. dollars) per year for “special newspaper reports” to promote its policies on top of its advertising budget.
“We need to resort to an effective means of promotion to advertise our farmer-friendly policies,” the source added, denying speculation that the bank spent the money to prevent media from publishing negative articles.
The source acknowledged that Nonghyup made advertising deals with newspapers so that promotional articles were published without public notice that they were financially sponsored.
According to a report by Rep. Bae Ki-woon of the main opposition Democratic Party, Nonghyup paid 110 million won to the Dong-A Ilbo early this year for a “special article” titled “Nonghyup’s Innovation in the Distribution of Agricultural Products.”
Sisa IN, a monthly news magazine, claimed that Dong-A received 628.7 million won from the bank for paid promotional articles between January 2012 and August this year, followed by the JoongAng Ilbo with 375 million won and Yonhap News with 132 million won.
The report added that the Chosun Ilbo accepted 56.6 million won for publishing six “special articles,” whereas the Kyunghyang Shinmun took 33 million won, Hankyoreh 12.5 million won and OhmyNews 55 million won.
In Korea, many newspapers are known to blackmail companies into paying for running articles praising or promoting the companies as an important source of revenue, threatening to run negative pieces if the money is not paid.
The articles are usually published without notice that they are paid for.
The Korea Observer exposed this problem in its May 6 article, “Korea, paradise of paid articles.”