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Journal to publish SMC professor’s study

Nicole Zook | Wednesday, September 24, 2003

Sei-Hill Kim, assistant professor of Communications Studies at Saint Mary’s, recently received word from the International Journal of Public Opinion Research that his paper, “Talking on Sunshine in North Korea: A Test of the Spiral of Silence as a Theory of Powerful Media Effects,” will be published at the end of this year.

The paper and publication are aimed at professors, researchers and graduate students who are doing research on public opinion.

Kim, who is from South Korea, wanted to examine how the mass media influences the population’s opinion on Sunshine, a controversial government reunification policy.

“These two countries have been separated for more than 50 years,” he said. “We wanted to see how South Koreans viewed North Koreans, which is important to government policy.”

To research this topic, Kim worked with Miejeong Han, a professor at Hanyang University in Anyang and friend since their PhD studies at Cornell.

The two studied the South Korean news media and how it played a role in shaping people’s opinions.

“My contact in Korea collected data in a small city like South Bend, with a population of 500,000. It was a telephone survey of 443 residents.”

There were several key findings.

“We found that the media, in general, were in favor of this public policy. People infer public opinion from mass media, and the people see the public opinion as in favor,” Kim said. “People, in general, are really concerned about how people think about this issue, and their perceptions influence their political behaviors.”

A good example of this, Kim said, is the American view of North Korea. The general tone of the media coverage can sway a population if they are led to believe that others are also in favor.

“Even in the U.S., North Korea is becoming the next big thing. If the American media portrays North Korea in a very negative light, then people will believe that the American public is very negative about North Korea,” said Kim. “If American media keeps portraying North Korea in a very negative light, there will be positive support for military action in North Korea.”

There are two current views held by South Koreans, Kim said. One is to see North Korea as an enemy. The other is to be sympathetic to their northern neighbor, viewing them as family and friends who need South Korea’s help.

The second view is more popular, Kim said.

“The South Korean government should provide large amounts of economic aid and political support to maintain peace and speed up the process of unification,” he said.

The two nations have been separated since 1945.

This study is also useful to the United States, Kim said.

“The U.S. government needs to understand North Korea and how South Koreans see North Koreans – this has important implications for the U.S. government in how to deal with North Korea,” he said.

The study will be published in the journal by the year’s end.

tion, albeit a somewhat radical one.

He said he would like to propose a system in which professors are explicitly permitted to negotiate penalties for Honor Code violations directly with students. In this system, not every case would go directly before an honesty committee.

The catch would be that faculty members would be required to submit a report of the violation and penalty the student sustained to the Associate Provost’s Office for record keeping. In this way, Flint said there would be a record of students who committed offenses.

“At least if this was made an appropriate or acceptable option, there would be some sort of check on those who are [violating the Honor Code] repeatedly,” he said.

Flint said feedback to his proposal has been positive.

“I’ve received a lot of feedback from faculty … I haven’t had one faculty member who has clearly opposed this proposition,” he said.

Any changes recommended by the University Honor Code Committee must be passed be the University’s Academic Council.