A group of Korean-Americans in Los Angeles has placed a full-page ad in the New York Times blasting the Park administration for a) its handling of the Sewol disaster and b) weakening democracy in Korea.

You can read a pdf of the ad here. The group that released the ad has more stuff in English at their website and at their Indeigogo page. The campaign apparently began on MissyUSA, a site for Korean immigrant women in the United States that, last time I remember reading anything about them, was where some folk were conducting a signature campaign against the KORUS FTA in 2011.

Needless to say, how you feel about said ad largely depends on your political bend:

The ad got a mixed response back in Korea. While conservatives condemned it as treachery and an act of agitation, liberals claimed the Park administration deserves such humiliation abroad given the extent of its wrongdoings.

The ruling Saenuri Party yesterday expressed concerns about the campaign overseas, defining it as “instigation.”

“When some people believe that political factions are trying to instigate the public, we need to be much more cautious,” Hwang Woo-yea, president of the party, told the members of its Supreme Council yesterday. “I am extremely worried that those factions are perpetrating various acts of sedition via overseas media.”

According to reports, Korean-American opinion about the ad is divided, too. I find it hard not to sympathize with “John” here:

”I understand people are angry. We are all furious about the tragedy, but what do we get out of publicly condemning the government in a New York Times ad? What’s with all these New York Times ads anyway?’’ says John, 44, a PR firm executive in New York who didn’t want to disclose his last name.

”Being in the marketing and public relations industry, I know that this newspaper ad is going to do very little to help organizers get what they want,’’ he said.

Other overseas Korean groups will release statements of their own refuting the NYT ad.

I’m sort of frustrated with everybody involved in this story. I actually agree with the folk who posted the ad that there are journalistic practices that need improving and the government’s handling of both public relations and the press has been, as usual, hamfisted. I’d love to learn more about what happened to a Korean-German journalist who was allegedly harassed by the Korean embassy after writing something critical of the government in Die Zeit. That said, I’ve read so much bitching about what the government did or didn’t do during and after the sinking that if the government really is trying to control and sensor the media, it’s doing a piss poor job of it.

And I’ll be honest—the Sewol sinking is starting to remind me a lot of another recent maritime outrage, the 2010 sinking of the Cheonan. And by that, I mean that just as everybody became an expert on naval engineering and forensics in the aftermath of the Cheonan sinking, now it seems everybody’s an expert on maritime search and rescue. Do I think the government is being 100% honest about the sinking? No. Do I think Park’s detractors really know what they are talking about? No, I don’t think anybody knows at this point. Do I think the government is trying to spin events to minimize the political damage? Yes. Do I think certain elements of the opposition are cynically using the tragedy to attack the government politically? Yes. Do I think the NYT ad represents said cynical use of the tragedy to score political points against the government? Yes. Do I think the government, its paranoia heightened, may react to the ad in a way that at least partially justifies the complaints made by the people who ran it? Yes.

Like I said, it’s pretty much all bad.

(HT to the folk who sent me links)