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Did the presidential office intervene in KBS news coverage?

Did the presidential office intervene in KBS news coverage?

Updated May. 20, 2014 04:31

한국어

Korea Broadcasting System (KBS), a public network that is operated by the television reception fees from the people, is suffering a major trust crisis. On Monday, KBS reporters began boycotting news reporting, urging their President Gil Hwan-young to step down for having a close relationship with the Park Geun-hye administration. Eighteen KBS department heads resigned last week, interrupting news reporting. KBS directors, who were recommended by opposition parties, submitted a bill to dismiss the president to the board of directors meeting.

The KBS crisis emerged when Kim Si-gon, former chief of the network’s news bureau, resigned last week after exposing that the presidential office was involved in news reporting and the nomination of Cheong Wa Dae correspondents. Kim said in an emergency meeting at KBS Reporters’ Association last Friday, “President Gil shed tears, saying my resignation is the will of the presidential office.” He added, implying that Cheong Wa Dae pressured Gil, “The presidential office called (me) to refrain from criticizing the coast guard. However, as the news kept being reported, Gil called me and said the same thing again.”

Gil said to reporters on Monday, “The business conversation with Kim is exaggerated and distorted,” and said he had no intention to resign. Although he said, “This incident is an opportunity to address the problems in the news bureau’s undemocratic news reporting system,” he seems to blame others to get out of a corner. Kim’s story sounds so concrete that it cannot be seen as a cook-up. The fact that the KBS president and the newsroom head who are supposed to safeguard the independence of the media against external pressure are fighting each other over distorting news, mentioning the president, shows the embarrassing reality of the public network.

The presidential office should clarify whether it intervened in KBS news reporting or not. President Park Geun-hye should also find who told KBS not to report news criticizing the coast guard’s rescue efforts, which turned out to be a failure. President Park stressed that she has no intent to rule the media and it is legally impossible to do so. If the Presidential Secretariat pressed KBS to minimize the problems of the coast guard which other media including newspapers criticized, it could be a serious problem that undermined the public network’s independence and fairness. If what Kim said is not true, the presidential office should sue him for defamation.

KBS represents Korea’s media and network dedicated to covering the country’s disasters. It has a responsibility to protect the people’s lives and assets by fast and accurate news coverage in case of national disaster. Viewers would be unwilling to pay the TV reception fees when they see the network’s internal disputes in the wake of the Sewol ferry disaster. Whenever the new administration is launched, KBS has always been noisy with the appointment of its president tailored to the administration and the resistance of its labor union. As long as a new administration thinks the KBS president seat as its booty, Korea cannot expect a responsible and independent public network.