Korean media activists campaign to oust government media controllers

[via Hankyoreh]

Media organizations and civic groups in South Korea have named three people as “enemies of the press,” and launched a campaign to oust them. The three - Choi Si-jung, the chairman of the Broadcasting and Communications Commission; Lee Dong-kwan, the presidential spokesperson; and Shin Jae-min, the vice minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism - have been criticized for leading a government attempt to control the media.

An alliance formed by 46 media organizations and civic groups, including the National Union of Media Workers, the Citizens’ Coalition for Democratic Media and the People’s Coalition for Media Reform, plan to hold a press conference in front of the Broadcasting and Communications Commission in downtown Seoul on June 11 to urge the three men to resign.

In a telephone interview with The Hankyoreh on June 10, Kim Yeong-ho, a co-representative of the alliance said, “Choi, Lee and Shin are the main players in the President Lee Myung-bak government’s attempt to suppress the media,” adding, “The three people should be included as targets of the government’s personnel reform.” If not, the government will face severe resistance from civic organizations, Kim warned.

The government announced last week that it would conduct a major reorganization of senior staff at the Blue House and in the Cabinet. Blue House staff members offered to resign last week, while members of the Cabinet offered their resignations up to the president on June 10. Both moves are seen as insufficient attempts by the government to take responsibility for public discontent with appointments made by President Lee when he took office over three months ago and the government’s handling of the U.S. beef agreement.

Choi is known to have played a key role in the current government’s attempt to monopolize broadcast media. Choi reportedly met with Kim Keum-soo, the former chairman of the Korean Broadcasting System, or KBS, twice. The two men discussed possible ways to force KBS President Chung Yeon-ju to step down.

Lee, the former political editor of the DongA Ilbo, has pressured media outlets to remove news stories the government thinks are biased against the government and asked reporters covering the Blue House not to cover certain issues.

Shin has urged some government ministries to “manage” the origin of negative opinions, incurring criticism for suppressing media companies that are critical of the government.

The CCDM produced a special edition of “Citizens and Press,” a publication containing evidence showing that Choi and Lee had tried to gain control of the media. The group distributed the publication at locations where candlelight rallies against U.S. beef were being held. During a marathon 72-hour candlelight vigil June 6-8, the CCDM made signboards with photographs of the three men’s faces to display examples of things they had said and done to exert control over the media.

article originally published at http://english.hani.co.kr/arti/english_edition/e_national/292646.html.

The media's job is to interest the public in the public interest. -John Dewey