Only major South Korean news outlet to challenge Park impeachment faces scrutiny

by WorldTribune Staff, September 5, 2017

The liberal Moon Jae-In administration has launched a “politically motivated” investigation into the only major broadcaster in South Korea that covered protests and evidence in support of former President Park Geun-Hye, conservative lawmakers say.

MBC provided coverage of the growing pro-Park demonstrations earlier this year in which older South Koreans protested that evidence refuting prosecutors’ charges against Park was being suppressed by major media groups.

MBC CEO and president Kim Jang-Kyom is surrounded by reporters as he enters the Seoul district agency of the labor ministry for questioning on Sept. 5. / Yonhap

On Sept. 5, MBC CEO and President Kim Jang-Kyom was questioned by the labor ministry over allegations of unfair labor practices.

Last week, a Seoul court issued an emergency warrant to detain Kim after he refused to answer several summonses by the Seoul regional labor office.

Related: South Korean conservatives fight back, decry media bias, February 14, 2017

The main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) on Sept. 4 protested what it says is the Moon government’s attempt to control the media, Yonhap reported.

Dozens of LKP lawmakers visited the prosecution and Korea Communications Commission (KCC) to protest the warrant to detain the MBC CEO, saying that it is an act that undermines independence and fairness in the press.

The conservative party also declared a boycott of all parliamentary sessions, except those related to security issues.

Labor authorities began their investigation of Kim Jang-Kyom in late June after MBC employees filed a formal complaint against him for politically interfering in news production under conservative Park administration. They also claim Kim put those who refused to follow his orders at a disadvantage by assigning them to posts irrelevant to news production.

Kim denied the allegations. “As president of a public broadcaster I have thought about how I can best protect the freedom and independence of the media,” he said in front of the regional labor office before going in for questioning. “How could I have engaged in unfair labor practices against the powerful, government-backed press union when I only came to office six months ago? I will face the questioning confidently.”

One MBC employee refuted Kim’s claims, according to a local news agency. “Since his inauguration, President Kim has argued that the union is threatening him for political purposes and that he has just begun his term as president. But he is not new to MBC – he had been promoted at an alarming pace since he became the managing editor.”

An MBC press release said that Kim previously refused to answer the summonses because they were “politically motivated and an infringement of press freedom and independence.” However, he decided to be questioned as to follow the legal procedures.

The Korea Times reported that about 60 reporters and 10 conservative civic organization members awaited Kim in front of the regional labor office before his questioning.

The members supported Kim, waving placards that read, “Arrest warrant for MBC chief is the administration’s conspiracy to take control of the media” and shouting “Cheers to Kim!” and “Oppression of the media must stop!”

On the opposite side, one member of a liberal civic organization staged a one-man protest with a placard that read “Kim Jang-Kyom must go. Punish Kim.”

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