Monday, January 07, 2008

[The Chosun Ilbo, December 18 2007] The Death Throes of the Roh Administration

The Defense Ministry on Sunday cut off electricity and heat to the ministry press room reporters had been using to file articles. Then it stationed military police to keep reporters from entering the building. The reporters who remain inside the pressroom are writing their articles on cold floors, by candlelight. Last Wednesday, reporters resisting eviction at the pressroom of the National Police Agency were told a lie to lure them outdoors, whereupon police officials padlocked the doors. The police set up security checkpoints and remote-controlled doors to the entrance of NPA headquarters and posted guards there to regulate the entry of reporters.

Until the day he leaves office, President Roh Moo-hyun is pouring his last remaining strength into closing down press rooms at government ministries where reporters used to write and file articles. Many Koreans wonder how Korea would have changed if the president had used that tenacity to revive the country instead.


In his war against the news media, Roh used the presidential secretary and the Government Information Agency as his right and left hands and placed the National Tax Service, traditionally the hitman of presidential administrations, and the Fair Trade Commission at his side and issued an order to all government workers. He nudged public servants to wage war against the news media, saying their performance and promotions will depend on how many battles they wage against reporters.

As a result, until October this year, government ministries filed a total of 715 complaints over news articles, requiring mediation by the Press Arbitration Commission. That’s more than six times the 118 complaints filed during the administration of Kim Dae-jung.


The page of history is about to turn. No matter how insane the night may have been, the clarity of the morning will inevitably come. We are relieved to find that the racket of the press rooms being nailed shut is actually the receding roar of an insane interlude. A long, long night is finally about to end.

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