Tuesday, August 05, 2008

[The Hankyoreh, July 31 2008] Military expands book blacklist

List of 23 books designated as ‘seditious’ now includes best-sellers and books by academics

It was discovered that the Ministry of National Defense has labeled books about culture and best-sellers as “seditious publications” and taken them off the shelves. Military authorities instructed the army to block distribution of dangerous documents by requiring that all mail be opened in the presence of a military officer.
[The Hankyoreh, July 30 2008] The doggie diaries

Prosecutors are putting on a show in a parody of the MBC program “The Producer’s Notebook” (Pidi Sucheop). This time it’s “The (Government) Poodle’s Notebook.”
[The Hankyoreh, July 30 2008] Prosecutors indicts “PD Notebook” producers

‘Prosecution is the proxy of the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries,’ MBC says

Prosecutors have announced that “The Producer’s Notebook,” the current affairs television program produced by national broadcaster MBC, distorted certain facts in an investigative report about mad cow disease broadcast on April 29. The investigation began after the Ministry of Food, Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries asked the prosecution to look into whether the program had defamed the agriculture minister. Prosecutors were believed to have indicted the program’s producers without arrest on charges of defamation.
[The Hankyoreh, July 25 2008] Cyber cover up

The National Police Agency successfully ordered YouTube to remove video of a television news report alleging the brother of Eo Cheong-soo, the national police chief, owns a hotel where prostitution commonly takes place.

Here we see the police making the call to YouTube, demanding to know what the problem is, “There’s an establishment that has ladies hired to work as hostesses in a building owned by the president, too!” President Lee Myung-bak and his buddy the Mad Cow look on.
[The Hankyoreh, July 25 2008] NPA orders Google to remove video from YouTube

Footage reports on allegations that NPA Chief’s brother invested in a hotel linked to prostitution

Controversy is flaring after an Internet crime investigation unit of the National Police Agency was found to have ordered Google Inc.’s YouTube, the world’s most popular video-sharing Web site, to remove footage from a South Korean TV report about allegations that a company in which a brother of NPA Chief Eo Cheong-soo invested was involved in prostitution. The NPA also ordered domestic Internet portals such as Naver and Daum to delete the video footage, which was originally televised by Munhwa Broadcasting Corp.’s Busan branch. Under South Korean laws governing the Internet, a person can ask an Internet portal to remove information from its Web site if the information defames the person in question. The NPA has been accused of taking unlawful and excessive action towards Internet portals, where freedom of expression and communications should be guaranteed, to defend the reputation of the NPA chief’s family.
[The Hankyoreh, July 25 2008] [Editorial] The police’s Internet blockade

It has only now been revealed that the National Police Agency demanded Google Inc.’s YouTube remove some video content. The video in question was from an MBC news report televised in April alleging that there is prostitution going on in a hotel owned by the younger brother of National Police Chief Eo Cheong-soo. If they are even going to go after news like that, then the country will have no way to realize its “right to know” (al gwolli) on the Internet. Google is no less deserving of criticism for responding favorably in blocking the free flow of information than the police are for going beyond their authority.

The question that must be answered here is whether Eo ordered or permitted the National Police Agency’s cyber terrorism unit to demand the video be removed. The Communications Information Network Law (jeongbo tongsinmang beop) makes it possible only for people directly affected by violations of privacy or defamation of character to request that material be taken down from the Internet, so it is itself a violation of the law for a government agency to have taken action on behalf of the national police chief or his younger brother. If it did so at Eo’s direction, then he needs to be held responsible for misfeasance, since it would mean he put a government agency to work on personal matters.
[The Hankyoreh, July 23 2008] Gov’t cracks down on Internet freedoms

A new crime, the ‘cyber insult,’ and expansion of the ‘real names system’ could stifle freedom of expression

The government will impose punishment against administrators of Internet portals if they do not respond to defamation claims by deleting messages, raising questions about censorship. The move is expected to curb the freedom of expression and undermine the use of the Internet as a positive tool for communication because it could prompt Internet portals to voluntarily remove messages from their Web sites they deem objectionable in order to avoid possible punishment. In addition, the government plans to expand the “real names system” on the Internet and introduce a new crime, the “cyber insult,” which will allow police to punish Internet users who post messages with defamatory content.
[The Hankyoreh, July 23 2008] YTN president gets shut out

Park Kyung-seok, right, the YTN union leader, and other union members block Gu Bon-hong, left, the new president of the 24-hour cable news broadcasting company in front of the YTN building in Seoul on July 22.

Gu was elected at a shareholders’ meeting, despite strong opposition from union members, on July 17. Media and civic organizations have criticized the appointment as part of a broad range of steps being taken by President Lee Myung-bak to gain control of the media.
[The Hankyoreh, July 23 2008] [Editorial] The real ‘cyber insult’: Internet control

Government control of the Internet is becoming more intense. The Korea Communications Commission wants to require people to confirm their identities online in a wider range of circumstances, and portal sites that do not delete defamatory content are going to be criminally prosecuted. Justice Minister Kim Kyung-han says he is considering the creation of a new crime, that of a “cyber insult.” This is a conspicuous revelation of the administration’s intention to completely control opinion on the Internet, and it is highly likely it will be a serious infringement on the freedom of expression.

If, as the administration wants, any site with more than 100,000 hits a day requires visitors confirm their legal identities, most sites will be required to do so. Proponents might say it’s no big deal, that all people will have to do is put their names on the line and honorably express their views, but that is not always how public opinion communicates. There are many times when, depending on the issue at hand, it is only by guaranteeing anonymity that you can have the free exchange of diverse ideas. If the Internet is going to function as a space for healthy debate in Korean society, then all regulations restricting the free expression of opinion need to be kept to a minimum.
[The Hankyoreh, July 22 2008] Broad coalition formed to stop gov’t ‘seizure’ of media

National Union of Media Workers plans to launch day-long strike tomorrow

Groups critical of what they see as the Lee Myung-bak administration’s attempt to take control of the country’s media outlets are coming together to form a pan-national umbrella organization to fight it.

The formation of the “Pan-National Action to Stop the Seizure of the Media and Coercion of Netizens” by the National Union of Media Workers, Media Solidarity, the Korean Broadcasters Affiliation, the Citizens Coalition for a Democratic Media, and other groups will be formally announced on July 22, according to a press release issued July 21.

The Democratic Party called an urgent party caucus on July 21, at which party leaders said they would “officially join with civil society to campaign both inside the National Assembly and beyond to stop President Lee Myung-bak from manipulating the media.”
[The Hankyoreh, July 19 2008] KBS president should be in line with the govt’s views, Blue House aide says

Many media experts feel, however, that as a public broadcaster, KBS should be independent from gov’t control

Bahk Jae-wan, the senior presidential aide for national policy planning, said, “Although the neutrality of broadcasting needs to be taken into account, as the head of a government-affiliated organization, (the KBS president) should have the will to actively realize the new administration’s policy agenda,” which could be interpreted to mean that “the editorial tone of public broadcasters should be in line with the government.” The remark comes in the midst of increased attempts by the administration of Lee Myung-bak to take control of the broadcast media and is expected to stir up a controversy about the neutrality of broadcasters.
[The Hankyoreh, July 19 2008] [Cartoon] 2MB’s big media blitz

Little Lee Myung-baks parachute into the positions of CEO at the country’s major broadcasters. One of the broadcasting companies, MBC, even has Lee’s name in it, since he is often referred to by the English letters, “MB.”
[The Hankyoreh, July 18 2008] Another President Chun Doo-hwan

With his buddy the Mad Cow in tow, President Lee thanks all those who are helping him seize control of the broadcast media. Those who are helping him include his mentor, who now heads the broadcasting commission, and prosecutors and private security guards who were present at a recent YTN shareholders’ meeting at which one of Lee’s former aides was appointed to the post of chief executive officer.

This Lee, however, bears an uncanny resemblance to another person fond of controlling the media, former President Chun Doo-hwan. For Koreans, the sight of Chun’s bald pate, drawn here on Lee, brings back memories of a time to which they’d rather not return.
[The Hankyoreh, July 18 2008] Media groups to act against punishment of MBC

Constitutional complaint in the works, strike planned for next week

Media organizations immediately denounced the Korea Communications Standards Commission’s July 16 decision to impose a heavy punishment on national broadcaster MBC for investigative reports about mad cow disease televised on the current affairs program “The Producer’s Notebook,” saying they will file a constitutional complaint and stage a one-day strike.

The KOCSC ordered MBC to apologize to viewers for airing the segment “U.S. beef, is it really safe from mad cow disease?” over two episodes on April 29 and May 13. The decision was approved by six out of nine KOCSC members, with the remaining three members having walked out in protest. The six members were appointed by either President Lee Myung-bak or the ruling Grand National Party.
[The Hankyoreh, July 18 2008] Former Lee Myung-bak adviser appointed to top YTN post

200 security guards blocked YTN union members from 40-second vote

Shareholders of all-news cable TV channel YTN pushed a bill through in just 40 seconds to endorse the appointment of Gu Bon-hong, 60, a close confidante of President Lee Myung-bak, as their new chief executive officer on July 17. The company mobilized some 200 contract security guards to cordon off the shareholders’ meeting from union members, some of whom are shareholders themselves, as they protested both inside and outside of the building where the meeting was held.
[The Hankyoreh, July 18 2008] [Editorial] The Lee administration seizes media control

Yesterday and the day before, things happened that should never happen in a normal democratic country. The day before yesterday, the Korea Communications Standards Commission decided to hand down what is officially considered a “heavy penalty” to MBC’s “The Producer’s Notebook” (Pidi Sucheop) by ordering it to issue an apology to its viewers. The decision was approved by only those commission members appointed by the administration and the ruling Grand National Party, with opposing commission members absent. Yesterday morning, the cable news broadcaster YTN held an extraordinary shareholders’ meeting that lasted for only about 40 seconds, essentially to choose Gu Bon-hong, formerly President Lee Myung-bak’s special aide for broadcasting during his campaign, voting to do so while private security guards prevented employee shareholders from entering the meeting and speaking.

These events each happened in a flash and remind you of a coup d’etat. Both moves were things the administration had been working on with a lot of interest, so it shows you that the Lee administration had been hanging low because of public opinion expressed, as it has been, with candles, but has now come out in earnest to seize control of the media, without the slightest concern for what anyone will think.

Monday, August 04, 2008


[The Hankyoreh, August 2 2008] Korea lags far behind Japan in Dokdo diplomacy

[The Hankyoreh, August 1 2008] Bush orders reversal of Dokdo classification

[The Hankyoreh, August 1 2008] [Editorial] Lee Myung-bak’s disturbing Dokdo diplomacy

[The Hankyoreh, July 31 2008] Seoul avoiding action on allegedly false report about Lee’s remarks on Dokdo

[The Hankyoreh, July 30 2008] Prime minister visits Dokdo to reassert Korea’s sovereignty

[The Hankyoreh, July 30 2008] Gov’t to include Dokdo issue on Korea-U.S. summit agenda

[The Hankyoreh, July 29 2008] U.S. did not inform S. Korea about change to Dokdo classification

[The Hankyoreh, July 29 2008] [Editorial] U.S. position on Dokdo enters danger zone

[The Hankyoreh, July 21 2008] New photographic evidence could support Korea’s claim to Dokdo

[The Hankyoreh, July 17 2008] President wants strategic approach to Dokdo issue

[The Hankyoreh, July 15 2008] [Editorial] The right response to the latest Dokdo claim

[The Hankyoreh, July 15 2008] Dokdo issue reignited by Japanese publication
[The Hankyoreh, July 15 2008] Victory for broadcasting

YTN union members struggle with security guards to bar Gu Bon-hong from entering the YTN building on July 14. YTN is the 24-hour news channel.

Gu, a close aide to President Lee Myung-bak, was named as president of YTN on May 29 and was scheduled to have been confirmed for the post in a shareholders’ meeting held that day. The struggle over Gu’s appointment has ignited suspicions that the Lee administration is attempting to gain control of the media via his ties to Gu and other former aides who have been put in positions of power at local broadcast stations.

As approximately 200 people gathered outside the YTN building to protest Gu’s appointment, a scuffle was underway inside as approximately 100 union members and 50 security guards fought to take the stage before the meeting began.
[The Hankyoreh, July 12 2008] Comrades in contagion

President Lee Myung-bak says the country is being overtaken by a “contagious information disease,” meaning inaccurate information is spreading and causing all sorts of social unrest.

His solution is to inject the situation with a complete blockade of protest locations. He suspects this candlelight protester of having the disease.

Lee’s sidekick, the Mad Cow, asks, “Wait, and I’m not a contagious disease?”
[The Hankyoreh, July 11 2008] Former YTN union leader on hunger strike over appointment of new president

Appointee is former Lee Myung-bak aide who could taint the news station’s neutrality, union leader says

Former YTN union leader Hyeon Deok-su started a hunger strike two days ago to protest against the assignment of Gu Bon-hong as president of the 24-hour news channel. Gu was an aide to President Lee Myung-bak during his presidential campaign.
[The Hankyoreh, July 9 2008] Travel ban imposed for boycott campaign

Many are critical of the prosecution’s action and say the ban is excessive

Prosecutors investigating a campaign to boycott companies advertising in the nation’s three major newspapers have imposed an overseas travel ban on about 20 people suspected of leading the campaign.

On July 8, a team of prosecutors working with the Seoul Central District Court said that approximately 20 people who established an Internet site for the campaign and posted comments urging the companies to stop placing ads in the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo and DongA Ilbo were banned from leaving the country. The prosecution plans to summon them soon.

Kim Su-nam, a high-ranking prosecutor, remarked that a travel ban could also be placed on other people involved in the campaign, depending upon the progress of the investigation.

“A few of the companies have actually suffered serious damage and netizens posted comments demanding that the companies stop advertising in the newspapers even after the prosecution’s investigation began. The travel ban was imposed according to normal investigative procedures,” an official who works on the prosecution’s investigative team said.
[The Hankyoreh, July 8 2008] High-level security

With prosecutors, right-wing conservatives, and the conservative media calling for religious leaders taking part in the candlelight protests to be criminally prosecuted as his witness, Lee Myung-bak, high priest of the religion known as “Public Security-ism,” anoints a riot cop.

“Many times, the darkness has been victorious over the light,” he says.
[The Hankyoreh, July 7 2008] [Editorial] Surrender to the people

Hundreds of thousands of candles filled the center of Seoul again on July 5. The unfavorable weather did not put the candlelight out, and riot police and an offensive from the conservative media did not shrink the numbers either. The streets were filled with songs of victory and rhythms of advancing forward, and there was the burning resolve of strong solidarity. It was because of this one is able to dare declare, to an administration and old conservative establishment that had abandoned pride and sense of sovereignty, that the people have won.
[The Hankyoreh, July 5 2008] [Editorial] Restrict NIS's intervention

An agent from the National Intelligence Service has been caught intervening in a court case. President Lee Myung-bak has been suing The Hankyoreh Daily and asking for damages, and the NIS is getting involved. It is in more than a few ways inappropriate for an arm of the state to be put to use in a personal lawsuit on the part of the president
[The Hankyoreh, July 4 2008] Law experts say newspaper boycott ‘not illegal’

KOCSC bypassed legal procedure to make its ruling

Legal experts who were asked for their advice by the Korea Communications Standards Commission were found to have said that a consumer boycott “cannot be viewed as illegal,” before the ruling was made. However, in spite of their advice, the KOCSC ruled, on July 1, that the campaign, launched by users of Daum Communications’ Internet debate forum Agora, was illegal. The campaign encourages people to boycott companies that advertise in the country’s three main conservative newspapers, the Chosun Ilbo, the JoongAng Ilbo and the DongA Ilbo.

In addition, some experts pointed out that an order from the KOCSC to delete information related to the boycott campaign failed to comply with the procedures as stipulated in a law governing information networks and protection of information.
[The Hankyoreh, July 4 2008] [Column] Who wants to be the next KBS president? Forget about it!

Kim Jong-cheol, Editorial writer

It is always the case in parliamentary and presidential elections, but during and after this last presidential election an especially large number of news media professionals entered the political arena. A former chief editorial writer at a major paper, a former broadcasting company executive, and a current overseas correspondent have had their “coming out,” and, in all, there have been dozens like them. These “poliurnalists” (political journalists) have sensitive feelers and they flocked to the campaign of Lee Myung-bak, who was overwhelmingly expected to win.

Most notable of these was Kim In-gyu, someone once on the board at KBS. In 2006 he was among the final candidates when KBS advertised for a new president, and after that he wrote a doctoral dissertation about how KBS’s coverage of the 2002 presidential election had been biased, making him an “anti-Jung Yun-joo” figure widely recognized as such by the current ruling camp. Which is why when, last year, he joined Lee’s campaign as the head of the “Broadcasting Strategy Department,” I figured that meant he had given up on his dream of becoming KBS’s president. You thought it had been established that, at the very least, someone who had clearly become active in politics would not get to be the head of a broadcasting company, a lesson learned with the case of Seo Dong-gu during the presidency of Roh Moo-hyun.
[The Hankyoreh, July 4 2008] NIS agent caught interfering in president’s lawsuit against The Hankyoreh

One phone call exposed the intelligence service’s involvement in the suit, raising questions of fairness

An agent of the National Intelligence Service was caught telephoning a judge in charge of a lawsuit filed by President Lee Myung-bak against The Hankyoreh in order to ascertain the progress of the case. The NIS’s attempt to intervene in a lawsuit, in which the president is the plaintiff, has set off a political storm throughout the nation.
[The Hankyoreh, July 3 2008] KOCSC’s ruling on newspaper boycott campaign incites resistence

The ruling, which dubs the campaign illegal, violates the freedom of expression, some say

The Korea Communications Standards Commission ruled on July 1 that Internet users should delete information related to a boycott of companies that advertise in the nation’s three major conservative newspapers, sparking controversy that the ruling violates the freedom of expression.

Many experts say that the KOCSC, a independent body under the law, has abused its power by defining as illegal a campaign to boycott companies that advertise with the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, and DongA Ilbo, and proposing restrictive measures for related articles posted on the Internet.

In its ruling, the KOCSC said that the boycott campaign constituted an “unauthorized infringement of the rights of others” and classified the related Internet comments as “distribution of information that encourages illegal activities.” The ruling also defined the boycott campaign as “unlawful. Therefore, posting articles encouraging illegal activities on the Internet is illegal as well.”
[The Hankyoreh, July 2 2008] Hard to believe

The old establishment media have been calling for some high-handed “riot suppression.”

President Lee Myung-bak also tries his hand at this.

“They’re growing instead of dispersing!!” he says, as a procession led by the Catholic Priests’ Association for Justice passes by on its way to hold a mass in the street.

The old establishment media, identifiable by their fountain pens, says, “You mean you’re taking our word for it?”
[The Hankyoreh, June 30 2008] Unbalanced coverage

In the morning of June 29, citizens who participated in a candlelight protest the night before clean the street of debris.

Conservative newspapers like The Chosun Ilbo are garnering criticism for not publishing images like these and focusing instead on violent acts committed by protesters. They have also been criticized for downplaying acts of violence committed by conservative groups and the police, though police have grown increasingly violent in their suppression of the demonstrations.

On June 23, a story on The Chosun Ilbo’s front page was titled “Demonstrators violate the law” and a story in the June 27 edition criticized President Lee Myung-bak for not having taken enough steps to quell the demonstrations.

Experts have criticized this approach as empty and say that The Chosun Ilbo seems to have forgotten the reasons behind the candlelight protests in its coverage of related events.
[The Hankyoreh, June 28 2008] [Editorial] Signs of the conservative media’s fall

Yesterday, a group of angry candlelight protesters damaged the entryways of the Chosun Ilbo and DongA Ilbo and made off with their signs. They hung garbage bags where their respective company flags were , and some reporters with these papers were reported to have been physically assaulted. While surely an expression of rage at distorted and biased coverage, this physical violence is most regrettable. Not only will physical power fail to get these papers to ensure fair coverage, it could also lead to accusations it is an attack on press freedoms.

This is, of course, not to say that physical power should not be used under any circumstances. The people are the sovereign authority of the country, so if the government continually rejects their rightful demands and, furthermore, tramples on them with violence, no citizen is going to stand back and take it. The same goes for when media companies that have a financial monopoly on the public opinion market continue to lie and distort, and thereby paint legitimate expressions and actions as illegal violence. It is in this sense that it would be right to see violence on the part of some protesters as a sign their anger is reaching its limits.
[The Hankyoreh, June 28 2008] [Editorial] The prosecution’s role as the government’s strong arm

It looks like the prosecution has anointed itself the government’s problem solver. Each of the cases prosecutors are taking on and investigating just happen to be itches the government wants scratched. The libel investigation against the MBC program “The Producer’s Notebook” (pidi sucheop) is something that can be put to use in placing the blame for the beef situation on press coverage instead of on sloppy government negotiations. Its creation of a “task force on public confidence impeding criminals” to investigate the online boycott campaign against companies that advertise with the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, and DongA Ilbo is an attack on online opinion, just like the investigation into “fabricated horror stories” about mad cow disease last month. The prosecution is already coercing the broadcasting companies with things like the summons of KBS President Jung Yun-joo. When it gets to this point, the prosecution is, in essence, openly assuming the vanguard in the Lee Myung-bak government’s omnidirectional offensive, one that seeks to seize control of the media and to manipulate public opinion.
[The Hankyoreh, June 28 2008] [Cartoon] Domestic security

Prosecution investigators are on the attack, going after the MBC television program “The Producer’s Notebook”; a citizen-led boycott of companies that advertise in the Chosun Ilbo, JoongAng Ilbo, and DongA Ilbo; and the lively “Agora” debate section of the Internet portal site Daum, which has focused on the U.S. beef deal and raised questions about the president’s leadership.

“You boys remember? It’s ‘politics by public security!’” says President Lee Myung-bak, merrily humming to himself.
[The Hankyoreh, June 28 2008] Investigation into MBC program raises questions about press freedoms

Media insiders say MBC report should be handled within the media community, not by the prosecution

The prosecution has formed a special five-member team to investigate whether national broadcaster MBC intentionally misled the public about mad cow disease on its program “The Producer’s Notebook,” which aired nationwide on April 29. The prosecution’s investigation, which came at the behest of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forestry and Fisheries, has sparked controversy for its unprecedented suppression of the press.

The prosecution announced on June 26 that it has decided to organize a task force of five prosecutors to clarify the truth surrounding the incident as soon as possible, saying that the TV program has generated a great deal of public interest.


This is the first time the prosecution has formed a task force to investigate a program. Even with the Hwang Woo-suk affair in 2005, the prosecution conducted an investigation, but formed a task force only after Seoul National University announced the results of its investigation into Hwang, a SNU scientist who was found to have fabricated research on cloning human embryonic stem cells.