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Officials at odds on some article critiques

Apr 12,2003
On the first day of the Blue House’s new policy on media coverage, government ministries yesterday placed news articles written about them into five categories.
The five types were positive, straight and simple, constructive criticism, malicious criticism and error.
The classification of articles was part of the Roh Moo-hyun administration’s drive for press reform. The Blue House, the Ministry of Culture and Tourism and the Ministry of Government Information Agency have joined forces to enact the plan.
Ministries went back and forth on several articles, trying to determine in what category they should be filed.
The Unification Ministry denied claims made in an article carried by Hankyoreh. The article says the ministry was among several that are protesting the new administration’s plan for an integrated press briefing room. But in the summary report filed to the Blue House, the ministry placed the article under “straight and simple.”
The Ministry of Health and Welfare labeled as “malicious criticism” a JoongAng Ilbo article that says South Korea stands weak in the face of severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, due to an insufficient quarantine plan. But the office of the ministry’s spokesman readjusted it to “constructive criticism.”
The Ministry of Planning and Budget said a Dong-a Ilbo article on the scrapping of a government plan to readjust civil servants’ pay to be comparable to the private sector is “straight and simple.” But at the same time, the ministry suggested that the article should have taken a tone similar to a Korea Economic Daily article on the subject, which says the wage hike would require further discussion because it would mean readjusting the budget.
An official at the Ministry of Finance and Economy said, “The system will allow us to filter out erroneous reporting, but the decision whether an article is constructive or malicious criticism is a subjective one.”
An official at the Unification Ministry said, “Once an article is determined to be malicious criticism, we must first request a correction, then ask the Press Arbitration Commission to step in and if necessary file a complaint with the prosecution.”
Already, several ministries have received admonitions from the Blue House. When the JoongAng Ilbo broke a story on April 4 on the repositioning of the U.S. 2d Infantry Division stationed in South Korea, the Blue House analyzed the article word by word and ordered the Ministry of National Defense to ask for corrections.


by Political News Team


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