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Hwang hospitalized for exhaustion

MBC cancels PD Notebook, president may step down

Dec 07,2005

Hwang Woo-suk was hospitalized yesterday in Seoul National University Hospital. [Joint Press Corps]

The same day Korea’s stem cell celebrity Hwang Woo-suk was hospitalized due to exhaustion, the Munhwa Broadcasting Corporation said yesterday it will discontinue its investigative current affairs program, taking responsibility for violating journalistic ethics in the process of making a documentary questioning the authenticity of Dr. Hwang’s research results.
Dr. Hwang was admitted to the Seoul National University hospital yesterday morning. “Dr. Hwang is suffering from worsened health due to a sleep disorder, exhaustion and stress,” said Seong Myeong-hoon, a senior executive of the hospital. “Dr. Hwang will stay in our hospital for about a week.”
The MBC TV network’s program, PD Notebook, had claimed that cloned embryonic stem cells produced by Dr. Hwang’s team may have been scientific fabrications. The documentary, however, was withheld from being aired due to the producers’ unethical investigations. A Sunday report by TV news channel YTN featured Dr. Hwang’s former co-researchers saying they had been threatened by the producers to speak unfairly about the stem cell researcher.
MBC quickly apologized for the producers’ unethical practices but the aftermath has been severe. Advertisers are deserting the TV network and its ratings are plummeting. An Internet movement has urged viewers boycott MBC.
Alarmed by the situation, the broadcaster decided at an executive meeting yesterday it will cancel PD Notebook. The program was suspended earlier this week and the corporation had said it would resume airing its weekly broadcast on Tuesday. PD Notebook’s fate, however, changed after the in-house meeting. “The measure should be interpreted as terminating the program,” a spokesman for MBC said. The program has aired for 15 years.
MBC President Choi Moon-soon indicated yesterday that he may step down from his post. “I will try to resolve this situation, without clinging to my post,” Mr. Choi said.
It may be too late for MBC to regain its audience. Ratings for News Desk, MBC’s main 9 p.m. news program, dropped to 5.8 percent Tuesday, according to TNT Media Korea. The program formerly rated around 10 percent or more.
MBC also faces investigations by the prosecution. The Seoul Central District Public Prosecutors Office said yesterday it has launched investigations after receiving a petition from a civic group. Park Eui-jeong, a 77-year-old activist, filed a petition to the prosecution, saying MBC has hindered Dr. Hwang’s work and defamed him. “We will carry out the probe under the regular procedures,” a prosecution source said.


by Special Reporting Team, Ser Myo-ja


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