Information agency faces axe
Transition panel has harsh words for Roh media policy
|Kim Hee-beom, left, and Suh Kang-soo, right, senior officials of the Government Information Agency, wait to begin their briefing before a hostile transition team yesterday in Seoul. [Joint Press Corps]|
The agency in charge of telling the government policy story is virtually useless in the eyes of the incoming Lee Myung-bak administration and it will likely be shut down or dramatically reshaped.
When it was the Government Information Agency’s turn yesterday to report to Lee’s transition team, the disdain was made clear again.
One of Lee’s major promises was to close down the agency, which drew the ire of most of Korea’s media companies when it followed President Roh Moo-hyun’s instructions to shut down press rooms in government ministries in line with his policy of trying to change reporters behavior.
“President-elect Lee has several times pointed out that he will open the press rooms again, and that is the basic stance of the Grand National Party,” said Lee Dong-gwan, the transition team spokesman, in a briefing after the agency was done being grilled yesterday.
Although he added that the final decision to close down the agency will be taken when the new administration conducts a government reshuffle, Lee repeated that the shutdown was a promise the president-elect will try to keep.
Expecting the worst to happen, the agency admitted in its report that it did not do a very good job.
“The agency lost the power to carry out its administrative policy because the relationship with the press turned hostile during the last five years,” the report read. “And the agency could not promote government policies and visions well enough to the public.”
No, that’s not right, the transition team responded.
“For the last five years, the Government Information Agency has virtually controlled the press by narrowing sources and channels of news and infringing on the people’s right to know,” said Park Hyeong-joon, a transition committee member, accusing the agency of implementing a policy that was supposedly designed to “enhance the transparency of the media,” but actually provided only information examined and vetted by government officials.
To implement this, the press rooms where reporters used to file stories from government agencies were shut down, and reporters were not allowed to enter government offices or talk to government officials without permission, Park said.
In its report, the agency suggested that it either go through some adjustments, or be merged with the Culture Ministry, with its function to promote the country’s policies being retained.
The transition team also wants to scrap KTV broadcasting, which is operated by the agency, but the agency said the service is needed to preserve a visual record of government activity.
“These five years have been like a war,” Roh said yesterday in his annual New Year address. “It was a fight against special privileges and vested interests. The worst has been the press.”
Roh has said he believed that the mainstream media has too many privileges and that one of his goals was to reform the media before his term was over.
By Lee Min-a Staff Reporter [email@example.com]