Chung Un-Young's Dismissal Raises EyebrowsMBC on June 22 fired Chung Un-young, host of the popular debate show "100 Minutes of Debate with Chung Un-young." The outgoing host will be replaced by news commentator Yoo Si-min, who will begin July 6 on a revamped show, "MBC 100-Minute Debate."
A source at MBC said, "Chung has the ability to host in an academic and systematic manner, but he lacks the energy and vitality that make a live debate unnerving and exciting. Consequently, we have been searching for a younger host since March. We believe that we've found the right person in Yoo Si-min. Only forty-one years old, Yoo has displayed both the dexterity and agility in his newspaper columns and editorials that are vital as a debate show host. Yoo also knows how to argue and reason. These are the reasons why we decided to cast him as the new host."
Contrary to MBC's claims, those in the broadcasting industry suspect that there are other reasons for Chung's dismissal. After all, Chung had hosted the show for only eight months - a conspicuously short run for a host. Moreover, until recently, MBC had been showering Chung with praise, such as "Chung is incredibly popular among netizens - who call him the 100-Minute Man" and "Chung's show has pulled the highest ratings for a debate show ever" and "Chung is opening up a debate culture in Korea."
Two speculations exist in the industry. First, people conjecture that the government had voiced dissatisfaction with Chung. In his show, Chung has always voiced progressive, somewhat critical, opinions on sensitive political issues, including the South-North summit and the Korea-U.S. SOFA. Moreover, he displays an evident disinclination to favor the ruling party.
Second, Chung recently accepted the position of part-time editorialist at JoongAng Ilbo, a newspaper that is not on the best of terms with the current administration. Rumor has it that one MBC executive annoyingly commented, "Why that newspaper of all newspapers?" MBC recruited Chung last year while he was still an editorial writer for Hankyore, another daily in South Korea.
MBC is refusing to acknowledge the speculations, while Chung is calmly saying that he holds no grudges against MBC and is declining further comment on his dismissal.
Yoo Si-min earned popularity back in 1984 while a student at Seoul National University. He was arrested while protesting as a member of a revolutionary student group opposed to the government. Upon his release, Yoo refuted the legitimacy of his arrest in a long argument entitled, "Grounds for Appeal."
When asked about his plans for the new show, Yoo answered: "I hope to speak more and be an active participant in the debates. Hopefully, I'll be able to create a realistic balance between opposing ideas." Yoo also added that he will not be writing newspaper columns anymore, so as to argue without bias and to focus on the show itself.
by Chung Jae-wahl