Did The Maritime Chief Misspeak?We are curious as to the background of the remark supposedly made by Noh Mu-hyun, maritime affairs and fisheries minister. He reportedly said, "The regime should not hesitate to declare war against the press." Although he asked rhetorically why tax audits into some news companies pose a problem, when asked whether the audits contained a political intention, he said, "What action in the world is done without an intention?" Perhaps he wanted to show off his mettle as a warrior against the press, but his words seem to provide a glimpse into his notion that the media are a foe against which to score a victory. We would like to know if his view of the press represents his personal belief or an expression of the pervading mood in the ruling camp.
With the launch of the tax audits, some broadcasters, a newspaper and news agency in which the government is the largest shareholder have painted a picture of tax dodging newspaper companies and tried to avoid the audits. Newspaper firms have never tried to avoid tax probes. It was the government that chose not to execute its authority. Nevertheless, the government blamed news companies for not conducted the required routine self audits, and going a step further, it is playing to a minority opinion that renounces newspapers as a hostile group. Many thoughtful people have been concerned about this development.
Mr. Noh's statement engenders suspicion that the government shares a dangerous view of the press. The Millennium Democratic Party officially indicated that the minister's assertion was a private opinion, which has nothing to do with the party's stance. Yet, some figures in the party are rumored to have said that the minister's words were a statement "someone had to make." Is his assertion about the motive correct? Reportedly the government and the ruling party leaders have not commented on Mr. Noh's words. Are they tacitly in agreement with his view? If not, did he say what he said because his heart rests with politics, far from his minister's post? Did an opportunistic bent make him do it? He recently assailed his party's chairman as an opportunist but later ate his words? We are awaiting a clear explanation about his gaffe.