[EDITORIALS]Clean up the newsrooms

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[EDITORIALS]Clean up the newsrooms

As the investigations into the case of Yoon Tae-shik go into full swing, some shocking details of irregularities by journalists involved in the scandal are being exposed. Most of the 25 journalists who were reported to have owned shares of Pass 21 were at first regarded as innocent supporters of start-up businesses. But the charges against some indicted journalists are so ignominious that the affair is becoming a blot on the profession.

One man, Choi Young-gyu, a former business news editor of an economic daily, was detained on charges of misappropriation of funds. He allegedly wrote 30 articles promoting Pass 21 in exchange for 1,000 shares of the firm, a Grandeur sedan and a set of golf clubs. In all, Mr. Choi reportedly received about 250 million won ($192,000) in cash and property from Mr. Yoon, including use of the firm's credit card to charge about 29 million won in purchases. His conduct, if the charges are true, is unbelievable for a leading official of a newspaper company.

Kim Young-loul, the former president publisher of an economic daily, was accused by prosecutors of owning 90,000 shares of Pass 21 at its incorporation and selling 47,000 shares later. The prosecutors are questioning him about how he received the shares and why he sold them. Mr. Kim is also being questioned as to whether he directed Mr. Choi, the arrested staff writer of his newspaper, to write articles promoting the firm to raise its share price. Investigators said that Mr. Kim visited Lee Jong-chan, former director of the National Intelligence Service; Namgoong Suek, a former minister of information and communications and Kim Won-gil, a former minister of health and welfare to solicit government purchases of products made by Pass 21. That, obviously, has nothing to do with his job as an economic journalist.

A former television producer at Seoul Broadcasting System, Jung Soo-yong, was detained for receiving 1,000 shares of Pass 21, 40 million won in cash and use of the firm's corporate credit card to buy 11 million won worth of goods. Prosecutors say Mr. Jung did the unthinkable - he allegedly demanded 200 million won from Mr. Yoon for suppressing television programs about the murder of Susie Kim. Other journalists are under scrutiny, and some officials say that there is widespread ownership of Pass 21 shares by journalists using names of friends or family, so the full extent of the scandal may not yet be apparent.

The Yoon scandal suggests that corruption and moral gangrene are rampant among journalists. They have been involved in corruption scandals in the past, but never in such large numbers and at the center of the incident. Is it possible for a director and a chairman of a newspaper company to conspire to manipulate the prices of stocks they own? They are not fit to say that they are guides of the times for the public.

Purifying the press is the essence of press reform. If journalists are not clean-handed, they cannot win the trust of the people, and they will be toppled. Last year, all parts of Korean society advocated press reforms, but some media companies were rotting from the inside out.

The Yoon scandal demonstrates that ethical principles of various press institutions are nothing more than scraps of paper. Media companies should do whatever it takes to wipe out the mushrooming internal corruption. Evil practices must be rooted out and workplace ethics of journalists must be strengthened. The men and women of the media must seize on the Yoon scandal to reflect on their actions in order to recover the trust of the Korean people.
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