[EDITORIALS]Journalists and bribery

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[EDITORIALS]Journalists and bribery

Since when have journalists decided to put their own personal interests ahead of their public responsibilities?

The prosecution has obtained the list of Pass 21 shareholders and begun questioning those on the list who are in politics, government and the media. They are suspected of involvement in influence-peddling.

Pass 21 was founded by Yoon Tae-shik, who is accused of murdering his wife in 1987. Because of the alleged involvement of the National Intelligence Service in the operations of the company, the case has drawn scrutiny about the possibility of favors given by shareholders for financial reward.

We seriously regret that 25 journalists, nearly half the shareholder list, are mentioned in a case like this. No wrongdoing should be automatically assumed from a journalist's stock holdings - they did not necessarily acquire the shares inappropriately or take part in manipulating prices. The prosecution has yet to charge any of them, so it is premature to say whether the journalists received that stock as compensation for favors or if they were unlucky in their choice of investment assets. But one person on the list has been reported to have taken a job at Pass 21, raising questions about whether he, and perhaps others, wrote favorable articles about the company to affect its share price.

The Securities and Exchange Act prohibits insider trading, so civil servants in economic agencies are banned from stock trading. Journalism is another profession that demands strict adherence to ethical standards. The media have pledged to cleanse themselves, and many newspapers bar business reporters from trading stocks. Our stock market lacks transparency, as do many other parts of our society. Insider and speculative trading in stocks have kept the market immature. If the journalists did peddle influence, they should be punished harshly. Neither can the media as a whole stand idle and say the number of journalists involved was small.

The prosecution should get all the facts, especially about the alleged involvement by the National Intelligence Service in protecting Mr. Yoon and his business.

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