[EDITORIALS]Let's Keep the Press Debate CivilPolitical parties are engaged in a tug-of-war over a letter by eight U.S. congressmen to President Kim Dae-jung. The letter raised concerns about the government's media tax probe and said it could infringe on press freedom. The government and the ruling party said the letter is an intervention in Korea's internal affairs and the congressmen do not understand press conditions in Korea. The opposition said the government disgraced our country internationally.
Foreign press organizations and mass media have already commented on the tax probes and prosecutors' investigations. The International Press Institute and the World Association of Newspapers raised the issue. Time magazine and the Wall Street Journal both suggested in their articles that the Korean press is being oppressed. We believe the U.S. congressmen expressed their concern for the same reason.
We want to ask the government and the ruling party how they can ignore such a letter, arguing that it lacks understanding of Korean conditions. Are people who were not present at the scene of the action necessarily ignorant? Are they barred from criticizing? Instead, the government should have proven its fairness as the issue grew to become an important international matter.
There is also a problem in the attitude of the opposition. Although lawmakers have privileges in expressing their opinions, they should still maintain a certain degree of civility in their debate. They went too far in comparing President Kim to Hitler, Mussolini and Ferdinand Marcos, despite their suspicions of press persecution. They should not have said, "Rather than the Nobel Peace Prize, he should have won the Nobel prizes in dictatorship and press oppression." Such intemperance hurts rather than helps.
The public believes that none of the parties engaged in the dispute are right. The truth is somewhere between "gagging the press" and "enforcing the law fairly." We urge that both sides be mature. Although such advice about democracy to the president of a country which prides itself on having a "people's government" may be unwelcome, it did come, and both the ruling and opposition parties should ensure that such criticism need not be repeated.