[EDITORIALS]Unwanted Focus on Korea

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[EDITORIALS]Unwanted Focus on Korea

The International Press Institute sent a letter to President Kim Dae-jung voicing concern over an "ongoing attempt to muzzle the critical voice of the independent press." In return, the government attacked the IPI for intervening in domestic affairs. Oh Hong-keun, head of the Government Information Agency, sent a public letter voicing its objections to Johan Fritz, the IPI's director. Terming the IPI's letter to the president "rude and an insult to the pride of the Korean people," the official government response is an emotional one.

The International Press Institute is one of the world's most influential press organizations promoting freedom of press throughout the world. Considering the nature of the institute, it is not surprising that the institute is interested in the ongoing media tax probe in Korea. Its letter said, "The past few months have seen increased pressure on the country's independent newspapers by the government, pro-government media and self-proclaimed media reformers." The institute urged the government to "solve this issue in a manner befitting a democratic country," perhaps through a round table meeting with so called "Big Three" dailies at which IPI could act as a mediator. The letter also warned that the institute would move to put Korea on the IPI's "watch list" if the issue is not resolved in a democratic fashion.

The IPI watch list identifies countries where press repression by the government is serious. We feel disgraced at even the suggestion that Korea could be thought to be in that group. However, the IPI's proposal is a moderate one because it suggested a democratic resolution first rather than putting Korea on the list immediately. The government should consider the seriousness of the problem and IPI's moderate suggestion.

The government asks why the IPI distorted the conditions prevailing under the current administration, where "freedom of press has fully blossomed." Is that really true? The concerns IPI raised are similar to those of domestic media companies. The government should not react emotionally, but listen to the voices of the domestic press and keep the ongoing tax probe from becoming a bigger issue. Until then, the press inside and outside of Korea will be forced to watch our government.
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