[EDITORIALS]An apology for actions that were inappropriateWe are offering a sincere apology over recent reports concerning the National Security Planning Agency’s transcript of a secretly recorded conversation involving then-JoongAng Ilbo President Hong Seok-hyun. The JoongAng Ilbo has taken pride in playing a role in creating a fair and just society by watching over those with political, economic and social power. But the transcript in question seems to imply that former President Hong was involved in the political evil of the past.
In view of the gravity of the case, the JoongAng Ilbo offers its deepest apologies to the people and pledges to painstakingly reflect on our track record, even before authorities launch investigations to verify the validity of the content of the transcript. After being appointed Ambassador to the United States in February, Mr. Hong resigned as leader of the JoongAng Ilbo. Yet the JoongAng Ilbo cannot say it has nothing to do with this matter. It makes us feel bitter.
The JoongAng Ilbo endured great suffering in connection with the 1997 presidential election. The Kim Dae-jung administration pressured the JoongAng Ilbo after its victory, and Mr. Hong was detained on charges of tax evasion in 1999. The so-called “Bokwang tax evasion scandal” was actually a result of the Kim administration’s displeasure with the Joong-Ang Ilbo for supporting Mr. Kim’s opponent. At the time, Mr. Hong himself offered a public apology. He served his jail term. Under the principle that double jeopardy is prohibited, we believe he had paid for the wrongdoing. Of course, the accused should reflect on himself, but it is also possible that he has been treated unfairly.
Learning from its mistakes, the JoongAng Ilbo matured. It learned there would be no way for it to be a right-minded member of the press without ending inappropriate relations with the political circle. Based on such lessons, the JoongAng Ilbo did its best to provide fair and objective reports during the 2002 election. As a result, both winner and loser recognized its political neutrality. Despite our efforts, some are trying to decry the JoongAng Ilbo by suggesting that the transcript characterizes the paper today. We deeply regret that situation.
It is difficult to understand why, out of numerous conversations on tape, questions are only directed at certain politicians, businesses and the JoongAng Ilbo. Those who were behind the eavesdropping have criticized certain broadcasting stations and newspapers that have decried the JoongAng Ilbo, saying, “They are not clean either. It is disgusting to see them behave as if they followed the right path.”
Everyone at the JoongAng Ilbo will again repent what happened in the past. With more humility, we will walk the path to become a newspaper of fairness, accuracy and openness. We will maintain our neutrality, without leaning toward any particular political faction or force.