[EDITORIALS]Don’t shoot the messengerKwon Oh-seung, the head of the Fair Trade Commission, is looking for a fight with the media. The other day he said, “If the media report on us with malicious intentions we will respond maliciously as well.” He was speaking at a year-end party with reporters who cover the commission.
Mr. Kwon may have complaints about the media, but he does not have a right to degrade and insult the media in this way. His uncouth rhetoric lacks a minimum degree of grace and dignity. It makes one wonder if he was really a law professor at a university. His remarks were not just a complaint, they also revealed that he hates and detests the media.
After his remarks were condemned as scandalous and controversial, the commission explained that he had meant to say that he would accept constructive criticism from the media so long as it is offered with respect and affection for the institutions of government, but he would respond vigorously if the media produces malicious reports.
But that explanation also reveals Mr. Kwon’s distorted view of the media. It is wrong to think that a media outlet has respect if its reports are constructive and that it must be disrespectful if its reports are critical.
The media reports news based on the facts, not based on its respect for institutions. There is no reason to judge whether the media has hostile intentions. Facts are facts.
It is also strange that he has had such an ill-considered response to criticism. The Fair Trade Commission has suffered criticism because of corruption among its staff and the failure of its policies, not because of the media.
If the content of a report is not true, the commission can ask the media outlet to run corrections. If it feels that is not good enough, it can file a complaint with the Press Arbitration Commission or the courts.
There are plenty of legal and institutional means to confront the media. So what kind of malicious response can Mr. Kwon have in mind? Last month, when interrogated by the National Assembly, Mr. Kwon said that a newspaper’s editorials have a different perspective than its articles because of the power of its advertisers. This remark earned him severe criticism from lawmakers.
Even after that incident, he has still been hostile toward the media. Perhaps he is not the right person for the position he holds.
The duty of the head of the Fair Trade Commission is, as he put it, to encourage fair competition in the market with good polices. His duty is not to pick fights with the media on every single matter.