Forced media closings called illegal

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Forced media closings called illegal

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Lee Young-jo, president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, announces the conclusion of its years-long fact-finding mission on the Chun Doo Hwan regime’s abuse of military power to shut down and consolidate the nation’s media industry in violation of press freedom. By Kang Jung-hyun


Wrapping up years of investigation, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded yesterday that the military regime of Chun Doo Hwan used state power to infringe upon press freedom by forcibly shutting down or consolidating the Korea’s media in its push to control the nation.

“The state needs to recognize its responsibility and apologize to the victims of its action,” the commission recommended. “Furthermore, the honor of the victims should be restored and appropriate measures must be taken to compensate them for their damages.”

In 1980, the Chun regime forcibly restructured the nation’s media industry. Sixty-four media companies, including 28 newspapers and 29 broadcasters, were forced to shut down or merge with others under orders from the military regime. After the action, the country was left with 18 media companies comprising 14 newspapers, three broadcasters and one wire service. More than 1,000 journalists were fired and 172 periodicals closed.

Tongyang Broadcasting Company, which had been owned by the JoongAng Ilbo, was also forced to consolidate with the KBS.

“Around January 1980, military authorities led by Chun began discussions on how to take over the administration,” said Lee Young-jo, president of the commission, in a press conference yesterday afternoon. “By March, the authorities had set forth a plan to control media that could be an obstacle to its action.” Chun was officially sworn into office in September 1980 following the military coup on Dec. 12, 1979. The forcible restructuring of the media industry took place in November 1980.

Lee also said military authorities had taken action against media without legal grounds. “When the regime forced the media company owners to give up their businesses, soldiers attended the meeting with guns and swords and pressured them to sign the documents,” Lee said.

“The mass layoffs of journalists were forced by the military authorities so that they could create a media environment submissive to the regime,” the commission said in its press release.

“Based on intelligence reports about the journalists’ tendencies, the regime found that about 30 percent of the reporters were resistant to its rule and forced the media companies to fire them ... Military authorities continued to suppress the fired reporters by restricting their re-employment, threatening their lives.”

The press release added that some of them were sent to the Samcheong Training Camp, a type of concentration camp to discipline people the regime considered harmful to society.

The commission concluded that the state must admit to its responsibility for infringing upon press freedom.

“Including those who filed petitions to the commission to lay bare the truth about this incident, the state must take appropriate actions to restore the victims’ honor and compensate them for their suffering,” the commission said.

According to Lee, it is the first time that the commission has urged the state to come up with compensation plans, although the government had been advised in the past to apologize to victims of the incident.

Six petitions were filed with the commission to investigate the case, and the probe began in 2007. At the time, the commission called the incident “a historically grave case.”

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Throughout the investigation, about 45,000 pages of documents recording the incident were analyzed. The commission also questioned 152 people, including fired journalists and the Chun regime’s intelligence officials who had been involved in the press restructuring.


By Ser Myo-ja [myoja@joongang.co.kr]
Related Korean Article

여야 일제히 환영 논평 “조속히 피해 구제하라”
구제 방안 제시한 법조계 “국가 배상 특별법 필요”


진실·화해를 위한 과거사 정리위원회가 1980년 신군부의 언론통폐합 등 강압적 행위에 대해 “피해를 구제하기 위한 적절한 조치를 취할 필요가 있다”고 권고한 데 대해 각 정당은 일제히 환영 논평을 발표했다. 한나라당 조해진 대변인은 7일 “사과와 보상, 명예회복 가운데 지금이라도 취할 수 있는 조치가 있다면 정부는 최선을 다해 바로잡는 노력을 해야 할 것”이라고 밝혔다. 민주당 노영민 대변인도 “군사독재에 의한 언론통폐합으로 피해를 입은 당사자들에 대한 사과, 명예 회복과 피해 구제가 조속히 이루어지길 기대한다”고 말했다. 자유선진당 박선영 대변인은 “언론통폐합에 대해 사법부가 소극적으로 판단해 왔지만 이제 손해 배상이 이뤄져야 한다”고 말했다.

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