Meddling in media must stop

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Meddling in media must stop

When former ruling party floor leader Lee Wan-koo was nominated to take up the role of the country’s prime minister, expectations were high. After watching the reversal of earlier choices - prosecutor-turned-lawyer Ahn Dae-hee and former JoongAng Ilbo journalist Moon Chang-keuk - with dismay, the public hoped Lee would safely land in the position and live up to anticipation that he would be a strong leader of the cabinet. But hopes were dashed upon a chain of allegations and suspicions about his past deeds. His attitude and comments now raise questions about whether he is actually qualified to serve in public office.

During a luncheon with journalists late last month, Lee went overboard with his loose tongue. He boasted to journalists that he made a call to an executive at a TV station to order them to pull a certain panelist out from a TV talk program. He went on to say that he had connections with people in high places and implied that he can influence appointments in media organizations. “I can make someone go and he may never know why,” he said. It is unbelievable that a prime ministerial candidate can make such comments so casually. It is as if we are living in a military regime where censorship is rampant. Is Lee from that era?

Lee already is up his neck in suspicion. He must speak for himself and his son on the reasons his offspring was allowed to be exempted from his compulsory military service. On top of the doubts about real estate speculation and inheritance, he is also associated with various irregularities and ethical questions related to his past legislative activities and alleged plagiarism on his quest for a doctoral degree. Why his son did not pay a dime towards the national health policy while receiving more than 200 million won a year from the law firm he works for must also be answered.

The Saenuri Party attacked the media for its unethical practices in publicizing secretly taped off-the-record talks. But a journalist cannot let such comments from a prime ministerial nominee go unchecked. It would be breach of conscience.

Lee was nominated for prime minister as a four-time lawmaker, having served as the youngest regional police commissioner and governor of South Chungcheong.

But if he thinks so lightly of the freedom of the press, he is not qualified to lead this country’s government. Lee will have to sincerely correct his thoughts on media and public service and persuade the public that he is a changed man during this week’s confirmation hearing.

JoongAng Ilbo, Feb. 9, Page 34

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