Counsel: Kim blacklisted liberal artists

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Counsel: Kim blacklisted liberal artists

While serving as the chief of staff to President Park Geun-hye, Kim Ki-choon made an order to the culture minister to create a blacklist of artists critical of the administration in order to cut funding, a source from the independent counsel team told the JoongAng Ilbo on Monday.

During its investigation into the alleged abuse of power by Park, her friend Choi Soon-sil and other associates, the team of Independent Counsel Park Young-soo obtained testimony from a senior official at the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism about Kim’s order to create the blacklist, the source said. Kim made the order directly to then-Culture Minister Kim Jong-deok.

“Chief of Staff Kim made repeated demands to Minister Kim in October 2014 to pay proper attention to cutting aid to leftists,” the source from the independent counsel team said. “Kim questioned the minister as to why he was not briefed about the progress and ordered him to hurry.”

Kim, who served as the presidential chief of staff from August 2013 until February 2015, earlier denied the allegation. “We did not make the blacklist,” Kim testified during a National Assembly hearing in December last year.

The senior ministry official who recently testified to the independent counsel probe also talked to the JoongAng Ilbo about the situation.

“After meeting with the chief of staff, Minister Kim ordered us to check on financial support for artists whose ideology was deemed progressive or whose works were considered political,” the official said.

The independent counsel also obtained testimony from other officials that Chief of Staff Kim explained the intention behind creating the blacklist during his meeting with Minister Kim. Kim Ki-choon reportedly called the cultural figures and artists critical of the government “Reds” and referred to the plan to cut government support as an “annihilation policy.”

Kim Ki-choon also made a comment about movies critical of the government. “The people can be infected by anti-government sentiment, so we must cut funding to kill them,” he was quoted as saying.

Former culture minister Yoo Jin-ryong, the predecessor of Kim Jong-deok, earlier said in a media interview that Kim Ki-choon was particularly upset about movies such as “The Attorney,” a film about the late President Roh Moo-hyun, which was released in 2013. Yoo also said Kim asked him why the ministry was not sanctioning companies that produced such movies.

The independent counsel team believes the blacklist was actively pursued around August 2014. Yoo left his ministerial post in July 2014 and Kim Jong-deok was named his successor on the recommendation of Choi and her associate Cha Eun-taek.

“The independent counsel also obtained testimony that Kim Jong-deok made a pledge to Kim Ki-choon before he was appointed to the minister post that he would faithfully respect the blacklist policy,” another source closed to the investigation said.

The independent counsel team also summoned Vice Culture Minister Song Soo-keun to confirm whether Minister Kim, after meeting the chief of staff, ordered ministry officials to implement the so-called annihilation policy against blacklisted artists. In 2014, Song created a taskforce inside the ministry to promote “healthy” cultural content.

Song was the head of the ministry’s planning division at the time. He was promoted to vice minister last December by acting President and Prime Minister Hwang Kyo-ahn.

The taskforce reportedly created three blacklists, one each for the literary community, film industry and media industry. “After the lists were created, the team also attempted to restructure the Arts Council Korea by appointing more conservative members,” the independent counsel source said. The council distributes culture and arts promotional funds, which includes government money.

According to the independent counsel and culture ministry, Minister Kim had another meeting with Chief of Staff Kim to report on the progress. After he briefed the action plan, the minister was ordered to “meticulously implement the policy and manage the situation continuously.”

The JoongAng Ilbo made numerous attempts to contact Kim Ki-choon to confirm the allegations, but he was not available.

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