Actions speak louder than wordsThe Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism apologized for having discriminated against a group of anti-government artists, writers, producers, directors and entertainers for being critical of President Park Geun-hye. The recent revelation of a blacklist of their names has led to the indictment of the incumbent minister. Vice Culture Minister Song Soo-keun made the apology and promised to revise the culture and arts promotion act to create a council to discuss ways to enhance the sovereignty of the culture and arts community and prevent unfair discrimination and political interference in their activities.
The apology, however, provides little relief. The ministry is a government authority. Yet it followed through the order of censorship and divided the culture and arts community without questioning.
The ministry must not attempt to sidestep the fiasco. The existence of a blacklist has seriously impaired our Constitutional principles of freedom of conscience, press, academics and arts as well as the roots of free democracy. A government office in charge of upholding constitutional values accused of suppressing the freedom of cultural figures and artists cannot exist in a democratic state. An apology and action without restructuring its staff and structure is, therefore, meaningless.
Separate from the independent counsel’s ongoing investigations, the ministry must conduct an internal probe to punish everyone involved in the discrimination. It must first establish a strict ethics code to prevent recurrence and reform its process to ensure transparency in funding artists and cultural figures. It also must leave everything on record so that others can learn a lesson for the future.
The ministry has a lot of work to do. The PyeongChang Winter Olympics are just a year away. It has to revitalize the culture, entertainment and tourism industries that have been hard hit by sanctions from Beijing. It needs to develop diverse tourism programs for foreign visitors.
It will regain public support if it stays faithful to its role and work.
JoongAng Ilbo, Jan. 24, Page 30