Hong apologizes to ex-JTBC head

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Hong apologizes to ex-JTBC head

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Hong Joon-pyo

Liberty Korea Party (LKP) Chairman Hong Joon-pyo apologized to Hong Seok-hyun, former head of the JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC, Tuesday for his remark last month in which he said Hong Seok-hyun gave the companies to the Moon Jae-in campaign in the run-up to the May 7 election.

The opposition party chief made the remark on June 18 in his speech declaring his bid for party chairmanship. Hong, who also ran in the snap election and was defeated by President Moon Jae-in, said then Hong Seok-hyun had “given away the paper and the broadcaster, but was only offered a marginal post as presidential advisor in return while his nephew is now being detained,” referring to Lee Jae-yong, vice chairman of Samsung Group, who now stands trial on bribery charges related to former President Park Geun-hye.

Hong, known for his fiery rhetoric, was apparently referring to the fact that JTBC, the broadcaster under the JoongAng Media Group and an affiliated company of the Korea JoongAng Daily, played a pivotal role in driving out former President Park from office by exclusively reporting on a tablet used by Choi Soon-sil, Park’s confidante, which stored confidential presidential address drafts and material last October.

But less than 40 days after he made the remark, Hong apologized for it during a member meeting at the party headquarters, saying, “My comment that former chairman Hong had given away the paper and broadcaster and had his nephew arrested was not true and crossed a line.”

He also said it was “untrue” that Hong, now head of the Korean Peninsula Forum and former ambassador to the United States, was offered an advisory position for president in return.

“Though I did not specify him, I express my apology to former chairman Hong, JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC for having defamed them.”

Hong’s apology came 37 days after the two media companies and former chairman Hong sued the former presidential runner for libel on June 22.

In a statement, the JoongAng Media Network denied Hong’s remark, saying the JoongAng Ilbo and JTBC had strictly followed objective reporting standards during the presidential race. On former chairman Hong being offered the advisory role, the JoongAng said the former head expressed his wish to decline the offer and the presidential office respected his decision.

Hong’s apology for his troubling remarks continued later in the day.

On his appearance on a talk show aired by KBS on Tuesday, he apologized to his ruling party counterpart, Choo Mi-ae, for his remark made in 2009 when Hong told Choo to “just go home and tend a baby if you have nothing to do,” because Choo, then head of the parliamentary labor committee, refused to cooperate with the then-ruling party’s labor bills.

“I did say to Choo to just go home and tend a baby when she made things harder for me,” he said. “I do feel sorry to her.”

His apology, however, did not stop Rep. Ha Tae-keung from publicly demanding that Hong resign from his top party post to take responsibility for such remarks. “I strongly exhort him to step down,” said the two-term lawmaker Wednesday at the National Assembly, saying Hong’s rhetoric fell far short of the weight and responsibility the title carries.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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