MBC chief questioned in labor scandal

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MBC chief questioned in labor scandal


Kim Jang-kyom

The chief of South Korea’s major public broadcaster MBC and one of his predecessors were questioned by the labor ministry early Tuesday over allegations that they violated labor laws and unfairly exerted influence over personnel affairs at the company based on political bias.

Kim Jang-kyom, president and CEO of MBC, appeared at a Seoul district agency of the Ministry of Employment and Labor to be interrogated over the suspicions, the ministry said.

He is accused of meddling in the news production to help previous conservative Park Geun-hye government and abusing his authority in personnel matters by disadvantaging some employees who refused to follow his directions. Kim Jae-chul, a former MBC chief who served from 2012 to 2013, was also summoned later in the day to be questioned over similar allegations, the agency said.

Kim Jang-kyom, the former managing editor of the MBC news desk, on the contrary, accused the labor union of threatening him for political purposes now that the new government is run by liberal President Moon Jae-in.

“How could I ever have wrongfully acted in any way when I came to office only six months ago ... I will face the questioning fair and square,” he told reporters.

Kim had been previously summoned by the government office for questioning after MBC employees, including journalists and producers, lodged a formal complaint against him. But the MBC chief refused to make an appearance, claiming the summons was politically intended and an infringement of freedom of speech and media independence.

His repeated refusal prompted a Seoul district court to issue a detention warrant on him Friday.

Hundreds of unionized employees at MBC and KBS, another public broadcaster, went on strike simultaneously earlier this week, urging their chiefs to resign and calling for the independence of news production.

The government inquiry and court warrant fueled parliamentary wrangling on the issue and led the main opposition Liberty Korea Party to boycott all regular sessions at the National Assembly on Monday.

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