Samsung ends financial support for journalists

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Samsung ends financial support for journalists

Samsung Press Foundation decided on Tuesday to stop providing financial aid to journalists studying abroad and writing investigative stories.

An extraordinary board of directors’ meeting said the foundation had decided to scrap four journalist support programs in order “to re-establish the role of the foundation in tandem with the changes in the media environment.”

The programs include the annual Samsung journalist prize, stipends offered to selected journalists studying for up to one year at foreign universities and financial aid for reporters writing their own books or investigative reports. The stipend offered to journalists studying abroad amounted to more than $10,000 per person.

The foundation will continue other programs that do not require separate screening processes such as hosting conferences for journalists.

The decision was inevitable, the foundation says, as it wants to avoid misunderstandings and criticism of its intentions.

As an anti-chaebol sentiment has grown under the Moon Jae-in administration, journalists that have benefited from the foundation’s programs have faced an increasingly hostile work environment. Lists of beneficiaries have been circulated among the general public, and the journalists involved have been branded “Samsung scholarship holders,” implying that they are beholden to the electronics giant.

Some civic groups have claimed that Samsung supports journalists in order to beef up its influence over the media, arguing that beneficiaries can hardly be expected to fairly report on a company that has supported them in the past. Others, including media outlets, argue that the programs provide a golden opportunity for journalists’ career development.

The foundation was established in 1995 with a 20 billion won ($18.5 million) fund, half of which came from Chairman Lee Kun-hee’s pocket, and the study abroad program for journalists began the next year.

Other big business groups such as LG and KT also run journalist scholarship programs. LG launched its own journalist foundation two weeks after Samsung did and began sending 10 or so reporters abroad annually in 1996.

LG halted its study abroad program when the Kim Young-ran antigraft law was introduced in September 2016, but resumed the program last year.

Although other chaebol have yet to announce changes to their programs, it is likely they will follow in Samsung’s footsteps.

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