DP issues non-apology for calling out reporter

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DP issues non-apology for calling out reporter

South Korea’s ruling Democratic Party (DP) stood by its earlier statement denouncing a Seoul Bloomberg correspondent whose article called President Moon Jae-in the “top spokesman” of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, but deleted several phrases to “dispel the worries” of the Seoul Foreign Correspondents’ Club (SFCC).

The DP’s latest reaction to the controversy came Tuesday afternoon, three days after the SFCC expressed its “grave concern” over the DP singling out the Bloomberg correspondent for her coverage, saying it resulted in “serious threats to her personal safety.” The group said the DP’s public statement was a form of “censorship and journalistically chilling.” The Asian American Journalists Association’s (AAJA) Asia chapter and Seoul subchapter issued a similar statement on Monday afternoon.

In a statement released last Thursday, the ruling party called the article a “notorious” piece written by a Korean national who had just transferred to Bloomberg after working at a local news agency.

While mentioning the reporter’s full Korean name, the DP said the article was close to an act of “treachery” that insulted the head of state “underneath the cover of a U.S. wire service” and said the writer was a “black-haired foreign reporter,” implying it was abnormal for a Korean person to work for the foreign press.

The harrowing comments were made as the DP criticized the main opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP), whose floor leader, Rep. Na Kyung-won, told the National Assembly on March 12 that she doesn’t want to hear “humiliating rhetoric” that Moon is acting like Kim’s “top spokesman.” The Blue House called the remark an “insult to the head of state” and asked the LKP for an apology, but Na said she was referring to the Bloomberg article published last September.

As of Wednesday, the contentious DP statement uploaded on the party’s official website deleted several parts from the original version, including the Bloomberg reporter’s full name, the fact that she had worked at a local news agency, the description of her piece as close to “treachery” and her as a “black-haired foreign reporter.” But the revised DP statement still said the Bloomberg article was “notorious,” that it caused “a controversy” when it was first published and that the writer was “a Korean reporter working for a U.S. news wire service.”

In its latest statement on the issue Tuesday night, the DP said that its earlier statement could have caused “inconvenience” to the Bloomberg correspondent and “mental shock” to some other people “depending on who they are,” and expressed its “deep regret” and asked for “understanding.” The party offered its “apology” for causing pain to “many people,” but said the focus of the earlier statement was on the LKP floor leader’s parliamentary speech, not on Bloomberg and its reporter.

Political parties are free to criticize a reporter’s work, the DP said. The party pointed out that it was a “problem” that the Bloomberg reporter used her “subjective assessment” to call Moon Kim’s top spokesman in the a format of an article, not an editorial.

The DP then cited parts of the ethics code of the Journalists Association of Korea, saying Korean reporters were responsible for following the principle of fairness and contribute to peaceful reunification, national reconciliation and the restoration of national homogeneity. Bloomberg is not part of this association.

The DP, however, said there was “room for remorse” on whether it needed to use the term “treachery” in its earlier statement. It also apologized for using the term “black-haired foreign reporter” but said it was “a political term” that had nothing to do with racism. The Blue House, which earlier criticized Na and the LKP but not Bloomberg, made no further comment.

BY LEE SUNG-EUN [lee.sungeun@joongang.co.kr]

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