Questioning the collusionIt is shocking to learn that Korea Communications Commission (KCC) Chairman Han Sang-hyuk called up Kwon Kyung-ae — a lawyer whom he had known from the progressive Lawyers for Democratic Society (LDS) — to advise her not to write more pieces critical of the Moon Jae-in administration on Facebook after tipping her off about a “planned purge of senior prosecutor Han Dong-hoon, an ally to Prosecutor General Yoon Seok-youl, through an MBC report.”
In April, MBC reported on possible collusion between a reporter from Channel A, a conservative media outlet, and prosecutor Han, who has close ties to the prosecutor general. The comment by Chairman Han suggests the report could have been orchestrated by the government and pro-government broadcaster to remove perceived enemies in the prosecution and the press.
Lawyer Kwon first did not name the caller. But she suggested it could be Chairman Han as she said the caller was someone who “attended presidential weekly meetings and was responsible for overseeing broadcasting affairs.” Chairman Han also confirmed that he had talked with Kwon. He said he made the call an hour after the MBC report and denied he was aware of the news in advance. Then Kwon said she came to question how Han could have mentioned prosecutor Han when the MBC report did not specifically name him. But Kwon said, “I cannot allow this affair to stay underwater due to a fallacy of memory.”
As she said, this affair cannot be brushed off simply as a case of memory loss. Even the head of a government watchdog over broadcasting affairs cannot immediately identify an anonymous person in a news report. From what Chairman Han said, he specifically knew the report was designed to oust senior prosecutor Han. MBC actually trapped the Channel A reporter by installing a camera at the exact location where he and his informant met to frame him.
The informant is being defended by Hwang Hee-seok — former head of the Human Rights Bureau under the Justice Ministry, who was handpicked by Cho Kuk shortly after he became justice minister. Hwang even posted a photo with Choe Kang-wook, President Moon Jae-in’s former aide and head of Open Democratic Party, a satellite of the ruling party, on Facebook, saying the two “embarked on a joint mission” just ahead of the MBC report. Chairman Han could have known of the plot in advance.
Justice Minister Choo Mi-ae and the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office refer to the case as a “prosecutor-press” collusion case where prosecutor Han and a Channel A reporter coerced an indicted businessman to expose dirt on Rhyu Si-min, head of the Roh Moo-hyun Foundation and an outspoken critic of the prosecution, for going against the liberal administration. But despite many over-stretches in the investigation process, no solid evidence has been found to connect the reporter and prosecutor Han.
The prosecution must create a neutral team instead of the Seoul Central Prosecutors’ Office, which has been biased towards the case. If not, a special or parliamentary probe would be in order.