The DP’s arroganceThe worry about former KBS President Jung Yun-joo’s appointment as the chairman of the Korea Communications Standards Commission came true. The nomination was approved by the commissioner board where six out of nine members represented the government or the ruling Democratic Party (DP). He did not hide his left-leaning and pro-government bias.
In his inauguration address, he vowed to exercise his authority in the commission “without hesitation” to act against “lies, unfairness and distortion” committed under the pretext of the freedom of speech without any responsibility. He found “reckless circulation” of disinformation and expressions provoking apathy and an unrest through fake news and groundless rumors on quarantine policy and vaccination. The commission requires a “deep debate” on its role and responsibility, he said.
The remarks are unbelievable from a figure who should be most objective as the chief commissioner overseeing the communications narrative. It is the Moon Jae-in administration that has been stoking public anxiety due to a lack of vaccines. The Korean press are regulated under defamation and libel lawsuits, which is unprecedented in a democracy, and he accuses them of lacking responsibility.
Commissioners on the board had demanded Jung publicly declare political neutrality as a condition to endorse his nomination. But Jung made a political statement in his inaugural speech. The main opposition sneers that it is ridiculous to expect a neutral and fair review of broadcasting by Jung.
Jung’s appointment could be a part of the ruling front’s campaign to regulate press freedom ahead of the March 9 presidential election in the name of media reform. “We cannot know where to start. Everything is a mess,” observed Rhee June-woong, a professor of media and communication at Seoul National University, referring to the DP’s attempt to railroad a media arbitration law. Despite questions raised on the content and procedure at the subcommittee of the National Assembly Culture, Sports and Tourism Committee, the bill nevertheless passed the committee meeting. The DP plans to endorse the legislation this month despite overwhelming opposition from the media and the academic and judiciary communities. It points to poor credibility of the press. But a survey by the Korea Institute of Public Administration last year found confidence in the National Assembly was at the bottom among 17 organizations.
DP floor-leader Yoon Ho-joong claimed that the bill is not as menacing to call for a collective action from media organizations. But it must be menacing as various media organizations issued a joint statement opposing the bill. It is appalling that the DP which once vowed to be the guardian of press freedom is going against the norm.