A pointless battle with no real winner

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A pointless battle with no real winner

President Yoon Suk-yeol’s “doorstep interviews” with reporters were a symbol of the arrival of a new presidency. He refused to reside in the palace-like Blue House and relocated the presidential office to Yongsan, central Seoul to boost his communication with the public. After some controversy in the early days, the interviews he had with the press on a daily basis served as an effective tool for his communication with the public. But after repeated conflicts with MBC, the presidential office removed a platform for the press and installed a wall in its place. Rumors spread that the move signals the end of the doorstep interviews. If true, it is a regrettable move.

The presidential office and MBC, a terrestrial broadcaster, have clashed several times already. During Yoon’s trip to New York last month, MBC reported as if the president has hurled an insult at U.S. President Joe Biden and the U.S. Congress when Yoon stepped out of a United Nations meeting. The broadcaster interpreted Yoon’s blurry remark as mentioning “Biden.” In controversial footage, MBC even hired a woman to mimic the first lady’s voice without specifying the use of a surrogate.

In response, the presidential office banned an MBC reporter from boarding the presidential plane before his trip to Southeast Asia for summits. That’s not all. A reporter from MBC cornered the president on Friday, saying, “What’s wrong with us anyway?” That triggered a vehement exchange between the reporter and a presidential staffer.

It is embarrassing to see this battle between MBC and the presidential office. The public broadcaster must reflect on whether it is really remaining impartial. MBC is not free from criticism for its biased reporting since its malicious reporting on the mad cow disease from U.S. beef imports during the Lee Myung-bak administration. It seems that MBC does not have any respect for the presidency.

The presidential office cited ten reasons why MBC’s reporting has been malicious. Most of them are convincing. A third union of MBC criticized the broadcaster for distorting facts and inciting the people instead of criticizing the president based on facts. The union even urged the company to recover its true image as a member of the free press rather than serving as a propaganda tool for the Democratic Party.

But the presidential office’s reaction is not appropriate either, as it took drastic decisions like banning an MBC reporter from boarding the presidential plane. Such overreactions backfire as they give the impression that MBC suffers oppression from the government. In a recent Gallup Korea poll, the share of respondents who criticized the president’s“unilateral ways” has doubled after the presidential office banned the MBC reporter from boarding the plane.

The country faces a crisis from North Korea’s missile provocations and its own economic slump. Under such volatile circumstances, the presidential office and MBC must stop this unnecessary battle immediately.
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