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President Park Abuses Power in an Attempt to Stifle Unfavorable News Reports

President Park Abuses Power in an Attempt to Stifle Unfavorable News Reports

Og Lim

20140916084405864_HXT9IJ9B_1President Park Geun-Hye in the cabinet meeting,  photo from the Presidential Office

A few days after President Park Geun-Hye lashed out in the cabinet meeting against “insulting remarks about the president that were going too far”, a team of 5 prosecutors from the Seoul Central District Prosecutors’ Office raided the home of one of the reporters from NewsPro. On September 19, prosecutors descended on metempirics Jeon’s (the reporter’s pen name) house in Gumi, a city located about 280km southeast of Seoul. They searched the house for a few hours and took with them a laptop computer that belongs to Jeon and a few other items. The prosecutors apparently wanted to find clues to the whereabouts of Min Seong-chul, a Japanese translator at NewsPro, who translated the article written on President Park’s absence during the 7 hours of the Sewol disaster by Kato Tatsuya, a Seoul correspondent from the Sankei Shimbun.

At that time Jeon’s wife was home alone to answer to them. When asked if translating a news article is a crime they answered her that it can be. Afterwards the prosecutors met with Jeon near his work to question him. They asked him how he was involved with NewsPro, what his position and role there were, and specifically if he had any knowledge regarding Min. They also wanted to know any details regarding the administrative people at NewsPro; their names, personal information, phone numbers, etc. Jeon was told that he might be summoned later to the Prosecutors’ Office for further questioning.

In the article in question, published on August 3, Kato Tatsuya talked about the seven-hour absence of Park at the time the ferry Sewol sunk, killing over 300 passengers, mostly high school students. Citing a column by the South Korean conservative newspaper Chosun Ilbo and the discussions at the National Assembly he said a rumor was being circulated that Park secretly met with a married man during this time. Kato even gave the name of the man. Accused of defaming the president by a conservative civic group and the presidential office Kato has been summoned by the prosecution for questioning a few times and has been banned from leaving South Korea.

Regarding these actions the global media community has shown its deep concerns over the restricted status of freedom of speech in South Korea. The Reporters Without Borders has recently called on, “the authorities to drop the charges against Kato and to lift the restrictions on his movements”, saying that, “it is completely normal for news media to ask questions about the actions of politicians, including the president.” The Japan P.E.N. Club also said in a statement on September 16, that, “freedom of expression should be guaranteed completely and to the maximum.” It added that South Korean actions, “can lead to virtual restriction of freedom of speech and expression, which forms the basis of democracy.”

A complaint against translators is even more absurd and nonsensical. A translation of a news article if it is true to the original articles without any distortion of facts, should not be viewed as a wrongdoing let alone a crime. And actually Kato’s article had been translated and posted on his own blog by Cho Kab-Jae, a South Korean conservative blogger a day before NewsPro posted its translated article online. It appears that Cho has not been a target for a complaint nor has he been questioned by the prosecution so far.

Then why are they attacking NewsPro? Are the South Korean government and its officials really trying to restrict freedom of speech and expression and the right for the public to know the truth? Are they afraid of South Koreans finding out how President Park and her administration are viewed and criticized by foreign media? Do they truly believe they can scare people off this way? We need answers.


[저작권자: 뉴스프로, 기사전문 혹은 일부를 인용하실 때에는 반드시 출처를 밝혀주십시오.]

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