Korean National Union of Media Workers Rallies Behind Fellow Journalists
On January 7, 2015 the Korean National Union of Media Workers issued a statement to show its support of two South Korean journalists, and Choo Chinwoo. Kim and Choo have been indicted on charges of defamation against Park Jiman, the current South Korean president’s own brother, for implicating Park’s involvement in a murder case of two of his close relatives.
The union wrote in a statement Wednesday that the murder case has so many unanswered questions and suspicions and the investigation, however, was rushed to finish leaving many suspicions unresolved. Choo Chinwoo, who had spent significant time investigating the case, wrote an article showing “circumstantial evidence that implicated Park Jiman’s involvement in the case.”
The statement said that “reporting on suspicions in a murder case involving the South Korean President’s close relatives is not a crime” and that it is “the primary duty of a journalist to investigate and report findings in order to reveal the truth” when there are suspicions.
It questioned the intention of the prosecution in pursuing this case whether they are only attempting “to gag and intimidate journalists, so that they cannot speak up against those in power.” And it ended by saying that if a guilty verdict is given, the South Korean judiciary system will only “become a target of international derision” and asked the judge to “make a wise and fair judgment, without bias or interference brought.”
After these two journalists had been acquitted by a jury in their first trial in October of 2013 the prosecution appealed to a higher court and demanded two years and three years in prison for Kim Oujoon and Choo Chinwoo, respectively. A verdict is scheduled to be delivered on January 16, 2015.
In the meantime, there is a petition asking the South Korean judiciary system to acquit these two men, which has been initiated by NewsPro, with approximately 14,500 signatures globally collected as of January 8. Please visit the petition sites listed below if you wish to sign it.
Following is the complete statement by the Korean National Union of Media Workers:
Reporting on suspicions in a murder case involving the S. Korean President’s close relatives is not a crime
On January 16, 2015 a verdict from a high court in Seoul is expected to be delivered to Choo Chinwoo, a journalist at Sisa In, and Kim Oujoon, the president of DDanzi Media Group. These men have been indicted on defamation charges against Park Jiman, the president’s own brother, after they had reported on suspicions in a murder case implicating Mr. Park’s involvement in the case.
These two journalists were sued by Park Jiman on charges of reporting Park Jiman’s possible involvement with the deaths of Park Yongsoo and Park Yongchul, Park Jiman’s cousins once removed, shortly before the 18th presidential election in 2012 which Park Jiman’s sister, Park Geunhye, was running in.
This murder case has so many unanswered questions and suspicions. This case originally started because of conflicts between Shin Dongwook, the husband of President Park Geunhye’s sister, and Park Jiman. While trials between these two were ongoing Park Yongchul who could have testified against Park Jiman and had been requested to appear as a witness in court by Shin’s attorney was murdered. However, the investigation was rushed to finish leaving many suspicions unresolved.
After having investigated into this case for some time Choo Chinwoo wrote an article describing circumstantial evidence that implicated Park Jiman’s involvement in the case. And Kim Oujoon interviewed Choo Chinwoo about it for his podcast “Nanun KKomsuda”.
Whenever there are suspicions or doubts it is the primary duty of a journalist to investigate and report findings in order to reveal the truth. These two journalists, who only raised questions on a case with many unresolved suspicions, were only trying to do their job as conscientious journalists.
Nevertheless, Kim Oujoon and Choo Chinwoo were sued by Park Jiman. In October of 2013 these two journalists were tried in a trial by jury which involved ordinary citizens as jurors and they were acquitted on all charges. The verdict showed that justice was rightfully served.
However, because the prosecutors were convinced that the report by these two journalists was false they appealed to a higher court and asked for three years in prison for Choo Chinwoo and two years in prison for Kim Oujoon.
One of the important functions of journalism is to check and to criticize, if necessary, people with power. It was only right for these journalists to look into a case since there were suspicions suggesting that the former president and the leading candidate for the presidential election were involved in the case. By demanding prison time for these two journalists the prosecution is only trying to gag and intimidate journalists, so that they cannot speak up against those in power.
Journalists across the world including the International Federation of Journalists are watching intently to see what the verdict will be for Choo Chinwoo and Kim Oujoon. Please remember that a judgment of conviction for them will only become a target of international derision. We urge our judiciary system to make a wise and fair judgment, without bias or interference brought on by the current administration.
January 7, 2015
The Korean National Union of Media Workers