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KBS Discussion Program: Controversy

Posted April. 14, 2003 22:21,   


On April 13, a live discussion was held concerning the suicide of Seung-mok, Suh (aged 58), principal of Bosung Elementary School in Yesan-gun, Chung-nam, at the KBS building in Yoido-dong, Youngdeungpo-gu, Seoul. After the discussion in the evening, participants staged a demonstration, protesting the verdict of the jury.

Based on this, KBS decided to hold a discussion again, unprecedented in the history of the broadcasting industry.


A live discussion program titled ‘Discussion with 100 People, What do you think?’ lasted 80 minutes starting at 11:30 p.m. on April 13. After the program, about 50 panel members as well as audience participants demonstrated for 3 hours in the hall of the new building, citing the possibility of a “conspiracy.”

In the discussion, Hwang Suk-keun, spokesman from Korea Federation of Teachers` Association, Koh Jin-kwang, head of Haksamo, Song Won-jae, spokesman of the Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union (KTEWU), and Park Kyung-yang, president of Hakbumo were on the panel.

The panel had a heated discussion about whether KTEWU`s demand for an apology from Mr. Suh for allegedly having a female teacher serve him coffee was an appropriate reaction or overreaction.

60 jurors, 30 from the Korea Federation of Teachers` Association and 30 from the Korea Teachers and Educational Workers Union, and another 40 jurors with a neutral position participated in the discussion.

Before the end of the discussion, the 100 jurors were asked to press a green button if they felt it was an appropriate reaction or a red button if they felt it was an inappropriate reaction. It turned out that the ‘appropriate reaction’ group outnumbered the ‘overreaction’ group 57 to 40.

“I don’t know how I should interpret these results because Internet polls, conducted before the discussion, showed that more people felt it was an inappropriate reaction (8:2),” presenter Jung Jin-suk said, showing his bewilderment of the results.

Problems Raised by the Jury

The jury claimed, however, “There were more red lights but the results showed otherwise.”

“Interviews with jurors confirmed more opinions of overreaction but the results turned out differently,” the KFTA insisted claimed. It says it has signatures from 58 jurors who felt it was an ‘overreaction’.

The KFTA asked the production staff to release a list of jurors so that they could confirm the result with each juror. However, the staff refused the request. The KFTA finally got their word that they would have a discussion again about the same topic on April 20 and stopped the demonstration at 4 a.m.

“There is no possibility of poll manipulation or system failure, but of a mistake in pressing the wrong button by some jurors,” Producer Choi Suk-soon said. “We tentatively agreed to hold another discussion with the same panel and the same jury but need to negotiate more because the positions of the two teachers’ groups and the jury are very different.”

Problems with the Method

Broadcast experts raised the issue of the discussion method. They said that it is desirable to hold a discussion about a controversial social issue but it is difficult to reach a conclusion by simply asking the opinions of 100 individuals, who do not represent the opinions of the general public.

“It is a problem to poll a jury on this kind of sensitive issue,” Min-ho Ahn, professor of Division of Communication at Sookmyung Women`s University, said. “It might have been better if KBS had dealt with the issue on the ‘Night TV’ discussion program on KBS1 TV for the sake of providing more information.”

Jin-Young Hwang buddy@donga.com