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Why Did Commissioner Lee Stay Silent?

Posted January. 07, 2006 03:00,   


On the morning of January 6, many morning dailies carried corrections of the same story.

The newspapers corrected their previous story that Gyeonggi Provincial Police Commissioner Lee Taek-soon, (54), who has been appointed to the post of commissioner general, went to the same schools as Prime Minister Lee Hae-chan--Yongsan High School and Seoul National University—with Lee being a one-year junior alumnus. Dong-A Ilbo also carried that story.

In reality, Lee who graduated from Yongsan High School’s 21st class, is actually one year senior to Prime Minister Lee, who graduated in the 22nd class. Lee failed his first college entrance exam and entered Seoul National University in 1971, the same year as Prime Minister Lee.

Then why did so many press outlets make such a mistake? And why did commissioner Lee, who should have corrected the wrong story, stay silent?

Such incorrect articles were not only reported on January 5. Last December 29, when former Commissioner General Huh Joon-young stepped out bearing the responsibility for the deaths of two farmer demonstrators, many media outlets speculated on potential candidates for replacement, and Commissioner Lee was reported as a junior alumnus to Prime Minister Lee. All police officials, without exception, confirmed it.

However, on January 5, two Dong-A Ilbo readers pointed out that Commissioner Lee was senior to Prime Minister Lee, and after checking facts, Dong-A printed a correction article, as other newspapers did.

Most officials at the National Police Agency said, “The reports shouldn’t be wrong. If Commissioner Lee were Prime Minister Lee’s senior, why wouldn’t he say anything until one week passed by after the stories were reported?” Just as they say, had Commissioner Lee just made a phone call, the news media would not have made the same mistake twice.

On this, Commissioner Lee explained on January 5, “Well, in government posts, higher ranking officials are seniors. (Prime Minister Lee’s) Post is higher so, he can be seen as my senior, and if the media sees it that way, then can’t it be applied that way? Some alumni called, and I told them, ‘Well that’s life.’ Large conglomerates are big brothers to small businesses, and in turn, small business are big brothers to even smaller business: that’s how it is.”

Commissioner Lee also said, “I couldn’t just rashly tell who was senior because I thought it would be impolite to Prime Minister Lee. Besides what do I have to gain by correcting it?”

An official from the National Police Agency commented, “Commissioner Lee does not self-assert himself very strongly. He acted more cautiously, thinking that if it became known that he was senior to Prime Minister Lee, people would see him differently.”

An official from the Prime Minister’s Office also said, “After the initial reports as candidate came out, it wasn’t that necessary to tell that their relation was reversed, and it isn’t a matter to loudly go and talk about, either.”

The National Police Agency announced on January 6 that it had formed a team to prepare for Commissioner Lee’s National Assembly hearings. The leader of the team is Daegu Metropolitan Police Deputy Commissioner Yoo Jae-ok, and the office will be set up at Commissioner Lee’s workplace in Gyeonggi Provincial Police Agency located in Suwon, Gyeonggi Province.

Jae-Myoung Lee Chin-Ku Lee egija@donga.com sys1201@donga.com