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[Op-Ed] A Decade of Left-leaning Broadcasting

Posted May. 16, 2009 22:23,   


Former and current workers in the Korean broadcasting industry have set up a “civic coalition for broadcast reform” and launched a campaign to revamp the sector and restore fairness in broadcasting. In the launching ceremony, the group released a report alleging that the Kim Dae-jung and Roh Moo-hyun administrations sought to control broadcasting. A case in point is “We Can Tell Now,” an ideologically slanted program aired by MBC. Originally planned as a 12-part series, it turned to a regular program and contributed to spreading anti-American sentiment by depicting from a leftist perspective an anti-Japanese armed struggle led by the late North Korean leader Kim Il Sung and modern Korean history in the 1940s and 1950s. If the air time (12 times a year) is multiplied by ratings of an estimated 10 percent, this means 4.8 million people got an improper ideological education for 720 minutes a year.

Another example is a KBS documentary on the testimony of seven North Korean defectors that was supposed to be aired in 2000 on the program “Sunday Special.” The program aimed to show the hardship facing the North Korean people though testimonies of the defectors, but was canceled a couple of days before the scheduled airing. This was apparently to avoid offending North Korea. Strangely, broadcast unions, which frequently take to the streets to protest the alleged attempt by the Lee Myung-bak administration to control broadcasting, remained quiet at the time.

In the run-up to the presidential election in 2002, primetime evening news on KBS launched indiscriminate attacks on then presidential candidate Lee Hoi-chang of the conservative Grand National Party. The report told of his son’s alleged draft dodging 101 times from July to October that year, and quoted the accuser`s claim as if it was true. The accuser was later convicted for libel. The broadcast network had covered the same topic in the 1997 elections only 19 times. Former KBS President Jung Yun-joo, appointed by former President Roh Moo-hyun, took the lead in airing left-leaning programs such as “Media Focus” and “Modern History Seen through Great Figures.” By airing “Seoul 1945” and “Shin Don,” a historic drama, KBC and MBC criticized the founding fathers of the Republic of Korea and blasted conservative forces as outdated and corrupt groups.

Unions, however, have led the drive to present such left-leaning broadcasting. The civic coalition`s report said broadcast unions staged no strikes under the Roh administration. For a decade, KBS and MBC trumpeted ideological instigation and their unions were at the forefront of the government’s attempt to control broadcasting, according to the report. The government and the public must join hands in revamping broadcast companies, which have gravely misled the people.

Editorial Writer Hong Chan-sik (chansik@donga.com)