Go to contents

[Editorial] Cutting the Administration`s Lifeline?

Posted June. 19, 2009 04:56,   


“Ms. Kim, how do you feel seeing this for yourself? Do you see what you’ve done? Are you satisfied now? Ha ha.” Producer Kim Bo-seul of the MBC investigative news show “PD Notebook” said this to the show’s writer Kim Eun-hee.

“I feel uneasy as the power of the public – the power which cut the political lifeline of the 100-day old administration, the power which cracked the indomitable castle of the Dong-A (Ilbo), Chosun (Ilbo), and JoongAng Ilbo, and the power which achieved things that no media or group did before – seem to disappear.” Kim wrote this in an e-mail message sent to her acquaintance.

PD Notebook is a program that exaggerated and distorted the risks of the human version of mad cow disease last year, disrupting Korean society. The two messages were what both the producer and writer of the show said in late June last year, when illegal violent protests erupted against U.S. beef imports.

Prosecutors announced the results of their investigation into the factual distortion case involving the MBC show. One of Kim’s e-mail messages disclosed said, “I worked fanatically right after the presidential election, when I hated Lee Myung-bak the most.” This shows that the show’s episode on mad cow disease had a political agenda to upend the newly inaugurated Lee administration.

The probe concluded that the program distorted 30 facts and indicted four producers and one writer without detention. Though prosecutors applied charges of defamation and interference of the execution of official duties, the national and social losses incurred by the program’s lies are tremendous. Protests against U.S. beef imports instigated by PD Notebook continued for more than three months, leaving Seoul in chaos, tainting the country’s image abroad, and negatively impacting the economy.

The program’s production staff snubbed a subpoena in crying suppression of the media, and blocked the execution of a raid and arrest warrant. The uncovering of the truth behind the scandal lies in the hands of the judiciary. The show’s producers dared to distort and exaggerate facts for ideological and political purposes and must face justice.

The producers claim that politically minded prosecutors suppressed freedom of speech, a democratic principle. In a lawsuit filed by the Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries Ministry demanding that the show air a follow-up program after issuing a correction, the Seoul High Court ruled that the program should air a revised program after adding two more facts to the previous ruling. The ruling showed that the program purposely distorted facts while violating the basic ethics code. Despite the ruling, the program remains belligerent and keeps mentioning freedom of speech. The MBC executive board is not free from blame since it failed to hold the producers accountable for almost a year since the airing of the program.

MBC’s role in political scandals is nothing new, from the smear campaign against Grand National Party candidate Lee Hoi-chang before the 2002 presidential election to the 2004 impeachment of former President Roh Moo-hyun and the 2007 BBK scandal that sought to taint Lee Myung-bak’s presidential candidacy. MBC’s union took power when the left-wing government took office, and the network’s structural problems encouraged a biased and distorted PD Notebook. Serious discussion is necessary to correct the situation in which groups with biased ideology sway the media.