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[Op-Ed] Courts Favoring Ideology Over Truth

Posted January. 22, 2010 09:01,   


Suppose a violent incident occurs in which all witnesses revolt and the entire city stands still. A trial seeks to bring those accountable to justice. Because there is no question that violence was committed, the focus turns to whether the violence was intentional. Then the presiding judge says, “There was no violence. Period.”

Jeong Ji-min, the first to blow the whistle on the distortions of truth by the producers of the TV investigative news program “PD Notebook,” said she could not believe a court found five of the program’s staff not guilty. She was a co-translator and reviewer of English-language materials for the show. When the program’s producers tried to shift blame by saying, “We regret that the message was misunderstood due to a liberal translation,” she stepped forward to refute this claims. “The problem was not the translation, but the producers’ intent to emphasize the risk of mad cow disease,” she said. Even the producers admitted that distortions existed in the program. They claimed it was unintentional and a mistake. Judge Moon Seong-kwan of the Seoul Central District Court acquitted the five staff Wednesday. Jeong said, “I think even the producers themselves would’ve felt confused by the verdict suggesting that no distortion of truth occurred in the first place.”

The concept “motivated reasoning” has people trying to find information to back what they believe and disregard information that hurts their beliefs. When the truth is incompatible with their beliefs, what they discard is not their beliefs but the truth. Jeong also said, “I can only believe that the judge considered the producers not guilty from the very beginning and pieced together the findings into what he believed.” She said she would sue the judge if she could.

“As a history student, I always think about finding the truth, reinstating it, and the scope of margin of errors,” Jeong said. When finding what one believes in is distorted, she said, stepping forward to claim “untruth is untruth” does not require a strong will, but only a person’s basic self-confidence as a human being. The subtitle of the annotation in her book on the PD Notebook scandal is “I respect the truth.” She said, “If a case has the truth not complying with one’s ideology, the former must be respected. I expect others who believe in ideology different from mine will respect the truth as well.” Despite these and other notes she wrote in the preface of her book, cases where ideology prevails over truth have occurred in succession in Korea. Hopefully, she will develop into a great historian.

Editorial Writer Kim Sun-deok (yuri@donga.com)