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‘According to a key source’

Posted April. 05, 2013 03:43,   


When President Roh Moo-hyun was visiting New York, the U.S. on May 13, 2003, he called to his presidential office at around 1 a.m. Korean time (noon on May 12 New York time). He said to an operator, “I’m the president. Can I talk to the night duty at the secretary office?”But he could not talk to the night duty because one of the two night duties were sleeping, and the other was in the rest room. At last, he was connected to the night duty of the presidential security control office. The president asked, “I’m the president. Do you check the strike of the truckers` union?” and the night duty answered, “No, sir. We’re not checking the strike.” He said, “Oh really?” and hung off the phone. Afterwards, he told his entourage angrily, “Doesn`t the secretary office check the strike situation?”

This incident was not known to the world until President Roh returned home. For fear of criticism on its derelict in duty, the presidential office kept the occurrence secret. The May 19th edition of the Dong-A Ilbo covered it for the first time, six days after the incident. The story started with “According to the presidential office,” which threw the presidential office was into commotion. Then Presidential Secretary for Civil Affairs Lee Ho-cheol told me, “The news covered the confidential report of the senior secretary for civil affairs’ office verbatim. Please tell me who told you that.”

Since the event, I have never told the source to anyone for more than 10 years until now. Had I written, “According to John Doe at the presidential office,” what would have happened? He must have been heavily punished. After the news was released, the presidential office punished two night-duties and one official seconded from a ministry was kicked out of the presidential office. One of the two beds in the night shift room was removed.

Yoon Chang-jung and Kim Haeng, presidential spokespersons, asked reporters to identify sources instead of writing “a key source or a high-ranking official.” This means they will let reporters write down only what the spokespersons say in briefings. Yoon, a former reporter, must know better that such a request can never be accepted. The officials can refute or ask for correction on wrong coverage and file a lawsuit against malicious false reports. The more big mouths are in the presidential office, the happier the people would be.

Editorial writer Choi Yeong-hae (yhchoi65@donga.com)