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Prime minister-designate`s self-denial as a journalist

Posted June. 17, 2014 06:32,   


Newspapers started with commentaries. Newspapers first appeared in the form of a political pamphlet. Citizens (the bourgeoisie) read them and gave pros and cons in coffee houses (U.K.), salons (France) and banquets (Germany). This was how public opinion began. As time shifted from modern to post-modern era and the center of gravity of newspaper shifted from Europe to the U.S., factual reporting came to take greater part, but commentaries still remain the essence of newspapers. Commentaries hold a central role in newspapers compared with TVs.

Prime Minister-designate Moon Chang-keuk apologized for a column he had written while working as a journalist at JoongAng Ilbo, putting a cap on the journalists` freedom to make commentaries. On the late former President Roh Moo-hyun`s suicide, Moon had written, "It was an improper act as a public figure. This should be reflected at the funeral procedures and later issues." On his words, he explained recently, "I apologize if I had caused uncomfortable feeling to the bereaved family and the public." On his words on the late former President Kim Dae-jung that read, "Suspicions have continuously emerged on his creation of secret funds and flight of capital overseas," he explained, "It is true that his families and loving people felt sad and hurt."

Apology is necessary if commentaries are based on factual errors. However, the late former President Roh`s suicide should remain undebated in the realm of a commentary. Commentaries are basically criticisms and are different from propagandas and PR activities. It is natural for person who is criticized to feel hurt. No society is favorable towards suicide but in this case it was the president who took his own life. Criticizing this is acceptable in our society and very normal to comment on it.

Moon`s apology on just his columns on previous presidents Roh and Kim appears to be an act to soothe the pro-Roh and pro-Kim forces in the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy party. However, if a columnist apologizes for his column, both the column and apology will be speculated. Park Jie-won, member of the New Politics Alliance for Democracy who was designated as head of special personnel hearing committee, said in this Twitter account, "Moon is denying his very life as a journalist." A bumpy road is ahead for a journalist, who has been establishing rights and wrongs of issues with straightforward opinions, in becoming a prime minister whose role is to adjust various conflicting opinions.

Editorial Writer Song Pyeong-in (pisong@donga.com)