President Yoon Suk-yeol speaks to the press on his way to the presidential office on Friday. (Yonhap)
President Yoon Suk-yeol said Friday that banning MBC reporters from the presidential plane departing for the summits of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Group of 20 was an act to “protect the Constitution.”
The presidential office told MBC reporters they would not be allowed to board the presidential plane on Nov. 9, two days before Yoon embarked on his six-day trip to Cambodia and Indonesia.
When asked by a reporter on the matter while heading to the presidential office, Yoon said, "Please criticize freely. I am open to the criticism from the press and the people.”
"I believe it was an unavoidable measure taken to protect the Constitution as the president,” Yoon said.
"The press is one of the four pillars which upholds democracy, along with legislation, jurisdiction and administration,” he said. “For example, if jurisdiction makes a ruling through manipulating evidence different from the truth, the people would not say I should not raise a question on the matter because the jurisdiction is an independent institution.”
“The freedom of the press is important, but the responsibility of the press is also very important as it is a pillar of democracy,” he said.
Yoon restricting a specific media outlet from the presidential plane has been criticized as an act of press suppression by media and opposition parties. The exclusion follows Yoon being embroiled in controversy due to a hot mic incident reported by MBC in September.
The president also said an exclusive conversation with two reporters on the plane was a “personal” matter. On a flight from Phnom Penh, Cambodia to Bali, Indonesia, Yoon separately called two reporters from Channel A and CBS to the private zone of the presidential plane for an hourlong talk.
“It was a personal (conversation)," he said. "It's not like I did an interview."