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Yoon’s office, ruling party step up offensive against MBC

Office sends letter to verify reports; ruling party visits broadcaster in protest

Sept. 28, 2022 - 15:36 By Shin Ji-hye

Members of the People Power Party protest against MBC over reporting on President Yoon Suk-yeol's off-the-cuff remarks in New York, in front of MBC headquarters in Mapo-gu, Seoul, Wednesday morning. (National Assembly joint press corps)

The presidential office and the ruling party are ratcheting up the pressure on local broadcaster MBC over its reporting on President Yoon Suk-yeol’s controversial use of vulgar language, against rising accusations of attempts at censorship of the press.

The presidential office said Tuesday night it sent an official letter to MBC President Park Sung-je asking for clarification on the matter.

The letter asked the broadcaster to answer on what grounds it wrote the subtitles for Yoon’s remarks in a video showing him conversing with aides shortly after attending the Global Fund's Seventh Replenishment Conference in New York. It also asked the broadcaster about whether efforts had been made to verify Yoon’s remarks with the presidential office.

“Regarding the MBC report, the presidential office said the subtitles were false. However, MBC did not revise the initial report but rather made additional reports, and the contents were reproduced with subtitles called ‘domestic media reports,’” the letter said, adding it damaged the alliance with the US as well as the national interest.

MBC immediately refuted the office’s claim, releasing its own statement.

“It is very regrettable that the presidential office, the highest authority, sent an official letter to the president of a public broadcasting company in the form of clarification of the reporting process, despite that there is an institutional mechanism that can object to the report,” the statement said.

“Even though most domestic media outlets reported the same, the fact that (the presidential office) sent such an official letter only to MBC raises doubts about whether it is trying to settle the controversy by sacrificing MBC,” it added.

MBC hoped that the recent attack on the broadcaster, which is being conducted primarily by some political circles, is not an attempt to “curb the public monitoring” and “criticism functions of the media.”

During his trip to New York last week, Yoon was caught on a hot mic insulting the US Congress. In the video released by local media, Yoon told his aides with vulgar language that it would be embarrassing for Biden if Congress did not approve something unspecified. The presidential office later sought to clarify that the remarks were directed at Korea's National Assembly, not the US Congress.

On Tuesday, the People Power Party launched a task force to find out the truth of what they called “MBC’s biased manipulated broadcasting.”

The following day, the ruling People Power Party members, including Vice Floor Leader Song Eon-seok, visited MBC in protest of the controversy over Yoon’s remarks. The lawmakers also held a rally on MBC's purportedly manipulated broadcasts, including pickets in front of MBC's management center.

The ruling party is additionally urging MBC executives to resign. On Monday, some lawmakers held a press conference demanding the resignation of MBC President Park Sung-je and an apology broadcast, saying, "It is a serious manipulation broadcast that will remain as a dark stain on the media."

The party announced that it would take decisive action against Korea’s leading broadcaster MBC, which first reported Yoon’s remarks.