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KBS determined to regain public trust

Moves by state broadcaster's new management puts it on collision course with National Union of Media Workers, KBS union

Nov. 14, 2023 - 17:23 By Lee Si-jin
Park Min, new KBS President Park Min, speaks at a press conference held at KBS Art Hall in Yeongdeungpo-gu, western Seoul, Tuesday. (KBS)

KBS’ new President Park Min has promised a major reform of the country’s largest public broadcaster, announcing a structural overhaul, the relocation of employees, and measures to deal with worsening financial conditions and ever-declining public trust.

“Today, I am standing in front of you to publicly apologize for disappointing the public and viewers with the broadcaster’s inability to deliver accurate, objective news and quality content,” Park said in a press conference at the KBS Art Hall in Yeongdeungpo-gu, western Seoul, Tuesday. Park took office Monday.

After admitting to what he called the broadcaster’s callousness and biased reports, Park recounted several such cases which he said made the public turn its back on KBS. Such cases include those of actress Yoon Ji-oh, who had been engulfed in donation fraud and defamation allegations related to late actress Jang Ja-yeon in 2020, and the reporting of fabricated news stories by Kim Man-bae before the 2022 presidential election, among others.

Saying that he believes the reasons for the company’s financial woes lie within the company, Park and KBS' board of directors have decided on a 30 percent pay cut for themselves and shared plans to apply similar measures to all KBS employees.

While KBS collected 700 billion won ($527 million) in subscription fees in 2022, it recorded a deficit of 100 billion won. Park announced that the broadcaster will post a deficit of 800 billion won this year.

Park said he also plans to let go of highly paid workers who don't have specific positions.

Park added that the broadcaster will avoid breakneck competition over breaking news stories and reporting using anonymous sources, as the company strives to deliver objective news.

Throughout the press conference, Park emphasized that KBS will prioritize fairness and impartiality above all.

However, Park's actions on his first day in office have seen many questioning his motives.

On Monday, Park removed the current affairs radio talk show “Joo Jin-woo Live” from its broadcast schedule, changed the production staff of current affairs TV show "The Live" and dismissed news presenter Lee So-jung from “KBS News 9.”

The ruling People's Power Party had repeatedly accused “Joo Jin-woo Live” of being biased.

The radio program was also mentioned during Park’s parliamentary confirmation hearing. A ruling party lawmaker, Rep. Park Sung-joong, questioned Park over whether it is appropriate to leave such a "biased, distorted, fake news" program as it is.

“The Live” was the broadcaster’s hit current affairs program, presenting major issues with experts from various sectors.

Park said the string of dismissals and cancellations were carried out by the managing director of the KBS News and Sports Department, explaining that his duty was not to interfere in recruiting and assigning procedures.

“We made such changes to start a new KBS with president Park and become a true public broadcaster. We politely notified the staff ahead of the changes,” the managing director explained.

KBS' president Park Min and managing directors bow in apology during a press conference held Tuesday. (KBS)

Meanwhile, the National Union of Media Workers and KBS’ union for media workers are scheduled to file a case against the new president with the court for violation of broadcasting laws, and laws on freedom and the independence of media.

Changes in program and broadcast schedules are to be made after an agreement with the production staff and urgent changes need to be reported to the union, according to the 2022 KBS-KBS Union agreement.

No such measures were taken by KBS, according to the NUMW.