Ruling party lawmakers picket MBC over coverage of president’s hot mic gaffe

Posted on : 2022-09-29 17:22 KST Modified on : 2022-09-29 17:22 KST
One PPP lawmaker argued that it was time to begin a discussion of privatizing the public broadcaster
 Lawmakers with the ruling People Power Party picket the offices of broadcaster MBC on Sept. 28 over what they say were “manipulated captions” on a video of remarks made by President Yoon Suk-yeol. (pool photo)
 Lawmakers with the ruling People Power Party picket the offices of broadcaster MBC on Sept. 28 over what they say were “manipulated captions” on a video of remarks made by President Yoon Suk-yeol. (pool photo)

Lawmakers with the People Power Party (PPP) paid a protest visit Wednesday to the offices of the MBC network, which was the first to report on a hot mic profanity gaffe by President Yoon Suk-yeol during his recent trip to New York.

They also announced plans to lodge complaints against the president of the broadcaster, officials and the reporter responsible for the report.

The MBC chapter of the National Union of Media Workers (NUMW) protested vehemently against what it called “intimidation disguised as ‘protesting,’” and an “attempt to use [the incident] as fuel for taking control of broadcasting.”

On Wednesday morning, PPP members paid a protest visit to the MBC headquarters in Seoul’s Sangam neighborhood. They included Park Dae-chul, who chairs the party’s task force of “investigating MBC bias and false broadcasting,” along with Park Sung-joong, a PPP official on the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee, and deputy floor leader Song Eon-seog.

Demanding to meet with MBC President and CEO Park Seong-je, the visitors attempted to enter the building, but were unable to after MBC union members blocked the entrance.

Instead, the visiting lawmakers held a press conference in front of the entrance. They also held up signs and shouted messages such as “Biased broadcasting with fake captions,” “What happened to fairness in broadcasting?” and “Truth-ignoring, fake-explaining Park Seong-je should step down.”

Park Dae-chul said, “Despite all the attempts to blow this up into a ‘diplomatic disaster,’ the only disaster here is the failed reporting.”

“We demand that Park Seong-je assume responsibility and immediately step down,” he added.

Park Sung-joong said, “MBC is offering itself as a defender and attacker for the Democratic Party.”

“MBC needs to make public exactly who wrote [the report] and who inserted the caption,” he continued.

Kweon Seong-dong, a PPP lawmaker who is also on the legislature’s committee concerning broadcasting, said, “It’s time to begin a debate on privatizing MBC.”

The PPP plans to file complaints with the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office (SPO) on Thursday accusing Park Seong-je, MBC newsroom chief Park Seong-ho, and digital news bureau chief Yeon Bo-heum, and the journalist behind the report of defamation against Yoon.

The MBC chapter of the NUMW issued a bulletin calling the protest visit “brazen hypocrisy and an attempt to suppress public broadcasting.”

“For National Assembly lawmakers holding a dominant position on the National Assembly Broadcasting Committee to pay a protest visit amounts to intimidation disguised as ‘protesting’ and an attempt to use [the incident] as fuel for taking control of broadcasting.”

The Democratic Party launched its own response the same day by putting together a committee for responding to Yoon’s “diplomatic disaster and falsehoods.” Democratic Party lawmakers on the Science, ICT, Broadcasting, and Communications Committee held a press conference in which they predicted that “the Yoon administration’s next step in destroying MBC will be to have the prosecutors carry out a raid.”

One Democratic Party lawmaker on the committee told the Hankyoreh, “The ruling party is attempting to deflect attention away from President Yoon’s diplomatic disaster.”

The lawmaker also pledged to “put a stop to this attempt to drive out Park Seong-je.”

PPP members’ focus on pressure tactics against a public broadcaster — rather than tending to public livelihoods at a time when high prices, interest rates, and exchange rates have led to deepening economic crisis — drew criticism within their own party, with some commenting that they were “behaving like the opposition party.”

“We’re the ruling party, and we should act like it. What are they doing reacting like the opposition?” said one second-term PPP lawmaker.

Kim Yun-cheol, a professor at Kyung Hee University’s Humanitas College, said, “All the ruling party has to do is just express dismay over the reports. The fact that they’re adopting militant tactics like a protest visit shows how concerned they feel about the low approval ratings early in the administration.”

“They’re looking at politics like a game, focusing only on their die-hard supporters while losing sight of their identity as the ones in charge of the government,” he lamented.

By Lee Jae-hoon, staff reporter; Joh Yun-yeong, staff reporter; Choi Sung-jin, staff reporter

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