Yoon nominates career prosecutor with no media experience to head up Korea Communications Commission

Posted on : 2023-12-07 17:07 KST Modified on : 2023-12-07 17:07 KST
Kim Hong-il’s total lack of broadcasting expertise is likely to come up during his confirmation hearing
Kim Hong-il, Yoon’s nominee to lead the Korea Communications Commission, speaks at the presidential office on Dec. 6. (pool photo)
Kim Hong-il, Yoon’s nominee to lead the Korea Communications Commission, speaks at the presidential office on Dec. 6. (pool photo)

On Wednesday, South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol named Kim Hong-il, a former prosecutor and current Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission chairperson, as his nominee to serve as the next chairperson of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC).

The nomination came five days after Lee Dong-kwan was removed as KCC chairperson on Friday.

As his candidates for KCC chairperson, Yoon has repeatedly nominated former senior colleagues from his own time as a prosecutor who lack expertise in broadcasting and communications. In the process, he has clearly signaled that his focus is less on ensuring the KCC’s independence than on fostering a media environment that is favorable to his own administration and ruling People Power Party.

Announcing Kim’s nomination at the presidential office in Seoul’s Yongsan neighborhood on Wednesday, the presidential chief of staff, Kim Dae-ki said, “With his working capabilities, his firm belief in the law and principles, and a sense of balance without bias in any direction, we see [Kim Hong-il] as the optimal person to uphold the independence and fairness of the KCC.”

“Currently, there are various issues where different interests within the KCC are in opposition and collision. It is a moment that calls for a more even-handed approach to duties than ever before,” he added.

Kim Hong-il, 67, said he intended to do his “utmost to ensure that the KCC is fair and independent.” His nomination to lead the KCC comes five months after his appointment as Anti-Corruption and Civil Rights Commission chairperson on July 3.

Kim is a former prosecutor with no career experience at all in broadcasting, communications, or other media-related areas. Formerly the head of the Supreme Prosecutors’ Office narcotics and organized crime and central investigation departments and high prosecutor for the city of Busan, he spent most of his 27-year career with the prosecutors in the violent crime division investigating gang violence and related areas.

While Kim was heading the central investigation department, Yoon was ranked below him as head of its second bureau. During Yoon’s election campaign, Kim served in his camp as chair of his “special committee on political maneuvering investigation.”

Comments about his lack of expertise and potential negative impact on the KCC’s independence and fairness appear certain to come up during his National Assembly confirmation hearing process.

His nomination sparked a strong outcry from opposition parties and civic groups.

In a statement, Democratic Party senior spokesperson Kwon Chil-seung said, “This is President Yoon’s declaration that he will never give up on his dream of seizing control of broadcasting.”

“How is a special investigation prosecutor supposed to direct the future of the media industry?” he asked, calling on Yoon to withdraw the nomination.

Justice Party floor spokesperson Kang Eun-mi said, “Just as Lee Dong-kwan cursed us with, a ‘second Lee Dong-kwan’ has now appeared.”

“The ambitions of controlling the media appear even more overt now,” she added.

The group People’s Solidarity for Participatory Democracy said the nomination “can only be seen as an overt attempt to dominate broadcasting and control reporting that might be disadvantageous to the ruling party ahead of [next year’s] general election.”

The same day, Yoon named his current presidential office education secretary, Oh Seok-hwan, 59, to be his new vice minister of education, while also naming Navy Capt. Lee Hee-hwan, 47, as vice minister of patriots and veterans’ affairs. Lee lost his right leg while fighting in the 2002 Battle of Yeonpyeong as vice captain of the PKM 357 Chamsuri-class patrol boat.

By Kim Mi-na, staff reporter; Ko Han-sol, staff reporter

Please direct questions or comments to [english@hani.co.kr]

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