Yoon taps figure who led union-busting efforts at MBC to head up KCC

Posted on : 2024-07-05 16:53 KST Modified on : 2024-07-05 16:53 KST
The president’s political opponents decried the appointment as a “declaration of war” against the public
Lee Jin-sook, Yoon’s pick to chair the Korea Communications Commission, speaks at a briefing on her appointment at the presidential office in Yongsan, Seoul, on July 4, 2024. (Yonhap)
Lee Jin-sook, Yoon’s pick to chair the Korea Communications Commission, speaks at a briefing on her appointment at the presidential office in Yongsan, Seoul, on July 4, 2024. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk-yeol nominated Lee Jin-sook to chair the Korea Communications Commission on Thursday. Lee, 63, previously served as president of the Daejeon branch of MBC, as well as press liaison for Yoon’s presidential campaign.

Lee’s nomination came two days after Kim Hong-il stepped down from the commission’s chair position following the opposition Democratic Party’s submission of a motion of impeachment against him in the National Assembly. Both the political opposition and press organizations slammed Lee’s nomination as a “declaration of war” against the Korean people and an attempt to bring Korea’s broadcast media to heel. 

Presidential chief of staff Chung Jin-suk announced Yoon’s nomination of Lee in a briefing at the presidential office in Yongsan on Thursday. Chung described the nominee as “the right woman to normalize operations at the Korea Communications Commission and to ensure the news media is fair and serves the public interest so as to restore public trust in broadcasting.”

While commenting on her nomination, Lee mentioned media reporting about remarks Yoon allegedly made about Joe Biden on a hot mic and about a claimed meeting with attorneys at a sleazy nightclub in Seoul’s Cheongdam neighborhood. “Could those reports have been aired, could those articles have been written, if the government had broadcast media in its grip? Broadcast media is not the air [of our society] — it’s the lungs themselves.”

“The terms of directors at public broadcasters such as MBC, KBS and EBS will soon be ending. Obviously new directors will have to be appointed,” Lee also said.

Lee, a former reporter for MBC, served in various senior public relations positions there during the presidency of Lee Myung-bak. In those capacities, she was allegedly connected to efforts to tamp down on the MBC union and quietly push for MBC’s privatization.

During the presidency of Park Geun-hye, Lee oversaw reporting at MBC before becoming the president of MBC’s Daejeon branch. Following her retirement in 2019, she joined the Liberty Korea Party, an earlier incarnation of today’s ruling People Power Party.

In August 2021, Lee joined Yoon’s campaign as a press liaison and also served as spokesperson of the campaign’s civic society department. In June 2023, she clicked “like” on a social media post smearing the May 18 Gwangju Democratization Movement — which was bloodily crushed by government troops in 1980 — as “propaganda and incitement by rioters,” which was just one of several times she has showed support for online comments expressing far-right views. That’s likely to make her appointment a controversial one.

Opposition parties and press organizations called for the retraction of Lee’s nomination, attacking her as the Yoon administration’s stooge for muzzling public broadcasters, including MBC.

Noh Jong-myun, the floor spokesperson for the Democratic Party, opined that the Yoon administration’s “continued determination to tame broadcasting amounts to a declaration of war against the Korean people.”

Lawmakers from the Democratic Party and the Rebuilding Korea Party on the National Assembly’s Science, ICT, Broadcasting and Communications Committee released an emergency statement warning that “if Yoon appoints Lee without retracting her nomination, [Lee] could be the subject of impeachment proceedings.”

The National Union of Media Workers and the Korea Broadcasting Journalist Association were two of seven press advocacy groups that released a critical statement as well. “[The Yoon administration] is obstinately carrying on its campaign to tame the press and control broadcasting by putting forward Lee Jin-sook, a foot soldier for media privatization who is unfit for the position.”

By Lee Seung-jun, staff reporter; Park Kang-su, staff reporter; Lim Jae-woo, staff reporter

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

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