MBC president resigns under pressure

Posted on : 2010-02-09 12:10 KST Modified on : 2019-10-19 20:29 KST
Observers are concerned that the Lee Myung-bak administration is now setting its sites on MBC after taking control of leadership at KBS

MBC President Um Ki-young left MBC on Monday after expressing his intention to resign. This is a result of ruling party members of the Foundation for Broadcast Culture (FBC) decision to push through their personnel changes for MBC’s headquarters according to their own wishes, not those of Um, who according to long-held practice holds the right to propose candidates. Concerns are increasing that the situation has escalated to the point that the Lee Myung-bak administration has taken full-scale control of MBC after doing the same to KBS.

During an extraordinary directors meeting at the Lotte Hotel in Seoul’s Sogong neighborhod on Monday morning, the FBC apopinted Ulsan MBC President Hwang Hee-man, Vice President Yun Hyeok and Programing Bureau Director Ahn Kwang-han to fill the vacant director spots at MBC. Meeting with reporters directly following the meeting, Um voiced deep concerns about the FBC. He said he has no idea what they are after, and that he plans to resign as MBC chief.

FBC Board of Directors Chairman and former media advisor to President Lee Myung-bak Kim Woo-ryong told the Hankyoreh during a telephone interview that relevant laws stipulate that a person’s resignation takes effect immediately as long as it is not rejected, making Um’s resignation an established fact. Attending the extraordinary directors meeting, Um pushed for Kwon Jae-hong, Ahn Gwang-han and Ahn U-jeong to take over as chiefs of the news, broadcasting and production headquarters, but his suggestion was not accepted.

Just prior to the meeting, Chairman Kim explained that Um would have to name symbolic figures who could push the “New MBC Plan” Um had presented. At noon, Kim and Jeongsu Scholarship Foundation director general Choi Phillip convened a stockholders meeting and confirmed the board’s decision.

As the board meeting, scheduled to begin at 7:30 a.m., ran into difficulties due to labor union protests, Kim moved it to another location in the same hotel. Opposition party figures did not attend the board meeting.

The directors appointed to the board Monday were not assigned positions. The FBC has the authority to appoint members to the MBC board, but the authority to endow assignments lies with the President Um. As a result of Um’s resignation, it appears the replacement directors will be unable to be instated in their positions for some time.

A great deal of analysis suggests that the ruling party board members’ decision to railroad the new appointment of MBC directors was done with the expectation it would cause Um to resign. This suggests that the board had been virtually trying to coax Um to resign just two months after he was reappointed to his position on Dec. 10 of last year. Jeong Sang-mo, an opposition party director, said it is impossible to avoid suspicions that political forces are intervening to turn even MBC into a pro-government broadcasting network. Jeong said the administration and ruling party directors would have to take responsibility for the management chaos and disastrous results that will occur as a result at MBC.

Kim Yeong-ho, head of the People’s Coalition for Media Reform, also said the Chosun-JoongAng-Dong-A-centered newspaper market, using the lure of getting a general broadcast TV station, has been reorganized along a pro-ruling party line, and in broadcasting, too, the ruling administration is attempting to take over MBC’s news and programming, having done so already at KBS. He said it seems the ruling government thinks a complete takeover of broadcasting is the safest way to guarantee the fate of the administration.

The MBC Union held a sit-in strike in the lobby of MBC headquarters and launched full-scale opposition. In a statement, the union said it plans to vote on whether to hold a general strike to block the “parachute appointment” of a pro-government president into the company. The union formed an “Emergency Committee to Save Public Broadcasting and MBC” and began a struggle to block the new directors from entering the office and, ultimately, to force them to resign. The union plans to hold absentee voting and a regular vote over a general strike from Feb. 16 to 18, immediately following the Lunar New Year holiday.

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

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