[Editorial] Another KBS president dismissed without pause to learn from mistaken past

Posted on : 2023-09-13 17:21 KST Modified on : 2023-09-13 17:21 KST
Considering court precedents, the administration is likely to lose its case
The Yeouido headquarters of broadcaster KBS. (courtesy of KBS)
The Yeouido headquarters of broadcaster KBS. (courtesy of KBS)

The board of directors of KBS on Tuesday passed a motion to dismiss Kim Eui-chul, the president of the public broadcaster, which was subsequently approved by President Yoon Suk-yeol later that evening.

This is the third dismissal of a KBS president midway through their term soon after a change of hands in government, the first and second instance of which happened during the Lee Myung-bak administration and the Moon Jae-in administration, respectively — indicating the advent of a vicious cycle diminishing the purpose of the Broadcasting Act, which guarantees the freedom and independence of broadcasting.

The KBS board’s decision to pass the motion to dismiss Kim isn’t that surprising. This was fully expected ever since the government mobilized institutions like the Board of Audit and Inspection and the prosecution service to “oust” Han Sang-hyuk, the former chair of the Korea Communications Commission (KCC). In order to seize control of broadcasting, the management of public broadcasters has to be swapped out, the first step of which is replacing the chair of the KCC. This is because the commission has the authority to recommend figures to serve on the board of KBS, not to mention the authority to appoint directors to the board of the Foundation for Broadcast Culture (FBC), the majority shareholder of MBC.

After the presidential office dismissed Han for having been indicted by public prosecutors, flipping the ruling camp-to-opposition camp ratio within the KCC to 2:1, the commission dismissed four board members of public broadcasters one after another, including KBS board Chairperson Nam Young-jin and FBC Chairperson Kwon Tae-sun, the speed with which this happened reminiscent of a military operation.

Once the KCC removed two opposition figures within its board of directors, seating figures from the ruling camp instead, the ruling-to-opposition ratio within the KBS board of directors shifted from 4:7 to 6:5, upon which board members belonging to the ruling camp submitted a motion to dismiss Kim as an emergency item. On Tuesday, this motion of dismissal passed without board members belonging to the opposition present, through the votes of six board members belonging to the ruling camp, including board member Seo Gi-seok, who were in favor of the motion. It’s as if the outcome of the vote were predetermined.

As the goal was already determined in the first place, the reason for dismissal wasn’t important. Even though board members from the ruling camp have all kinds of reasons to be dismissed — from causing crises of management through negligence, loss of trust through unfair broadcasting, dereliction of duty related to the separate collection of license fees, and lack of leadership — standards applied to board members of the opposition have been so subjective. Two former KBS presidents, Jeong Yeon-ju and Ko Dae-young, were dismissed for similar reasons, but their dismissal was judged as unfair by the court. In particular, the separate collection of license fees was a matter the presidential office pushed for unilaterally, so it is extremely shameful that the blame for it was attributed to the KBS president.

Following the vote of the KBS board of directors, Kim revealed his plan to go to court. Considering precedents in which the court judged that presidents of public broadcasters should be given fixed terms in order to ensure broadcasting independence, the government is highly likely to lose its case. Still, the Yoon administration is repeating the wrongs of the past without any scruples, unabashed of its immoral undertaking.

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

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