(From Korea Joongang Daily)
A political heavyweight close to President Park Geun-hye was criticized for pressuring the country’s biggest broadcaster to dilute critical reports on the administration after the tragic sinking of the Sewol ferry in 2014.
The National Union of Media Workers held a press conference Thursday and released transcripts of conversations between Rep. Lee Jung-hyun and Kim Si-gon, former newsroom chief of the government-controlled Korean Broadcasting System (KBS). In the transcripts, Lee, then senior presidential secretary for public affairs at the Park Blue House, protested KBS’s reports on the sinking of the Sewol.
The ferry capsized and sank on April 16, 2014, while carrying 476 people, mostly high school students on a school trip to Jeju Island. More than 300 died, and many survivors were rescued by fishing boats and commercial vessels, not the Coast Guard.
The Park administration came under heavy criticism for its slow and ineffective response to the tragedy. As a result, then-Prime Minister Chung Hong-won took responsibility and resigned, and the Coast Guard was dismantled. The catastrophe also shed new light on the cozy relationship between the ferry industry and governmental regulators.