Never let it be said that the Yoon Suk-yeol 윤석열 administration is hostile to journalists, for it fights on behalf of its media allies with a vengeance.
On January 12, the Seoul Northern District Court 서울북부지방법원 granted the prosecutors’ petition to arrest a section chief of the Korea Communications Commission 방송통신위윈회, who acted as an administrator in the independent committee within the KCC to re-approve the license of cable television channels. Prosecutors alleged that the arrested section chief pushed the committee to lower the score of TV Chosun TV조선, the cable news network of the conservative paper Chosun Ilbo 조선일보, when the channel’s license was up for renewal in 2020.
The KCC independent committee previously scored TV Chosun 653.39 out of 1,000, barely clearing the threshold of 650 under which the station would have lost its license. The committee docked points from TV Chosun for airing blatant falsehood and engaging in sensationalism, and conditionally renewed the station’s license by requiring a proposal for improvement.
The prosecutors alleged that the indicted section chief pressured the committee members to lower the score. The committee members have disputed the claim, stating the scoring process takes place over multiple stages and revision of the scores after deliberation is a common practice.
Unusually for a case involving a bureaucratic process, the Yoon administration opted for prosecutorial raids and indictment rather than a government audit and revision of the process. KCC Commissioner Han Sang-hyeok 한상혁 방송통신위원장 denounced the arrest, arguing that the investigation and the arrest were a tactic to pressure him to resign. Because Han was appointed during the Moon Jae-in 문재인 administration, conservatives have openly called for his resignation ahead of his term’s end, which is in July.