Unqualified panel head
Last year, the scandal about a broadcast journalist’s bugging the main opposition party rocked the nation’s political and media circles. Rep. Han Sun-kyo of the ruling Saenuri Party was at the center of the turmoil by using the content to promote his own cause.
He should have been indicted and convicted for violating the communications privacy law had only the nation’s legal system not allowed such a wide scope of immunity for sitting legislators, law enforcement officers been less subservient to the party in power, or the ruling camp had a little more conscience.
The only reason Han could maintain his legislative post and even be reelected was he was close to the party leadership, especially Park Geun-hye, the strongest Saenuri Party contender for its presidential candidacy. Even more astonishingly, the ruling party has named him to chair the National Assembly’s committee for broadcasting and communications.
One can’t help but think the appointment is either downright neglect of the sentiments of the general public, as well as the political opposition, or reveals the governing camp’s intention to throw the operation of the Assembly committee into utter chaos or completely halt its proceedings for the next two years. The latter presumption is especially plausible, as the committee will have to deal with various media policy failures of the Lee Myung-bak administration.
The Democratic United Party is right to call for replacing Han for the smooth proceeding of the Assembly panel. The Saenuri Party leadership should rethink his appointment if for no other reason than its negative effects on the presidential election.
Park is respected for her strong conviction and adherence to principles, but is criticized for her relative neglect of diplomatic values, such as freedom of speech and other basic rights. Her defense of Han will only deepen what some voters suspect as an ``inherent limitation” of the presidential hopeful.
The scandal may be no match for Watergate or the phone-tapping by Rupert Murdoch’s News of the World. Yet those foreign scandals ousted a sitting president and ended the publication of a newspaper.
If Han stays in his post, it will demonstrate why Korea’s political and journalistic ethics remain what they are.