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Blue House overreaction (KOR)

Aug 20,2019
KBS has reported that the Blue House is checking how four government ministries — the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy, the Ministry of Unification, the Ministry of National Defense, and the Korea Communications Commission (KCC) — have been responding to incorrect reports by the media. According to the KBS report, investigators from the presidential office visited the ministries’ public relations offices and asked how they reacted to “fake news” over the last year and if they have a manual or protocol for responding to such reports.

The public broadcaster said the Blue House took the action after it concluded that some government ministries have been passively reacting to distorted news. The Blue House did not deny the report. Instead, it said that checking reactions to media reports has been a part of the presidential office’s job for a long time.

In the past, the Blue House did check how ministries promoted government policies. But that was mostly conducted by the Communications Office in the Blue House and focused on facilitating feedback. This time, the job is being done by the Anti-corruption & Civil Rights Commission under the senior secretary for civil affairs in the Blue House.

That is unprecedented. If PR offices of government ministries react poorly to false news, their offices of inspector general can step in to find out what happened, and beyond that, the Board of Audit and Inspection can get involved. The anti-corruption office has no jurisdiction over such issues. If the KBS report is true, that constitutes an abuse of power infringing on the autonomy of government ministries.

Many people see the Blue House trying to control what it calls “fake news.” In fact, after President Moon Jae-in publicly attacked “fake news,” ruling party lawmakers are openly raising the need to regulate conservative social media. Interestingly, the ministries that became targets of the Blue House are the ministries dealing with issues involving North Korea and Japan. The KCC has been in conflict with the Blue House over the ruling party’s proposal of legislation to deal with “fake news.” Some are even criticizing the Blue House for trying to tame the communications offices of government ministries to prevent anti-government public opinion from spreading.

The Blue House has been under fire for its omnipotent presence in the government. If it really rolls up its sleeves to tackle “fake news,” that is very dangerous. Distinguishing mistakes from “fake news” is not easy. The Blue House must get back to basics.

JoongAng Ilbo, Aug. 20, Page 34