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Breaking the fundamental rule (KOR)

Feb 15,2020
MBC’s investigative news program “PD Notebook” has broken the fundamental rule in journalism, which is to deliver the facts as they are, no matter what.

On the program aired on Tuesday, a housewife in her 20s being interviewed was speaking about the frustration caused by housing insecurity of someone living off short-term rent.

But it turned out she was the owner of an apartment in Seoul valued at more than 900 million won ($760,000). The woman claimed she told the interviewer that she had bought a small apartment a day prior to the interview.

But that part was cut off when aired. When various questions around her brimmed online, she explained that the producer had asked her if her interview could go on air without blurring her face after editing remarks about the apartment purchase.

After the controversy, the program issued an apology for hiding the fact. It claimed the interviewee asked not to disclose her real estate deal as it was not finalized. But still, the explanation cannot be a responsible response from a national broadcaster.

Journalism cannot tolerate misreporting even at the request of the interviewee or the source. Protection of the source does not refer to this case. The program has fabricated news. It has more or less committed willful negligence.

The program was on the theme of people around Seoul without permanent homes. It addressed the housing issue that is one of the biggest and most complicated problems in Korea. Young people cannot dream of owning a home.

According to the Korea Research Institute for Human Settlements, the average age of a Korean making their first housing purchase was 43.3 as of 2018, compared with 40.9 in 2008.

The benign design of the program, however, does not excuse its folly. It should have corrected misrepresentation. The program is one of MBC’s oldest and most prestigious. It must issue a genuine apology and promise not to repeat such an act, as well as punish those responsible. It must not make a fool of the viewers twice.