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Speaking truth to power

Apr 28,2018
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Lawmakers from the main opposition Liberty Korea Party hold an emergency meeting near the publishing company in Paju, Gyeonggi, at the heart of the scandal involving the ruling Democratic Party on Tuesday. [YONHAP]
Kim Hyun-ki
*The author is the Washington bureau chief of the JoongAng Ilbo.

A power blogger who uses the online pseudonym Druking was arrested 50 days after the police received a report about the case. The police belatedly raided his office after others visited it, and evidence was destroyed.

The investigation was the subject of two press conferences by Seoul Metropolitan Police Agency Commissioner Lee Ju-min. In the first media session, he flat-out said that “Druking unilaterally sent messages to Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo,” a Democratic Party lawmaker and close associate of President Moon Jae-in, and that “Kim never opened the links to online articles in the messages.”

It was a lie. Media reports soon revealed the truth. Four days later, Lee held another media session. “A junior officer made an erroneous report to me,” he said.

This is a lame excuse. Lee and Kim used to work together at the Blue House in 2003. If Kim were just one of the many opposition lawmakers, would Lee have kindly offered? The leader of the Seoul police, responsible for 10 million residents, was afraid of a lawmaker who is close to the president.

Two months ago, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) of the United States obtained a warrant to survey Carter Page, a former adviser to the campaign of President Donald Trump. Trump was enraged and said he wanted to replace a deputy director of the FBI. FBI Director Christopher Wray responded sternly that Trump must not politicize the investigation.

Wray then sent a video message to FBI members. “I stand by our shared determination to do our work independently and by the book. I stand with you,” he said. Before the absolute power of the U.S. president, who represents 330 million American people, the leader of the FBI was unshaken.

“Rep. Kim Kyoung-soo, who is a good person, was victimized by evil,” said Rep. Choo Mi-ae, chairwoman of the Democratic Party. “Kim Kyoung-soo, you are awesome. Kim Kyoung-soo, cheer up!” Seoul Mayor Park Won-soon said in his twitter message. “I understand the pain of a fastidious moralist,” Rep. Pyo Chang-won said. “Rep. Kim’s kind heart is the problem,” Rep. Hwang Hee said.

Members of the ruling party are showing strong support for Kim, a close ally of President Moon. He was allegedly associated with an online public opinion manipulation campaign. The liberals fiercely attacked past administrations for having run a similar campaign, so it seems like they have completely changed their attitude. Although allegations are coming to light that money was exchanged and Kim changed his words, no ruling party politician is expressing regret over the situation.

In the United States, political parties have official positions on policies, but there is no official party stance on something that is an issue of right or wrong. Just because they are ruling party lawmakers, they do not side with power all the time.

When Trump threatened to fire special counsel Robert Mueller, a Republican congressman issued a stern warning.
“When you are innocent … act like it,” he said.

The Korean media is acting just like politicians. They raised suspicions based on reasonable doubts against Presidents Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak. But toward President Moon, they are just reporting the very minimum. The world has changed, but the mission of the press does not change.

On April 16, Washington Post Executive Editor Martin Baron gave a speech when the newspaper received this year’s Pulitzer Prize for reporting on Trump’s scandal.

“Journalists need both a soul and a spine. The work recognized by the Pulitzer board demonstrated that Post journalists had both,” Baron said. The Korean media cannot say the same.

Pittacus, one of the Seven Sages of Greece, said not to judge a man by his power, but by how he uses it. The actions of those with little power against those with much will create a healthy organization, society or country. Korean Air workers’ resistance against the chaebol’s family can serve as an example.

JoongAng Ilbo, April 25, Page 30