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LKP boycotts parliament over MBC CEO arrest

The warrant issuance has conservative party calling political foul
Sept 04,2017
The largest opposition Liberty Korea Party (LKP) declared an all-out boycott of parliamentary activity on Saturday to protest an arrest warrant granted to the prosecution for Kim Jang-kyom, CEO of broadcaster MBC.

The LKP’s decision, two days before the Assembly’s regular session is scheduled to kick off, came a day after a Seoul court issued the warrant for Kim, who took the helm of MBC in February despite protest from the then-opposition Democratic Party and MBC labor union.

Linking the arrest warrant to a direct order issued by the Moon Jae-in government, the LKP framed it as a government crackdown on local media it deems opposed to its policy.

“A shocking event has just taken place in which a government is trying to crack down on the freedom of the press,” said Chung Woo-taik in front of fellow party members during an emergency party meeting on Saturday.

Meanwhile, the National Assembly is tasked with a number of important issues, such as passing the government’s tax reform plan to raise taxes on the elite and major conglomerates.

The People’s Party, which has 40 lawmakers, expressed its support for the warrant and criticized the LKP’s boycott.

The Bareun Party, which has 20 lawmakers, the minimum number to have negotiating power, has yet to decide as of press time Sunday whether to join the boycott or urge the LKP to return to the parliamentary schedule.

The arrest warrant for Kim came as the journalist of 30 years refused three times to answer a summons by the labor ministry on the MBC labor union’s accusation that he had violated labor union laws.

After taking the helm of the country’s major TV network in February, Kim found himself under fire by the labor union for pressuring journalists to produce reports in favor of former President Park Geun-hye and the LKP.

Allegations continued even after Park’s removal from office on May 10, as MBC produced reports damning to then-candidate Moon Jae-in without confirming their veracity.

Viewer ratings for its prime time news segment subsequently plummeted to 2 percent, becoming the subject of mockery.

Kim is also accused of transferring reporters and producers, whom he deemed not loyal, to tasks not related to journalism, such as maintenance positions at an MBC-owned ice rink.

The controversy over MBC’s leadership largely stems from the way it elects its CEO. Kim was elevated to its top post after a majority of the nine-member board of the Foundation for Broadcast Culture, MBC’s largest shareholder, chose him during a February board meeting.

The board’s nine members are selected by the ruling and opposition parties. The ruling party can recommend six members, while the opposition can recommend three. The composition of the nine-member panel inevitably leads to the election of a broadcaster chief favored by the ruling party and government.

Demanding that Kim step down, MBC’s largest labor union is set to wage its full-fledged strike starting Monday, joined by the largest labor union of the state-run broadcaster KBS.

With the LKP’s boycott, DP Chairwoman Choo Mi-ae is expected to deliver her speech marking the start of the parliamentary regular session before a half-emptied chamber. It remains unclear if LKP floor leader Chung will deliver his speech on Tuesday.

BY KANG JIN-KYU [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]