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Blacklists affected some 9,000 people in the arts

May 09,2018
Nearly 9,000 artists were blacklisted by the two former conservative administrations of Park Geun-hye and Lee Myung-bak, an investigative committee affiliated with the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism announced Tuesday.

“A total of 342 organizations and 8,931 individuals were blacklisted during the Lee and Park administrations,” said the committee in a report on Tuesday. “These organizations and individuals, listed on a total of nine blacklists from 2008 to 2015, were investigated, censored and excluded [from government funding and opportunities].”

The scandal over the blacklisting of cultural figures surfaced in October 2016 with the discovery of a tablet PC belonging to former President Park’s confidante Choi Soon-sil that contained confidential government documents.

Park was impeached and formally removed from office last March and sentenced to 24 years in prison last month for charges including the abuse of power, which includes the blacklisting of artists and cultural figures that were known to be liberal or critical of her administration.

The public and private committee investigating the blacklist scandal was established last July after Moon Jae-in was elected in May.

“Artists and organizations critical of the government were investigated on their political leanings and societal activities and blacklisted,” said the report. “The government agencies through laws, regulations, policies, programs and administrative decisions - as well as through informal means like coercion - inspected, spied upon, excluded, restricted and discriminated against the blacklisted cultural figures, therefore abusing power and going against the fundamentals of democracy, illegally and unconstitutionally infringing upon the rights of these figures.”

Some blacklisted artists’ phones were bugged, their text messages and other information in their smartphones were hacked, and some were spied upon by surveillance cameras, according to the report.

Among the thousands of artists blacklisted by the two administrations, 2,468 were in the film industry, 1,707 in literature, 1,593 in theater, 824 in visual design, 762 in traditional arts, 574 in music and 313 in broadcasting.

Their works - including books, artworks and films - were barred from publication or release at theaters, and the artists were cut off from government funding. They faced discrimination in employment.

Perpetrators were the Blue House, the National Intelligence Service and the Culture Ministry, as well as governmental agencies such as the Arts Council Korea and Korea Film Council, according to the report.

“The government needs to officially apologize for illegally and unconstitutionally violating the basic rights of people and cultural figures through the blacklists,” the report said. “Through amendments to the Basic Cultural Act, the nation needs to prevent a recurrence of such blacklisting of artists.”

The committee said it will be submitting to authorities a request to investigate suspects in the blacklisting scandal as it does not have criminal investigative power.

Former Minister of Culture Cho Yoon-sun and former Presidential Chief of Staff Kim Ki-choon were pronounced guilty of running a blacklist of cultural figures critical of the Park administration in January.

BY ESTHER CHUNG [chung.juhee@joongang.co.kr]