160831 Easy Park Yuchun, what about Lee Gun Gee • Lee Jung Hyun?

The panel discussion on ‘Reports on Celebrities-related Crimes, What Are Their Problems’ held by Congressman Pyo Chang Won • Center for Media Responsibility and Human Rights. Pyo Chang Won is a Korean politician and criminal psychologicalist. He was a former police officer and a professor at Korea National Police University. 

When you search the following key words, ‘Lee Jung Hyun Recording,’ ‘Lee Gun Hee Video,’ and ‘Park Yuchun Sexual Assault’ by using BIGKINDS, the searching service (for news data) run by Korea Press Foundation, you get respectively the numbers of 145, 48, and 727 of news articles. ‘Park Yuchun Sexual Assault’ has been reported 15 times more than ‘Lee Gun Hee Video’ and 5 times more than ‘Lee Jung Hyun Recording.’ At the portal site Naver, you get the search results of 10 times more on ‘Park Yuchun Sexual Assault’ (3,034) than ‘Lee Gun Hee Video’ (333) and 5 times more than ‘Lee Jung Hyun Recording’ (635).

Why does the media cover some, even unidentified, matters about celebrities without any hesitation while it doesn’t properly cover the power holders such as politicians and conglomerates? On the 30th, Congressman Pyo Chang Won from The Minjoo Party and Center for Media Responsibility and Human Rights co-hosted the panel discussion on ‘Reports on Celebrities-related Crimes, What Are Their Problems’ and addressed what have resulted in the current media environment and tried to seek alternatives.

Are celebrities public figures

To address the problems of reports on celebrities-related crimes, panel discussion participants first examined whether such reports have public interest. Lawyer Han Myung Ok (Law Firm Woowon) said, “Reports on celebrities-related crimes do not have enough elements of public nature to have the purpose of fulfilling the right-to-know of citizens and only serve the means to fulfill simple curiosity, therefore, those cannot be disguised as the name of freedom of expression.”

Prof. Yoon Tae Jin of Graduate School of Communication and Arts at Yonseo Univ. also said, “By disguising the fulfilling of ordinary public’s curiosity as the ‘right-to-know of citizens’, the Korean media has replaced ‘right-to-know of citizens’ by ‘right-to-know (let-know) of reporters’ in reality” and “after all, it is an attempt to expand their right as reporters in the name of citizens’ right-to-know.”

On the other hand, Yoon Jung Joo, Chief of Head Office for Fair Media at Korea Women’s Link presented an opinion that was difficult to conclude whether there was public interest in reports on celebrities-related crimes, with an example of the late Shin Hae Chul who died after the operation performed by Dr. Kang who achieved his fame as ‘show doctor.’

Chief Yoon Jung Joo said, “The operating surgeon of Shin Hae Chul, who died of medical malpractice after having gastric banding surgery, has repeated the same malpractice several times, and because this doctor was an ‘authoritative figure’, well known to the public from his TV appearances, the case could be widely reported and could get enough attention to make an issue (such as the problem of show doctor), but if that was not the case, similar cases to Mr. Shin Hae Chul’s would continue to occur.”

Then, are celebrities indeed public figures? While Prof. Kim Ye Ran of Kwangwoon Univ. (School of Communications) pointed out there is not a concrete definition of ‘public figures’, she suggested that “‘public figures’ and ‘open figures,’ it is possible to roughly explain them.” Prof. Kim said, “In Korea, celebrities are defined as ‘well known open figures such as entertainers or sports stars’ so that it is difficult to state firmly that celebrities are not public figures.”

On the other hand, Prof. Yoon Tae Jin pointed out that in order to be classified as public figures, the following points need to be checked △ whether the existence of themselves, such as president • ministers, directly connects to the public interest of national citizens △ whether they have the resources to control the media coverage related to themselves using the power to affect the media. Prof. Yoon contended, “To have the resources to control the media coverage eventually means to have the power, so whether or not to have the power is the criterion to distinguish public figures from celebrities.”

Lawyer Han Myung Ok quoted the concept of ‘pervasive public figure’ used in the US constitution. Lawyer Han explained ‘pervasive public figure’ can be applied to △ the figures with fame within their community △ the figures who are nationally known △ the figures in charge of prominent roles in the society to which they belong △ the figures who are able to access to the media anytime with their extensive power of influence. He said, “By this concept, heads of conglomerates which have an enormous impact on the national economy can be also included in public figures.”

Easier to chew entertainers than power holders whose crimes have more far-reaching power

The participants in the panel discussion on this day considered the so-called ‘eating-living-ism’ (1) as the reason why the media has reported celebrities-related crimes with more frequencies and with more importance than power holders-related crimes. Besides, they pointed out that the reason is “because celebrities are easier”.

Chief Yoon Jung Joo pointed out that “even when power holders (such as politicians and conglomerates) commit worse crimes than celebrities and (the degree of having impact on the public and) the scale of their crimes are more extensive, those crimes have often been covered up and distorted,” and this is because “celebrities like entertainers and sports stars are easier to chew.”

Chief Yoon Jung Joo also said, “While the competition has become more severe and the media has been busy with pursuing its profits, it has been long before that it threw away its right path to report for public interest” and “it is worthwhile to examine to adopt measures such as Punitive Damages (2) that has been practiced in the United States where the freedom of media is broadly granted and that enables to impose a huge amount of compensation money to prevent the abandonment of the responsibility by the press.”

Congressman Pyo Chang Won who hosted the panel discussion this day also claimed, “If the abuse of freedom of media results in the damages to somebody, actively calling to account and bringing remedy to victims via compensation for damage suits as civil cases need to be enabled” while he emphasized “the freedom of media should be guaranteed limitlessly as is guaranteed by the constitution if our society is a true democratic society.”

And, Prof. Yoon Tae Jin said, “The reason why reports related to Park Yuchun have been produced with outrageously large quantity compared the ones related to Saenuri Party Leader Lee Jung Hyun and Chairman Lee Gun Hee is because the press is desperately pursuing the selling of no. of clicks” and “under the situation that such reports are directly connected to the profits, statement that ‘reporters should follow the ethics of journalism’ can be too idealistic.” Prof. Yoon said, “Eventually, the best way would be to form a culture in which reporters who tend to report sensational news become spontaneously marginalized.”

Moon So Young reporter (Head of the Social News Section 2) from <Seoul Shinmun> who participated in the discussion as a stance from reporters also said, “It is true that the media pursues the profits and, as a result, tends to report about crimes related to celebrities and their private lives with more quantity and more magnitude than power-related corruption scandals of businessman and government officials” and “the media fails to fulfill its responsibility so it should need self-reflection”.

Journalists feeling ‘Chilling Effect’ by the double pressure from power holders claiming human rights

But, reporter Moon pointed out that we also needed to address ‘Chilling Effect’ (the discouragement of the legitimate exercise) on media from power holders. She explained that while both celebrities and power holders can use the means of requesting the arbitration to file lawsuits, it is true that power holders group utilize them more.

As an actual case, Senior Secretary to the President for Civil Affairs Woo Byung Woo, recently suspected for alleged corruption, immediately filed defamation suit against <Choson Ilbo> which had reported on the doubts about the real estate owned by his wife’s family and Blue House has filed suits for several cases against reports related to the President Park right after the Sewol Ho accident including the case of Japan’s <Sankei>. And, the story of the correlation between media criticizing Sam Sung and receiving advertisement has been a matter of old controversy.

Reporter Moon said, “In spite of guaranteeing the freedom of media, such practice of power has generated problems such as imposing the Chilling Effect on the media and self-censorship on reporters.”

Congressman Pyo Chang Won said, “It is a very regretful reality for reporters to mention Chilling Effect (by the pressures from power holders)” and “it needs to make a responsible alternative (as a congressman) to the situation that enables power holders to evade from bringing themselves to justice (by media and the like) by claiming human rights.”

Ha Su Young Reporter hsy0710@pdjournal.com

(1) The value that imposes greatest importance on eating and living (survival), recently used in Korea in many occasions

(2) Monetary compensation awarded to an injured party that goes beyond that which is necessary to compensate the invidivual for losses and that is intended to punish the wrongdoer (Source: Here)

Source: PD Journal

Trans by: Uttunfan

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