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Yoon's office mulls action against JTBC for subtitle error

By Son Ji-hyoung

Published : Jan. 29, 2024 - 14:33

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (fourth from right) and presidential staff visit Uijeongbu Jeil Market in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, on Thursday. (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol (fourth from right) and presidential staff visit Uijeongbu Jeil Market in Uijeongbu, Gyeonggi Province, on Thursday. (Yonhap)

President Yoon Suk Yeol's office is considering taking action against broadcaster JTBC for a subtitled video it aired that the office says misrepresented his remarks.

A JTBC news clip showed Yoon on Thursday telling vendors at a traditional market that he would put forward "effort to make the napa cabbage (price) go higher" in the subtitle, while Yoon's office contends the president had actually emphasized "effort to make their sales go higher."

"There are many options we can look at," said a source from the presidential office who declined to be named Monday, when asked if the office is considering legal action.

"There are some instances where we feel that (some media outlets) cross the line. Taking actions that they deserve in response to what they've done might be the way to prevent errors."

The word in focus is that which JTBC subtitled in Korean as "baechu," meaning napa cabbage, the central ingredient in kimchi, and suggesting its price should go higher.

The ruling People Power Party, however, says that should have been "maechul," meaning sales, indicating the president was touching upon the issue of traditional market vendors' livelihoods. The party said in a statement Sunday that it was considering suing the broadcaster.

JTBC on Sunday admitted the subtitle error and extended an apology over the issue, saying the employee in charge "made a mistake while transcribing Yoon's remarks that came in a noisy atmosphere."

But the ruling party on Sunday claimed that the misrepresentation "did not happen by mistake," adding it "strongly suspects that the subtitle was meant to misguide willfully," given how quickly the video spread among opposition bloc supporters, including former minor opposition lawmaker Kim Jae-yeon and a former Democratic Party of Korea spokesperson.

Rep. Park Sung-joong of the People Power Party also said in a statement that JTBC "had committed an election-rigging trick disguised as a mistake."

On Thursday, Yoon visited Uijeongbu Jeil Market, a traditional market in the Gyeonggi Province city just north of Seoul. His visit there came on the margins of the groundbreaking ceremony for the construction of commuter rail GTX Line C and his announcement of a spending pledge of 134 trillion won ($100.2 billion) for public transport infrastructure to cut commute times for residents on the outskirts of Seoul.

JTBC is the latest media outlet facing legal actions from the conservative bloc.

Ruling party lawmakers sued MBC for defamation in October 2022 after the broadcaster depicted Yoon as having used vulgar language in off-the-cuff comments concerning US President Joe Biden and the US Congress. Yoon's office denied he had done so. This led to a district court verdict earlier this month ordering MBC to correct the report.

Yoon's office sued reporters from two news outlets in February last year for reporting about a fortuneteller's alleged involvement in his decision to relocate the presidential office from Jongno-gu to Yongsan-gu in Seoul.

The People Power Party also recently sued reporters in September for an interview with a key figure behind the high-profile "Daejang-dong scandal," a case of land corruption revolving around a lucrative housing project in Gyeonggi Province, in which the interviewee alleged that Yoon was the actual mastermind, during the presidential election campaign period in 2022.