The Korea Herald

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지나쌤

Left-leaning 'News Factory' sanctioned for calling president's English 'pretentious'

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : Dec. 5, 2023 - 17:44

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President Yoon Suk Yeol (Yonhap) President Yoon Suk Yeol (Yonhap)

A top-rated, left-leaning news program formerly on broadcaster TBS has received an official warning for calling President Yoon Suk Yeol's English use "pretentious" last year, a matter decided by the state censor on Monday afternoon.

The Korea Communications Standards Commission decided to issue a warning, which is the lowest of the statutory sanctions that can be issued by the state-run body. Any broadcaster that receives such a punishment can be penalized by the KCSC when applying for their show to be approved by the committee in the future.

Kim Ou-joon, a highly popular journalist known for his open criticism of Yoon and the conservative bloc, made the controversial comment in December last year when discussing remarks by Yoon in which Yoon inserted multiple English words into a sentence with Korean grammar at a Dec. 21 meeting at Cheong Wa Dae, the former presidential office and residence.

Yoon's remarks were: "'Government engagement' (in English) is 'regulation' (in English)," so officials should "actively and more 'aggressive'ly (in English) keep leaping forward."

"People tend to be pretentious like that to make up for a lack of content," Kim said at the time in response on his "Kim Ou-joon's News Factory" program, which has since been relaunched on YouTube as "Gyeomson (Modesty) is Nothing."

Kim also criticized the Yoon government for its crackdown on alleged corruption in Korea's labor unions and related to Yoon's political rival, Lee Jae-myung, the leader of the main opposition Democratic Party of Korea.

Kim is known for being openly critical of politicians in positions of authority. The KCSC has previously sanctioned the show over 70 times and taken more serious legal measures four times for making what it deemed "biased" remarks.

The debate about Kim's remarks this time divided the committee members recommended respectively by the ruling party and main opposition party.

"'Government' and 'engagement' (in English) are words that most Koreans know, and he (Kim) mocked the situation as if the president had kept on using difficult words," state censor Chair Ryu Hee-rim was quoted as saying. The committee members recommended by the ruling People Party were unanimous on punishing the broadcaster.

Members recommended by former President Moon Jae-in and the now-main opposition Democratic Party responded that the president can be a target of satire, and that banning satire is not something that should be allowed in a democratic society.