Presidential secretary in hot seat over reference to 1988 attack on journalist

Hwang Sang-moo, senior presidential secretary for civil and social affairs, speaks during a press conference at the presidential office in central Seoul's Yongsan District, Jan. 22. Yonhap

Hwang Sang-moo, senior presidential secretary for civil and social affairs, is in the hot seat over his inappropriate reference to a 1988 terrorist attack on a journalist. He directed the comment toward broadcaster MBC, which has been critical of President Yoon Suk Yeol.The broadcaster reported Thursday night that Hwang mentioned the decades-old case, in which agents from the Korea Defense Intelligence Command (KDIC) attacked a reporter who had criticized the military.“I finished my military service at the KDIC … and there was a case of an economic newspaper reporter being stabbed in the leg twice in 1988 in front of Hyundai Apartment in Apgujeong (Seoul),” Hwang was quoted as saying. Hwang was referring to the case of the late journalist Oh Hong-keun, who had been the city desk editor of the now-defunct JoongAng Economic Daily and later became the presidential spokesperson for Kim Dae-jung, who was Korea’s president from 1988 to 2003.Oh wrote a column titled “Military culture that should be eradicated” in the August 1988 edition of Monthly JoongAng, and was attacked on Aug. 6 that year near his home by two men in tracksuits. The defense ministry investigation later found that the attack was ordered by a general of the KDIC, and the KDIC commander approved the crime.

During the luncheon, Hwang reportedly said his remark was “a joke” and asked the reporters present not to mention it in their “information reporting,” which is a journalists’ memo to their desk editors about the information they collected that is inappropriate for a news article.While referring to the case, Hwang said writing stories critical of the government in those days had been problematic, MBC reported.More recently, the Yoon Suk Yeol administration has been butting heads with MBC after the broadcaster reported that Yoon used profanity in referring to the U.S. government in a hot mic incident on the sidelines of the U.N. General Assembly in September 2022.At the time, Yoon had accused the broadcaster of airing “malicious fake news,” to which an MBC reporter yelled at the president, “What do you think is malicious?” This resulted in a quarrel with a presidential secretary.The presidential office then banned reporters working for MBC from boarding the presidential jet on the president’s state visit to the U.S. in April 2023.The ban was lifted later, but tensions remain between the broadcaster and the presidential office. Since the quarrel, Yoon has not been holding official press conferences, instead resorting to live broadcasting or streaming to deliver his remarks 슬롯게이밍 to the public.

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