KOREA: KBS board backs dismissal of CEO

Board members deem KBS CEO Jung Yun-joo responsible for the recent poor audit results

The Korea Herald
Saturday, August 9, 2008

By Kim Ji-hyun

The board of the Korean Broadcasting System yesterday voted to accept the government audit body's recommendation to dismiss Jung Yun-joo, the broadcaster's embattled president and CEO.

President Lee Myung-bak will have the final say in whether to give Jung his pink slip.

Lee will consider the request at an "appropriate time" after his return from Beijing on Saturday, Cheong Wa Dae officials said.

Hours after the board vote, Jung issued a press release bitterly berating the board of directors.

"The six board members that voted to request my dismissal have all become sinners in history. They will have to take the responsibility for the violation of KBS," Jung said.

He also criticized the board for requesting police presence on company grounds.

Jung pointed out that the board made such a decision despite contradicting laws that make it difficult to determine whether the president has the authority to dismiss heads of public companies. Cheong Wa Dae claims Lee does have such powers.

"Likewise with other publicly-run companies, KBS is legally subject to appointment and dismissals decided by the president," Park Hyung-joon, the president's chief public relations official said in a radio interview yesterday.

The KBS board decision was reached unanimously among six directors after four of them departed, refusing to vote.

Directors agreed with Tuesday's Board of Audit and Inspection announcement that its recent audit found Jung to be guilty of mismanaging the company, thereby causing KBS financial and operational damage.

The KBS board's vote came a day after Jung, through his attorneys, filed to invalidate the audit results.

Yesterday's board vote appeared to have exacerbated on-going disputes between those who are concerned of government influence over the media, and critics who doubt Jung's political neutrality.

Many question the audit's outcome, citing long-standing structural problems as the cause of KBS' deficits, not Jung's management methods or ethics.

KBS employees also split into two factions, one for and one against Jung. Yesterday, civic groups, joined with the KBS association of producers and reporters have rallied to oppose Jung's dismissal.

They were checked by the police who were called in by the board despite intense opposition from many of KBS' employees.

Jung has repeatedly refuted allegations of mismanagement, instead claiming to have improved the working and financial conditions of KBS. He called the BAI decision a result of the government's political maneuvering.

Jung was named to lead KBS in 2003 by former President Roh Moo-hyun. He was allowed a second consecutive term in 2006.

The ruling Grand National Party said in a commentary that the board has helped "take the people's broadcaster out of the hands of leftist conspirators."

Three of the opposition parties-the Democratic Party and Democratic Labor Party and Renewal of Korea Party-held a joint rally at KBS headquarters in Yeouido to protest the board decision.

Many publicly-run company CEOs have lost their jobs under President Lee, whose government has emphasized the importance of replacing such positions with people sharing the new administration's governing philosophy.